Thursday, May 21, 2015

Labels

Labels can be useful. They tell us if food contains ingredients we’re allergic to (or maybe just hate; I’m sorry but cashews are just gross). Labels warn us against doing personal harm to ourselves like when our coffee is hot. Cause, ya know, McDonald’s doesn’t want to lose another three million dollar lawsuit. A loss against common sense, but that’s a post for another day.

Labels are also used to describe people. In high school I was labeled a dirt bag because I smoked pot and wore flannels with hiker boots (hello eighties). My best friend was labeled a slut because she slept with her boyfriends, and her sister was called a jock because she played sports.

Being called a dirt bag didn’t bother me too much. Maybe because it was true. I dressed down, I smoked weed, and I hung out with other people who did the same. That label suited me back then.

The label that bothered me when I was a teen was the one given to me by my mom; “selfish bitch.” Yeah, yeah, that’s a terribly damaging thing to say to your kid, especially in those developmental years. And, yes, that’s what led me to numb my pain with drugs. But, I understand now that my mother didn’t mean I was a selfish bitch. Those were just words. Words that meant to express her fear that she was going to lose me and she didn’t know how to cope because she was never taught herself. And, that’s okay. She did the best she could and it’s my job to do better by my kids. 

Now back to labels...

It irked me that my mother called me selfish because it simply wasn’t true. I gave of myself freely. If my friend didn’t have money for lunch, we shared mine. If someone needed help in math I was there to offer assistance. I knew I wasn’t selfish and I hated being pushed into that label. 

So, when I was labeled a codependent after Devin’s diagnosis of sex addict, I was pissed. This was just like being called selfish. It just didn't fit. I hadn’t helped my husband hide his affairs or enabled his obsession with porn. If anything, I rebelled against it our entire marriage. I yelled, I complained, I dropped hints how disgusting I felt porn was, so how dare someone say I helped him!

When I saw that word in anything – COSA, books, news articles - I avoided it like the plague. The word codependent offended me to my very core because it clashed against my independent personality and it didn't explain the trauma I was feeling. 

The more I saw it, the more I fought against it, and the more my recovery suffered. It wasn’t until I was able to heal from the anxiety attacks and step off that emotional roller coaster that I was able to see the word codependent without my hackles getting raised. And, guess what? The shoe fit and I had to wear it. It didn’t mean I had to like the style of the shoe and didn't want to change it for something else.

It meant I acknowledged those traits. Like when I told the kids dad was “busy” because he was isolating himself so he could look at porn. Or when I actually tried to control the porn he looked at by offering to look at it with him. I was finally able to see that those are codependent actions. But, I was also able to see those were actions I could change.

My concern is that people just like me, those offended by the words "codependent" or "coaddict", will not pursue a road to recovery because of the roadblock those terms can create. Those labels can stop someone from looking further into the depth of their situation, hindering any healing and growth that can happen after we've begun to recover from Relational Trauma.

I hope that one day counselors will drop the "co" words from their vocabulary when they're first meeting a partner of a sex addict. Save the labels for when the trauma is becoming a thing of the past or maybe just leave the labeling out all together.

Labels shouldn’t be so readily placed on people. In my experience, it either makes them try to conform to that label or prevents them from trying to make things better. Everyone and every situation should be looked at individually and not as a whole. It’s the only way we can be each be successful in our own way.

Have you ever been labeled?
  

46 comments:

  1. Must be hard getting tagged with those terms. I remember I always disliked talking to people I couldn't relate to in school, and later got labelled as a snub. It must have been really terrible for you to get called that by your mom. And I do agree with your thoughts that labels shouldn't be so readily placed on people.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear you got labeled too. That's just awful. The funny thing about being labeled a dirt bag was that another group, the preps, were doing the same thing as me only dressing better…high school is a strange land.

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    2. High school is indeed a strange place to pass through. Keep smiling always!

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  2. That's a tough label from your mom.
    I was a band geek. I was all right with that label though.

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    1. Yeah, it was a rough label from my mom but she didn't know better and I've come to terms with it. Hey, I married a band geek *smiles*

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  3. Don't like cashews, how rude lol the jars make good cat waste cans either way though. lol

    Not sure I ever had a label as I was a tad out of the box. I've been called a lot of things haha but I don't think that would fall under labeling.

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    1. A can full mixed with cat poo and cashews - that's an improvement of just plain ol' Pringle cans of poo. I believe you were outside the box, Cat. You still are! haha

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  4. You're very forgiving, Elsie. It's horribly abusive to call one's child a "selfish bitch."

    As far as the co words, while not abusive, they are full of stigma and kinda strange. There should be a nicer word like, for example, "caring," for co-dependent. That's all it means - "caring to a fault, or caring more for others than oneself."

    Love ya, girlie.

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    1. Trust me, it took a lot of work in my recovery program to forgive my mom for things she did and said as I grew up. But, eventually, I let it go. Stigma is a great word to use for those "co" labels. And caring to a fault is also a great way to sum it up - I may steal that :P Love you too!!

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  5. Hi Elsie .. I'm sure I was given names - thankfully not by my parents ... and I've tried to be a decent thoughtful human - but growing up isn't easy ... I wasn't labelled, but it's only later in life I've realised how dreadful they are ... and yes they are grossly unfair ... I'm glad you've come to terms with them and been able to see through them ... and rise above them - though boy it must hurt ... my thoughts - cheers Hilary

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    1. thank you kindly, Hilary. I appreciate that. It's good not have a label stuck to you, even when it appears to be a harmless one. I'm glad you never had to experience it yourself.

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  6. I did have to look up the meaning of the word codependent. And like Robin, I'm not particularly fond of it. It seems as if you are being blamed in part for your partners addiction. Another word that confuses me is "enabling". That one also seems to that blames a partner of an addict. I know this is a terribly complicated issue and my perspective is very limited.

    The teen years are horrific and we went through them before Facebook. So much worse today as they can be vicious on a global level.

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    1. That's exactly what if felt like too. At the time anyway, like I was being blamed for his addiction and somehow was helping him along. Sure, I did some codep things when I was in survival mode of my marriage but I had no idea what else to do - so I tried everything under the sun.

      My daughter won't even get on Facebook (15 yrs old) because she says it had way too much drama for her liking.

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  7. I've never really been labeled. Like you, I don't like the idea that we can just categorize someone with one word. It's stupid. Which is why I don't think it's unfair that you got mad when you were labeled codependent, because that's almost like saying "all you are is the person who helps make this happen." And that's BS. I like your idea, that you tell someone about that term after the storm has calmed. While the storm is raging on, however, I think there's plenty of ways to tell someone that they're doing more harm than good that isn't just giving them a label.

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    1. Yep, I agree. Let the patient sort through the rough seas of trauma before you try to tell them what they did to help the addict maintain the addiction - again, most people don't "help" the addict. They just learn how to manage life with an active addict in their home. It ain't easy!

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  8. You are 100% right! That's a terrible label because you did not ignore the problem and you certainly didn't deny it or promote it. People are always labeled and I sure that I have many. I just try to ignore them. I try... haha

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    1. Yeah, it was hard to ignore it in the beginning. It felt like it was everywhere no matter where I turned for help. But, eventually, I found that I was traumatized, not a codep. But, it was rough.

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  9. I don't think I've ever been labeled. Although, I would be curious to know, if I was, what that label would have been.
    "Whack job." Maybe.

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    1. Well then count me in as a whack job too. It sounds like it'd be more fun to live that way!

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  10. Well I learn something new today, thanks ~ I have been labelled when I was young as shy & quiet girl but I had ambition and passion ~ So when I became older, I took on more risks and enjoyed adventure as much as I could ~ When labels don't conform to your expectations though, it can hurt and set you back ~ Have a good week Elsie ~

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    1. I believe if someone is unsure of who they are, they tend to lean towards being what people want (or expect) them to be and then become unhappy. I'm glad you broke through your shell. Have a wonderful week!

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  11. Have I ever been labeled?

    Oh God HAVE I!!!! LMBO!!!!!

    Unfortunately, the worst labels I deal with are the ones I hang on myself...

    I'm harder on myself than anyone else I know...

    How are you??

    ~shoes~

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    1. I'm very much like you, Shoes. The labels I assign myself are the ones that are the most damaging.


      I am doing phenomenal! I hope you are too!!!

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    2. Hey you... I'm ok... it's the turmoil that surrounds us that screws with our heads... no?

      I will decide this week whether I take the job at the new university, or if I just play out my streak here at the current one.

      I have a dr's appt this week that should answer a host of questions about some health issues that have been bugging me...

      I'm still digging for information in re: the stories I've been hearing about one of 'us in the second litter'... it seems there is something that members of the first litter don't want us to know... I need to post an update on that story...

      I'm good... jyst burdened...

      I'm glad to hear that you are phenomenal... you ARE!!

      ~shoes~

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  12. Well, we get labelled when we do something which is not in conformity with what people generally do. Particularly, in schools students rag others looking special or peculiar. They derive great fun out of it. Sometimes such labeling can affect the personality of the student forever.

    Labeling is a way of identifying people, sometimes it can be funny and sometimes it be very rude or offensive. I remember my neighbor referring to a shop keeper as FAT WOMAN SHOPKEEPER..

    Labeling will never stop as long as people are people. I will be labelled by you as an Indian because I am from India.
    All manufacturers label their products such as FORD, TOYOTA, SAMSUNG, SONY etc. which we also call as brand names.

    Very interesting and thought provoking post. I enjoyed reading it.

    Best wishes


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    1. Hi Joseph! You're right - labels will always be around while people are around. We just can't seem to help ourselves. Especially when someone we see isn't the "normal" for us. I live in the south and am labeled a Yankee because I'm from NY. But, in NY, I'm labeled a southerner because I've lost most of my NY accent (although people here still joke me about it). Yes, kids can be the worst when it comes to labeling.

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  13. My mom called me some things that I won't repeat. I think sometimes parents just don't know how to deal with their kids.

    I bleached my hair for many years and was labeled a dumb blonde often.

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    1. So hard to picture you as a blonde, Diane. I've gotten so used to your profile picture. :) It would be nice if parents were required to pass some sort of test before they passed on terrible things to their kids. But, we become stronger as a result, I suppose. Sorry you can relate.

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  14. Yeah I have been labeled in my life let's be honest here most people have been at some point in their lives, I was labeled a goody two shoes in school because I was quiet and didn't get into much trouble at school, I was labeled aggressive by my sister I am not sure why and I have been labeled lazy by some, also no idea why, true I will say at times that I am pretty lazy but that is fine I can say that but it bugs me when people like my daughters say it.

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    1. That's a big part of it too, Jo-Anne - where the labeling comes from. If it's from our family or doctors, those who know us intimately, I think it can hurt more than if it's just from a random person here or there.

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  15. I've been labeled too....I don't think anyone escapes that in their lives. I was called teachers pet and goody two shoes. I suppose also A/V Geek and nerd. I was a punk rocker in high school and now am a Deadhead. Some people call me a hippie which I'm really not....there is a difference b/t Deadhead and hippie. My parents always called me selfish and I guess I am to a certain extent but I've made my peace with it and it's just too bad if people don't like it.

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    1. A/V Geek? I've never heard of that one. I love that you were a punk rocker in high school. I was a total metal head. But, to hear what I listen to now..people would be surprised. I listen to a lot of rap, the "rough" kind. Not sure why, but I love how they blend the music to the lyrics. I'm sorry your parents called you selfish too. It's tough but I'm glad you made peace with it.

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  16. I know I haven't been around much lately but you're starting to sound like a "professional" guide to help others understand their feelings.

    Keep writing and you soon will be a professional.

    You'll also still be a big dork....you and that damn turtle!

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    1. Me? A professional? I think not my dear sir. I'm just a chick who's been through some stuff and want to help others try and manage it too. Guess what I found in my garden on Monday? A turtle!! He was just chilling under a bush. Mean little bugger too. He hissed at me when I moved him. Who knew turtles could hiss?

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  17. Labels (like codependent) aren't -for- the people being labeled, anyway, so why does that person ever need to know? The label is for the counselor, so s/he will know what he's dealing with. And labels like selfish bitch don't mean anything, anyway, because they are only there to be used as weapons to hurt someone. Those are the ones you either have to learn to ignore or accept, because either thing will remove their power.

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    1. Very well said, Andrew. I love how you said we can remove a word's power because it's so true. It takes lots or work and determination but, yes, that power can be taken away from those painful words and terms.

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  18. Only labels I ever got were the ones I gave myself... and they weren't any better.

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    1. Sometimes those are the hardest to overcome.

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  19. Harsh words from mom but good that you've made your peace with it.

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    1. She didn't know any better. At least that's what I chose to think :)

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  20. Hi Elsie,

    Once again, I'm ever so late in my arrival. Labels, even if unintended to be hurtful by our parents, can have a deeper impact than we may realise. I know I'm haunted by certain things that were said to me in my childhood by my dad. A dad who may or may not be alive. Sadly, I actually no longer care about my dad.

    Labels, tags, stigmas, all intertwined. I consider labelling somebody most unhelpful and just a convenience.

    All the best, Elsie.

    Gary

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    1. I can kinda relate with you on this. Devin chose not to continue contact with his birthfather. He was a cruel and uncaring father figure to him. He passed away a few years ago and Devin decided not to go to the funeral. Can't say I blame him.

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  21. I understand the point here, and I agree to an extent. I agree particularly when you're gonna mention it to someone before knowing their personality well. Some people are more accepting, and others like yourself, are natural born rebels. I personally hate it, and it takes a lot for me to see when I fit into a label or mold sometimes (and maybe it's still happening) but it's much easier for me to admit something if it's not part of a large group of "x."

    On the other hand, professionals or people who have to dialogue about certain kinds of people would still need labels to more easily understand a scenario. I think essentially I believe human labels should be left to talk about the third person, not with them, and only after understanding what the label might mean.

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    1. I agree with this wholeheartedly, D4. I believe some labels are needed as a way to treat patients, but, I feel it needs to be done carefully so as not to lump a person into a box they don't belong in. I was codependent for a time in my marriage and was unable to hear about it or see it while it was happening. I belonged in that box but sure didn't want to be told about it until I was ready...

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  22. I've been labeled plenty of times and I just flipped them the bird thinking they didn't have much of a life if they spent their precious time on earth labeling me. I'm blue and grumpy in case you didn't know :)

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    1. P.S. Now, see if you can find... you in HERE. A little gem waiting to be discovered. See, I'm labeling you...

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm here to help any way I can.