The Dangers of ‘Labelling’

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Before you click on the X button, let me swiftly assure you that I’m not going to bang on about how sharp needles are these days or pontificate about how life threatening sewing can be!!

Rather, I’ll be musing about the human tendency to give everything and everyone a label or name, category or judgement.

labels are for clothes

Our creator kind of stacked the odds against us when he bestowed on us such amazing cognitive faculties. Yes, you read that right.  The mind is both a blessing and a curse – the ultimate dichotomy.

We learn how to ‘label’ as a necessary activity to process information and to understand our environment, but if taken too far it can be damaging to ourselves and society. A purely cerebral existence is no existence at all. We must learn to balance it with our emotions, which emanate from the heart.

Mastery of the mind will be the single biggest challenge that any of us will ever undertake.  It all starts upstairs, so to speak. Foes we face are the ego, indoctrination, trauma and old habits just for starters.

George Bernard Shaw - quote-on-changing-our-thinking

I read some fantastic bios on Twitter, but no matter how many labels we give ourselves we are so much more than that. We are powerful, creative, spiritual beings learning how to remember who we really are. Words and labels are just insufficient and insignificant to describe the sentient being that is you; but, clumsy as it is, language is our main tool.

Why is it the arts have endured over millennia and speak to our souls so deeply? Long gone civilisations, movements and individuals that have defined a zeitgeist and had a rich cultural expression are still studied and admired to this day.

They reflect back to us the best of ourselves.

Music, drawings, paintings, sculpture, architecture and literature are a manifestation of our creative impulse, our divine origin.  Two people from different countries not speaking the same language or having anything in common can listen to the same piece of music together and be bonded through how that music makes them feel.


Music connects us to our common heritage – our humanity.

Art and culture are an enduring legacy of what mankind can achieve when following passion and harnessing experience rather than looking at what is wrong with the world and others.

The paradox of thought

We are labelling all the time in our thoughts. Only just this morning during my first violin practice in weeks, my thoughts were tuned into how rusty and awful I was until I finally let them go and just enjoyed the feeling of being at one with my instrument (even if it would have made dogs howl and cats run in  terror)!

Humanity’s intellectual and conceptual abilities have propelled us from caves and spears to modern homes, technology and weaponry. But, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out, (rather worryingly), our technology is more advanced than our spiritual capability. The implications for self-destruction are all too apparent.

The mental acuity we use to solve our problems is usually the very thing that has created the situation in the first place.

As Einstein said:

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Internal map of representation

When we’re born our minds are blank canvases waiting to be filled. A baby feels no prejudice. Is your canvas a lovingly crafted masterpiece or a collection of quick and clumsy sketches?

We all use compartments to try to make sense of the world, to determine our own personal sense of reality. The danger is that we create divisions, which can easily fester and before you know it you’re facing a rift valley on the scale of Kenya’s!

As we are growing up we have experiences which shape our beliefs and judgments, so that we can formulate our internal map of representation. “I like to eat sweets, but I don’t like going to the dentist.” “I’m good at English but not Maths.”

After wearing a red dress and being teased one might develop negative associations with the colour red.

Over a lifetime billions of images, perceptions, thoughts and ideas enter into the grey matter to be processed. We are all computer programmers!


Talk about a picture speaking a thousand words. The heart breaking image of drowned 3 year old Aylan Kurdi really affected me. As a mum I couldn’t help but feel devastated for that family. Those boys will never have the chance to reach their full potential and live in peace, which is all they ever wanted. Isn’t that what we all aspire to? The opportunity to lead happy and worthwhile lives?

Until that desperate image was beamed around the world, the perception of ‘migrants’ and the challenges they face was very different.

Labels colour perception and close us off to our true nature and essence. Such labels only serve to dehumanise people. This is where the media have a responsibility to step up to the plate. They have the power to shape our perceptions on a huge scale.

William Blake - perception

When we witness the true suffering of another we can’t close off our hearts. If history can teach us anything it is that.

This talk by Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel at the White House is all too appropriate to the current humanitarian crisis arising from events in the Middle East.

The Perils of Indifference:

When we view anyone as anything other than a fellow human being, just like us, only with different upbringings, beliefs and experiences, it separates us. It means we have the justification to commit evil acts.


The ones being labelled BECOME their religion or ethnic group, colour or sex. We don’t look past the categories we have placed them in to see the divine spark within them. After all, many faiths teach that we are all ‘one’ at the soul level.


“Religion is bad because it causes war. ” Let’s examine that provocative label shall we? Religion is neither good or bad. It’s simply a way that humanity organises and practises its different interpretations of faith. The true intention of religion is to offer guidance.

Dangers arise when more labels and judgements come in to play. My God is better than yours. God is punishing us. Infidel!

The cause of war is humans using religion to support their own self-righteous cause or agenda.

“When you have the choice between being right and being kind just choose kind.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

Islamic State is the perfect example of this. The perpetrators were maybe once decent human beings until something went very wrong in their heads.  To coin a Star Wars phrase, they became seduced by the ‘dark side’. They subscribed to a virulent, hateful and evil doctrine stemming from a twisted, puritanical interpretation of Islam, turning it to suit their own ends: power and control.

The sanctity of life means nothing to them. They do not view anyone who holds a different belief to them as being worthy of keeping their head and seem to take pleasure in torturing others. It disgusts me. There is no tolerance, no love and their sick ideology seems to infect weak minded individuals who are angry. It gives them a way to vent their spleen and to feel important.

It’s the same with any religion. Christianity has done its fair share of torture, rape, pillage and plunder in the name of the Lord.

Dalai Lama - love-is-the-absence-of-judgementCatholic priests tend to get a bad rap these days, due to the terrible acts of abuse by some; but back in the days of my ‘black dog’ I was fortunate to meet a ‘good’ Father who helped me. He listened to me and didn’t judge me. I didn’t view his faith as a barrier to our discussions, and he didn’t use it to put me on a guilt trip over the mess my life was in, he just accepted me. I will always be grateful to him.

You can’t tar everyone and every religion with the same brush!

Over the centuries civilised people all over the world have been fighting against narcissistic despots, dictators, slavery, ignorance and exploitation. And it all started with what seemed like an innocent label.

We need to look past people’s appearance, sex, beliefs, religion and circumstances and see the being beneath. Removing these labels and judgements enables us to communicate from heart to heart and not head to head. Of course, as a species we are drawn to those individuals we feel a natural affinity with, but it would certainly facilitate more understanding.

I know that I have many flaws, but one thing I won’t do is care if someone is Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, aetheist, agnostic or any other denomination. I will try and interact with them how I would want to treated: with common human decency, not with bigoted views and labels.

Labelling has its place – but that’s only on clothing and consumer goods. We should not let it define who we are: ineffable, eternal, powerful beings.


I love this easy to understand explanation of Advaita/Nonduality.

If we could all see ourselves as one big family, born of the same parent, as spiritual siblings, the world would have more compassion, less war, less racism, less ageism, sexism or any other ism!

A very interesting and down to earth lecture by scientist David Bohm about the effects of thought and fragmentation:

Our daily challenge is to get our mind out of the way; to look, listen and interact with our hearts. The mind will then do our bidding and not the other way around.

“A mind at peace, a mind centered and not focused on harming others, is stronger than any physical force in the universe.” – Wayne Dyer

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