Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Cognitive Distortion #9, Labeling and Mislabeling

Labeling is when you create a self-image based just on your errors.   For instance, you put your foot in your mouth during a conversation and you say to yourself, "I'm a fool."   Or you eat three pieces of fudge and you think, "How disgusting.  I'm a pig."

You can also fall into the habit of labeling others.  Your roommate never makes her bed and you think, "she's such a slob."  Or your boss is often abrasive and short tempered and you label him as an "insensitive chauvinist" and complain about him every day.

Labeling yourself is depressing and labeling others makes you feel helpless and alienated.  And it's also irrational. Your self and your value cannot be equated with any one thing you do or don't do.  And neither can anyone else's.   You, and every other person you know, is a complex, multi-faceted conglomerate of a multitude of learning, responding, thinking, ebbing and flowing, progressing and regressing, flow of emotions, responses, thoughts and actions.   I believe that knowing that is one of the things that God sees and that makes it so easy for Him to see the worth of each soul. He, as well as we, can see that some of us are sometimes more in control of ourselves than others but none of us, even the worst of us, are just one thing and it is irrational to define any of us, in any moment of time, just by our inadequacies.

Labeling involves describing yourself,  another person, or an event with words that paint a broad swath of emotionally laden negativity, instead of seeing and acknowledging the nuanced and intricate complexity and multi-faceted nature of human life.

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