I’m still here and not much changes. I’ve spent the week with some uncomfortable emotional bedfellows : anxiety, fear, sadness, resentment, but I’m still here and I’m sexually sober so that’s not a bad thing.
I’m not totally sure why I’ve had emotional upset but it may be that I am simply making the effort to acknowledge my emotions rather than living in denial that they exist. In the past any emotional feeling was an excuse to act out. I was almost compelled to act out due to the fact that I needed to numb all my emotions. Emotion: Happy? – act out. Emotion: Sad? – act out. It mattered not whether I felt good or bad, the answer was simply to numb it all.
In some ways I now find myself in an altogether more uncomfortable position. I’m cast adrift on a sea of emotions with an imperfect set of tools with which to manage them. The best I can say is that I now understand what is happening and can take steps to understand myself and not let myself be driven to acting out. Does this mean that I have things under control? Mostly. I can, at least, honestly express myself in the face of my 12 step group.
I had a good meeting on Thursday and it was good to share social time after the meeting. I’m getting a lot of feedback on my recent share about ‘labels’ and spent some more time discussing my favourite topic.
I’m beginning to understand that labels and identity are inextricably linked to ‘acceptance’ which is another of my pet areas of interest. I often feel that my desire for a label or identity is rooted in my desire to be accepted. What I can’t control is what happens when I express my label to another person who uses all their background, knowledge and perception to interpret my ‘label’in their way and this is why labels and identity are a complex construct. Labels are shorthand but they’re often imprecise and unhelpful.
So I’m going to share with you what I shared with the group and maybe it’ll just pique you too:
Hi, I’m Pauline
Labels can describe us but they shouldn’t define us
Whats in a description?
How do you know what we all mean by using a descriptive word.
I can illustrate this by talking about a tree. If I were on the phone to you and looking out of the window at a tree. I could tell you that I could see a tree out of the window but in telling you that I can see a tree, I couldn’t tell you exactly what I was seeing and that the word ‘tree’ may mean a very much different thing to you compared to what I would understand by the word ‘tree’ or would wish to convey to you.
take another example: a fork has a handle and tines but we don’t have separate names for the curves bit in the middle but we know that it is a separate part of that item. How detailed do we need to be in our description in order that we might accurately convey our meaning? Our universe is created from names
this is what we do all the time. We take information we receive and run it past all the other information we have received up to that point – that refines our understanding. We use our experience and knowledge to inform what that name evokes. We use intuition to evaluate but this is refined over time. However intuition could reinforce bad ideas and slowly erode good ones
names help us to communicate and to operate inside the world and to domesticate our surroundings.
Each week we introduce ourselves and in that we can include a ‘short description’. Almost inevitably this is ‘sex addict’ but occasionally someone will use a different description.
I got to thinking that this was somewhat inadequate and that it didn’t adequately describe who or what I was.
I could use many words to describe who I am:
Christian – really?
Professional person defined by my work
Hairy panty wearer – labels within groups can be really shaming especially when a hierarchy exists
Bisexual? Gay? Nah
Man who has sex with men? Medical terminology
Names have a powerful resonance within us
Names can become idols -we can infuse them with understanding which they don’t have. I had parts of my life which I had set up as idols and crossdressing was one of these. In prefer to move away from crossdressing
Names can also carry a weight and expectation of what we do with that name or label. Our appropriation of names means that we may have to live up to the label or what we understand by that label or name
Sometimes a name or label becomes part of the brand of who we are and we can be lost within that brand. Regaining a right sense of who we are involves a healthy relationship with our labels
Names, and who speaks them to you can be very powerful
there is power in hearing your own name, particularly when it is spoken by someone else and especially if that person is important to us. How we react to our names being spoken can inform us of how we are feeling. Just think if you overhear your name being spoken – are you fearful, confident, indifferent?
We are given a name in a cultural context – given a name from family and this gives us a sense of identity. Some of who we are is wrapped up in our name. names lead to a sense of who we are as individuals. A name can bring thoughts which are unhelpful especially if the cultural context is wrong e.g. sutcliffe, west, Brady, hindley, hitler – names and labels can carry shame.
I am not just a number- imagine if we did not have names? We would be robbed of a degree of who we are. This would be dehumanising. names can speak of a desire for what others wish for us or what we wish to be as well
however we often accept a name which is given to us and not a name which we discover for ourselves
Nicknames and names used which evoke an emotional response – they can call up unhelpful feelings. Sometimes how we are addressed can be really interesting. My colleague hates being called by their proper name as it sounds as if she is in trouble and she feels as though she is once more a ‘little girl’. She has truncated her name to just 4 letters and feels safe with that.
One of the biggest jobs given to man in Genesis is to name things. It can be hard to kill something we have given a name. Distinguishment of things using names and labels. Titles confer a deeper level and add to labels and names. Titles invoke certain societal norms/hierarchies e.g. doctor vs mr.
Sometimes our assigned title is just something assigned by another to create a position, sometimes of authority and in other times not, and quite the opposite.
The matter of how we respond to our own labels is important. If I had gone further with my transvestite tendencies would I have adopted the name and how would others react? This brings me to the weaponisation of labels used to bring others down or marginalise them.
Saul / Paul – Saul was Jewish family name but as Paul the public and Romanised name became more important…
reconcilitaion of what parents wished them to be versus what they are discovering that they really are.
Labels are a shorthand a way of helping us to survive. We need them or it would be hard to manage day to day but often the language does not properly convey what lies behind the label and we are left hoping that whoever hears what we have to say can understand us to one extent or another. What the author or speaker meant by what was written or said can be hard to elucidate and misconstrual of meaning is rife.
What sort of name could we take, what would we want -perhaps something for a moment of meditation and reflection.