“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” – English Children’s Rhyme c 1950’s
The above rhyme was common-place during my schooling in the 1960’s but as anyone who has been subject to name-calling will know, the closing line is about as far from the truth as we can get. When we name anything all potentials contained within what we perceive collapse into the parameters of the name itself. An example of this might be the difference between talking about a human being and talking about a human being of colour, or a human being of gender. The potential contained within the first collapses into deep limitation when divided by the second or third, particularly in Western society. Names and labels can, and do, serious harm to our human potential and our capacity to express who we are. I am as guilty of doing this as anyone else.
The inspiration for this blog comes from this story – “How Dr. Hew Len healed a ward of mentally ill criminals with Ho’oponopono”. The process by which a forensic psychiatrist freed his criminal patients from the prison of his thoughts is immensely powerful. Having had personal experience of both psychiatric and prison system ideas about me, I bear witness to how important this form of healing can be. Functioning within another’s label/name for us usually limits our capacity to relate. When those labels are intentionally negative, it becomes almost impossible to break through the barriers imposed and even if we are able to, the level of fear we evoke frequently results in even deeper repression as attempts are made to force us back into channels the labeller feels safe within.
What is important to remember here is that we are both labelled and labeller; the namer and the named; none of us are exempt and what results is entirely our personal responsibility. When I began to grasp this idea, my first response was despair. I thought I had made huge efforts to move out of the names and labels game only to find that I was failing hopelessly in my own behaviour, especially when it came to people I didn’t like. At present, I don’t seem to have moved very far from that initial realisation, except… isn’t this exactly what the evolution process is about? Is it possible to acknowledge and recognise how we continue to collapse our potential into deeply restrictive names for both ourselves and others and for us still to remain compassionate and honest about our own failings? As Dr Hew Len has modelled, to do this work on ourselves is to do it for others too.
The process of naming is deeply embedded in the society into which I was born. It begins at birth and can continue long after someone has died. It is done at both individual and collective levels, and it has been going on for eons. Our history shows that breaking free of a particular label often includes swapping one for another equally as limiting. This occurred with feminism in the 1980’s which, while breaking through the pigeonholing of women attached negative labels to men. I see it occurring now as fearful societies look about them in order to name the source of their fears: terrorists, criminals, gays, blacks, Muslims, women… the list is endless. The process continues to collapse potential for authentic change into the familiar fixed patterns of inclusion/exclusion that created the crisis in the first place. The only difference between the fearful society and me are the names that appear on my list! The realisation that I am not contributing to the new but perpetuating the old is very humbling!
As I struggle to find a way through this labyrinth, I wonder if the fundamental issue of naming begins with an assumption of “right” and “wrong”. ‘Right’ is then associated with ‘good’ and ‘wrong’ is attached to ‘bad’. Armed with these two weapons – for weapons are what they are – we sally forth to append them to everything we encounter, thereby reducing the world into these two distinctions regardless of any resultant harm or damage. When we impose limitations upon others, we do it to ourselves as well. How can any of us be so certain of our ‘right’ to say that such-and-such-a-thing is ‘bad’?
For example, we are told that the planet is in an extinction process – this is regarded as ‘bad’ for humanity, yet this is a normal part of our planet’s cycle. She has been here before and will, throughout her lengthy (in human terms) existence, undoubtedly come here again. We just happen to be alive at this moment to experience the process with Her – that sounds like an opportunity to learn. Is that really a ‘bad’ thing? We call our planet ‘Mother Earth’ in my language, so I call Her ‘She’ even though other forms of labelling apparently only see resources to be plundered for commercial gain. I may have opinions about this, but aren’t these in a form of harmony with what our planet is doing anyway? Viewed from this perspective, I find it far more difficult to know what is right or wrong.
In my previous blog, I posted Carl’s video of the astrology for June 2012. In it, he talks about every aspect of life being up for discussion at a time when ‘progress’ is frustrated. Perhaps this is the kind of discussion we really need to be having if we want to evolve the new. For example – what might we discover beyond defining everything as good or bad? The only certainty we have is the experience of existence itself. How do we deal with that in ourselves? I choose to give my existence meaning not because it is right or wrong but because I find myself far more capable of Love and compassion when my life is meaningful. I suspect that this is how Love expresses itself because others, over time, have said they share this awareness in their own way. To live within a framework that contains no meaning is, for me, heartbreaking because it fails to nurture my potential on a very fundamental level. Perhaps this is a woman-thing – perhaps not – but the meme of meaninglessness reminds me of those experiments with baby monkeys who clung to fur-covered mannequins without food until they starved rather than choose the metallic, uncomforting ones that would feed them. To live well, I need Love whether it comes from the world around me in the form of wonder or though my contact with other people as we struggle to learn what life is trying to teach us. In my reality, to live well is to be responsible for all my failings and struggle to grow beyond them. Such awareness cannot fit comfortably into ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – there are too many grey areas for that level of certainty.
It is simply not possible for me to speak for anyone other than myself. At the moment, I find myself slowing down and far less sure of my path. It becomes harder to write the more uncertain I become unless I write about the uncertainty itself. Yes, there may be all kinds of named and labelled ideas about our collective evolution/extinction floating around on the ether but many don’t fit with my direct experience as, equally, mine won’t fit with others. Alternatively, if my experience resonates with the time – as the astrology of June suggests – maybe this is the paradox of evolution/extinction where we are alone and together in the collective process at one and the same time.
For life to manifest, infinite potential has to collapse into energy that works its way through the Cycle of Change in order for us to survive and live. In collective psychological terms, the Cycle has been subject to very serious damage with the horrific results now being reported daily via our social media. If this is to be transformed, we desperately need to find another way to live together.
Perhaps the sense of uncertainty I am experiencing is an indicator that a new and different Cycle of Change is emerging amongst us and I can be glad I am sensitive and aware enough to feel its movement. Perhaps, too, the questions arising in my own mind about the power of naming and the destructiveness of negative labels points to an examination of all the introjects I have swallowed that no longer serve any useful purpose and need to become extinct. Perhaps this is the part of my own personal extinction process I need to work on as part of my relationship to the world around me.
As with all subjects I dive deeply into, I’m realising just how much I don’t know. Sharing this, however inarticulately, could open new doors to ways of living with others in a different world where names contain mystery and labels contain wonder. In sharing what I know, I can begin to see the mistakes I am making and if I grow as a result then perhaps this could be my contribution towards evolving our global society into far kinder, freer and compassionate paradigm than the one we are ‘stuck’ in at present.