It seems the latest issue of the British Psychological Society’s publication, The Psychologist, is full of articles pertaining to discussions about dyslexia. Dyslexia is an umbrella term in that it covers a vast range of learning disabilities. This got me thinking about the use of labels and whether they benefit us or inhibit us.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is another umbrella term, frequently used as a diagnosis for extremely varied stomach complaints. The list of symptoms is quite diverse and at times contradictory, yet the term used is the same.
The question I would like you to ask yourself is this: do you think it’s good to use labels, or do you think they are a hindrance, or worse still, outright dangerous?
Personally, I am not a fan of labels. I don’t use them with my clients and I don’t like to hear others using them. Sure, there are times when the label is entirely correct, but these labels still bother me and I’ll explain why.
When you utilise a label, you can become a victim to it or invoke a victim-mentality in others. The fact that a health-related label comes with symptoms and treatments, means the client/patient is likely to focus on that particular condition. The danger of this is two-fold. Firstly, if the diagnosis is incorrect, the focus is being channelled in the wrong direction. Secondly, the label can induce a mental state in the person that serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the both instances, the person’s condition can further deteriorate.
People can also find stigmas attached to certain labels can make their life difficult; they’re embarrassed of the label creating an inner conflict for them and others can be unpleasant towards them because of the label.
There is a distinct difference between using a specific label and simply acknowledging symptoms. Employing a label invites the danger of the person ‘developing’ further problems, those documented as being associated with that condition. On the other hand, simply acknowledging symptoms creates a mindset dedicated to searching for solutions until successful resolution has been achieved.
Labels can make us feel worse about our situation, they can fuel a sense of helplessness and they can condition us to think, feel and behave in a certain way, producing what can be very negative outcomes. I’m not a fan of labels and, as a coach, you won’t find me “negging” my clients out in this way!