“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” ― W.C. Fields
Labels are devices we use to evaluate, assess, categorize and sort pretty much everything that happens in our lives. Most often, these devices are linguistic or semantic in nature, and they can serve a valuable purpose—at least until we forget that they’re just models or representations. In the extreme, we become so forgetful that we actually believe our labels are the things they were meant to describe! For example, you might hear a phrase such as “the human brain is x, y and z”—and then, without even thinking about it, you may find yourself expecting everyone with a brain (including yourself) to behave in a way that is consistent with that statement.
Yes, a label can be useful—up to a point. But when we forget the fact that we have constructed the label as a representation for the thing, that’s when problems really start to show up. As Alfred Korzybski reminds us so succinctly, “the map is not the territory”.
For this episode, I invited my friend Sara Jane back to Life Mastery TV to discuss this subject in some detail. We look at labels from a variety of perspectives, with the intention of reminding ourselves about their limited usefulness.
Here are some of the things we discuss in the recording: