“Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.”
– Martina Navratilova, tennis professional
“I don’t know how to relate to other people…!”
JulieAnn was a 20 year old college student, studying photography and living on her own. Her entire family had just moved to town with her. But her parents and teenage siblings, a brother and sister, were living across town. JulieAnn was a tall, attractive young woman dressed like a college student…faded jeans, sneakers and a well worn, dark jersey top. But, she had a very hesitant manner. She carried herself as if something was going to go wrong very soon, and she was constantly trying to get ready for it.
Initially her parents ask me to work with her sister, JodiMarie, who was somewhat shy and unassertive. When they saw the progress JodiMarie achieved, they asked me if I would work with JulieAnn…who they said, was “autistic.”
JulieAnn must have apologized, at least, three times in our initial five minute conversation. The first one was for being a minute late for her consult, the second was for making a slight noise by bumping her chair and the third was for taking up my time with her “minor” concerns.
When I asked her how I could serve her, she said,
“I’m autistic you know and I don’t know how to relate to other people…at least that’s what they tell me!”
“Do you know what autism is JulieAnn?”
“What has happened to create those thoughts in your head, JulieAnn?” I asked.
She looked surprised by my question. She said, “What do you mean?”
“Where did you learn you were autistic…were you assessed and told this by someone in the past?”
“Well, my Mom has always told me that since I was little, so why would I think otherwise?”
“Do you know what autism is JulieAnn?”
“I know it is permanent, I know it is screwing up my life and I know it frustrates me to no end!”
“Can I offer you some more information on it, JulieAnn?”
“Sometimes labelling is only useful, like with OCD. Once you’re labeled you can be treated. On other occasions labelling leads to tyranny, like with childhood bipolar disorder in the U.S.” – Jon Ronson, journalist
“…we use a labelling process to enable us to focus our efforts in research and funding.”
“The first thing…I want to remind you is all psychological labels are intended to help people get the services they need to move forward in their life. The second thing…I would tell you is autism has been a confusing and frustrating label since its inception many years ago. And, the third point… I want you to remember autism is a development delay in communication ability that usually starts in early childhood in one in every 65 people.”
“So it is very common?” she asked surprised.
“If you research it, you will notice if a child experiences any development delays, based on virtually any communication criteria, is is usually attributed to some form of autism… what they now call, the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).”
“Are you suggesting it is overused on children?”
“What I am suggesting is, in our efforts to help children develop to their potential, we use to a labelling process to enable us to focus our efforts in research and funding. Remember, it is well intended…but not necessarily always helpful!”
“Are you saying labelling people is intended to help them, but, it doesn’t necessarily work?” she asked.
“In this ongoing effort…just last year…all disorders characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviours were merged into the one umbrella diagnosis of ASD in the diagnostic manual called the DSM-5 used in our mental health systems. Previously, they had been several subtypes.”
“I didn’t know that!” she replied.
“Also, did you know many people with the ASD label excel in visual skills, music, math, reading, art and other areas?” I asked.
“I didn’t know that either…but I do know I have always done fine in school in any subject I liked!” she added.
“When you label so much of what happens to you as ‘bad,’ it reinforces the feeling that you are a powerless pawn at the mercy of outside forces over which you have no control. And – this is key – labelling something a bad thing almost guarantees that you’ll experience it as such.” – Srikumar Rao, educator
“I first heard if from my Mom, many years ago!”
“When did you learn you had the autism label?”
“I first heard if from my Mom many years ago!”
“What do you think about having to carry it?”
“Well, like my sister, JodiMarie, I am shy too! I don’t like crowds and I make friends carefully. But, it is really more than that! I like being alone at times…I like my own company…I love to read and research things which interest me…I like my own space…I guess you could call it my privacy! And I don’t think like some people my age…I like to figure things out for myself!”
“JulieAnn it sounds like you have very specific things which you value and others you don’t! What are some of the things you like to research and read about?”
“I just love using the internet to research various people and events…what happened, why it happened and who was involved at that time! Did you know Albert Einstein was involved in warning the President of the United States about the first atomic bomb?” she replied, her face lighting up for the first time.
“Really! So then, you like history and spend time uncovering what interesting things have gone on in the past, eh? Does it take up a lot of your time, JulieAnn?”
“Well, when I get into it time seems to fly by, so I have to consciously set limits on myself,otherwise, nothing else would get done.” she replied smiling.
“Is that one of the reasons why you don’t live at home…”
“Has your interest in history caused you problems meeting your other responsibilities?” I asked her.
“It seems like my Mom is for ever on my case about spending too much time at my computer, and not enough time with my friends, my school work or stuff like that…but I do OK in school, and I have friends who share my interest in history on Facebook!”
“Is that one of the reasons why you don’t live at home with your family, JulieAnn?”
“For sure! When we moved here, and I started college, I saw it as an opportunity to be on my own…have my own place…I really like it!” again her noticeable enthusiasm surfaced!
“The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we hold of ourselves with the appalling things that other people think about us.” – Quentin Crisp, writer
“JulieAnn, a couple of things occur to me as I listen to what you have said. First, you have a very clear set of high values which you use to guide your life such as your interest in history, your need to be independent and your need to determine your own friends. Second, the label of autism probably motivated you to learn to value yourself and live by some of your highest values. Can you see that?”
“…what if you have outgrown your need for the autism label…”
“Ken, hearing you say it reminds me of other examples…like setting other boundaries with my family, like my Mom about the what I study at college, and my Dad about how I dress…and even JodiMarie about borrowing my clothes.”
“So, what if you have outgrown your need for the autism label …would that be OK?” I asked.
“Ken, looking at it this way shows me, it was both good and bad for me. It limited me by holding me back at times, but, it also drove me to be myself, at other times.
This led to a more detailed discussion of other events in JulieAnn’s past where her label of autism both cost and benefited her equally in her highest values. She eventually realized it was just a learning tool, not a permanent aspect of her. She eventually realized it was just a label…not a tattoo!
“I think putting labels on people is just an easy way of marketing something you don’t understand.” – Adam Jones, scholar
Until Next time…
Remember labels are not tattoos, they are learning tools for all of us! And, if you find our posts useful, please share them with your circles of influence, your family, friends and colleagues. Encourage them to subscribe to our FREE Newsletter and ebook, “Finding Balance in Your Life” at http://mental-health-center.com/our-free-gift/ And, please like us on Facebook or Twitter.
Remember the next “Transformation Day” Seminar on January 24, 2015 at our offices. Details are available at Here
Send us your feedback and topic suggestions…we love to hear from you! If you have a specific question or wish to schedule a consultation, feel free to contact me.
Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
information: www.kenpiercepsycFurther hologist.com