The problem isn't in the labels themselves, but in how conscious we are of them, how we attachand relate to them; though it always works both sides: you label people and people label you. One day you might start living up to people’s expectations which is against your true self, your nature. By labelling the others you create the same conditions for them: they might start living according to your judgements and your expectations. You should always remember that labels are just a mental shorthand for leveraging past experience, and preparing us for what lies in store. But when I am unconscious of these labels, I start believing them to be the ultimate truth and guidance, when in reality they merely reflect my own conditioning. Conditioning may create an illusion of seeing what you want to see not the real picture. Then, instead of giving me a head start on gaining more information, labels collapse my experience and actually limit both mineand the other people’sopportunities to grow.
As a famous mind said: “we are like sculptors, constantly carving out of others the image we long for, need, love or desire, often against reality, against their benefit, and always, in the end, a disappointment, because it does not fit them.” – Anais Nin
In the words of the poet Anais Nin, "We don't see things as they are; we see them as we are." In other words the people and things around us do not have meaning unless we give it to them, reflect in them, unless we label them. We are not used to live in meaningless world. In our opinion everything should be named and labeled, reflected and judged including ourselves. In our opinion the word without it will lose its purpose if there is any...
But going back to labels: inaccurate labels can create significant dissonance between expectations and reality. The reality is just there – it is not white and it is not black, it is not hot and it is not cold, it is not sweet no it is bitter. It is just there, in being-ness. If something relatively automatic like the sense of taste can be duped by subconscious assumptions, it make me wonder just how much my present perception is conditioned by past experience as we tend to compare.
It also helped me realize that - whether I know it or not - I am subconsciously anticipating and "labeling" within every situation. With many experiences, before I even have them, I've already predicted the outcome and created an expectation that my prediction will come true. Every time I buy into outcomes in this way, I end up altering my reality without even knowing it. Is it called a conscious living in some sense?
The tendency to label also carries over to how we see people and relationships. "Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that's what they'll become for us," says author Richard Cowper. In fact, it extends to every experience we encounter, and even our self-image.
One yoga teacher was describing a class he held for girls struggling with anorexia. He asked them to stand hip-width and was shocked when all of them were standing with their feet as wide as the yoga mat. Their physical bodies were much thinner than what their mental perceptions told them. It isn't something that just afflicts these girls - all of us fall prey to believing labels that define even ourselves.
The problem isn't in the labels themselves, but in how conscious we are of them. We live in the world of duality so labeling is unavoidable though labels are just that mental shorthand for leveraging past experience, and preparing us for what lies in store. But when I am unconscious of these labels, I start believing them to be the absolute truth, when in reality they merely reflect my own conditioning. Then, instead of giving me a head start on gaining more information, labels collapse my experience and actually limit my opportunities to grow.
It's a subtle form of inner laziness, with a major downside. Laziness leads us to a common reality which is an illusion – an imaginary multiple visions of others including ourselves. It severely diminishes my and your ability to learn new things because I've already forced a premature conclusion on my experience. Remember how Carlos Castaneda in his book warned us to stay away from the image people created for us, to always change or get rid our past, to remove personal history and as a result for sure our future? So if I don't remain vigilant about the labels that come up in my mind, I end up blindly rehearsing my past interpretations. Each label also comes with its own bundle of associated assumptions. The result is that I can end up reinforcing a whole set of related beliefs including my own.
It's a cycle: I label a situation, which directly affects my perception of the actual situation. I then react to both the label and the situation. That reaction, in turn, impacts how I label the situation in the next moment. UCLA professor Dario Nardi describes seeing this very process in action while monitoring real-time brain activity in people: "sometimes brain regions activate in a circuit pattern," he says, resulting in a variety of brain areas lighting up in a loop. We move from perceiving to recognizing and to evaluating, and finally to reacting, looping back again to perceiving in quick succession. This circuit what creates our endless illusion and inability to evolve as spiritual beings.The circuit burns within itself depriving us from the eternal light and openness.
In my experience, how much this loop repeats is directly related to how unbalanced we are in our mental reactions. The reactivity makes us narrow. Instead of taking in new information, we then reiterate our initial interpretation, regardless of accuracy. Before we know it, a tentative interpretation congeals into an unexamined judgment. The reality, though, is that we already have a host of such preconceived notions in place. So how can we manage to break the magical loop? Remember that it is illusionary meaning it is not there unless we create it…
It starts with being aware of the tendency to label. Though in and of themselves, labels aren't a problem; they become limitations when coupled with a strong sense of liking or disliking. We become attached to our unexamined convictions. More deeply, when coupled with emotion, labels activate something at the physical, sensation level. This "feeling" isn't just something abstract in the mind anymore: there is an actual, subtle, experience of sensations in the body, caused by a neuro-biological process, which gets activated with any emotion.
My first suggestion would be then: start monitoring your thoughts.
Most of us are generally unaware of this biochemically induced feeling. As a result, we become blind to the nuances of our experience and end up automatically reacting - to the label and to its associated mind-body effects - instead of freely and dynamically engaging with our reality.
Remember: acting is everything, reacting – is living in illusion. In effect, if I am not conscious of what makes up that internal feeling, then I don't see its effects and don't develop real choice.
To stop labels from becoming judgments is a practice and a process, eventually evolving into a radical realization: In any experience, if I can become aware of the labels that rise to the surface, I can then also tune into associated assumptions and actual feelings triggered at a subtler level. Then, by making an effort toward awareness and balance, I start to see where I can inject choice into the equation.
That itself is the first taste of freedom, opening up into a space in which we experience things in a fresh, new way - closer to the way they really are.