Understanding the power of our consciousness and how labels shape our thoughts to prevent us from healing ourselves.

I was trying to recall the title of a song I’d heard recently on KPFK without much success. The DJ didn’t announce it and I was left wracking my brain for weeks. Whenever I need to know something, I go straight to my wife, my personal walking Wikipedia. I guess an Ivy League education makes her an instant wealth of information. It also makes her the brains in our marriage and I’m grateful that she loans them to me from time to time.

Luckily, I’d recorded a small portion of the song on my phone. As I played it for my wife, she hit an app on her phone called, Shazam. Within seconds, the program had searched hundreds of thousands of songs, comparing tempo, lyrics and melody to find the title I was looking for. I was not only impressed by the software, but also struck with another realization. Our consciousness works in the same way. It will sift through trillions of opportunities, probabilities and coincidences to create the circumstances that perfectly match the thoughts and feelings we feed into it. It can do it in a flash too, especially when it comes to our health.

This month, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) released the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM- 5). This is the one-stop-shop “bible” for identifying and diagnosing all the mental disorders. There are hundreds of new diagnoses in this edition. The following are just a few of the new labels they assign to perfectly normal behavior.

Internet Usage Disorder: If you spend too much time online. Never mind who gets to determine how much is too much.

Somatic Disorder: Becoming upset if your doctor gives you a frightening diagnosis. Last time I checked, it was natural to be upset if you receive disturbing news.

Attachment Disorder: Taking “too long” to get over the death of a loved one or pet. Isn’t grief part of the process?

Dyscalculia: If you’ve never been a whiz at math, particularly multiplication. I have an accountant to help me. Does that mean I’m “at risk”?

Triskaidekaphobia: Fearing the number 13. Does this include all the architects who designed skyscrapers in New York without a 13th floor or people in China who feel the same way about the number 4?

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder: Your child can no longer have tantrums. We can add this to the increases of other kneejerk diagnosis for children over the last 20 years including Attention Deficit Disorder (3X), Autism Spectrum (20X) and Bipolar Disorder (40X).

Minor Neurocognitive Disorder: Forgot where you put your keys or a friend’s phone number?

“Labels create judgments based on a very small amount of, usually inaccurate or misinterpreted, information.”

Labels pack a lot of meaning into a single crystalized concept. When something has a label, there’s no need to question what it is; its meaning has already been defined (usually by someone else) and we accept it without question. We make all kinds of assumptions based on these labels. Politics and the media are very ahead of us in understanding the psychological power of labels on our consciousness, and intentionally use them to influence our decision-making.

Labels create judgments based on a very small amount of, usually inaccurate or misinterpreted, information. That’s why the new APA diagnostic labels are so concerning. Completely normal behavior is being medicalized and labeled as a mental disorder!

Labels are limitations and healing aren’t about label-making. It’s about staying open to our limitless potential to heal. When we accept a label, it becomes a part of our identity, how we define ourselves. I hear too many people say things like, “My cancer” or “I’m a cancer survivor”. Never own your disease or link it with your identity. It may be something you have, but it’s not you! You have a certain job with a particular label too, but that’s just something you do, not who you are. Our consciousness responds to this internal labeling; we can speak things right into existence by the words we use in describing ourselves.

The danger of labels is that once they’re assigned to us and we’ve accepted them, we begin to become what we feel we are. Our consciousness causes us to act in ways that will bring about exactly what we’re expecting. Wherever our consciousness is focused, that’s the direction we’re moving toward.

Healing without labels

In racecar driving, students are taught how to get out of a skid. That’s extremely important when you’re driving at 150 miles per hour. The secret is that when the car is careening out of control and heading toward a wall, the driver must look away from the wall and in the direction he wants to go. It may sound counter-intuitive to look away from something you’re speeding toward, but the only way the driver can maneuver the car to safety, is to look where he wants to go.

When someone gives us a diagnosis or label, that’s often all we can see. As we stay focused on it, we race faster and faster toward its realization as the software of our consciousness gets to work searching its database for the answer to that input.

Years ago, I heard about an experiment where a man was placed in a walk-in freezer. Except for his meals, he had nothing to do but keep a journal. At the end of several days, the man was found dead. He’d frozen to death. His diary revealed that the cold had become increasingly intolerable until it eventually killed him. The most shocking revelation was that the freezer was unplugged for the entire experiment!

This illustrates the incredible power of our consciousness and its interaction with what we believe to be true about ourselves and the world. Labels can play a huge role in that. We create what we know and only we have the power to determine what that is. Einstein once said, “Logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere.” When it comes to defining who we are and how our future will unfold, it’s our imagination that sets the course, not a label. So reject the categories others want to slot you into and learn to define yourself in a way that works for you to create a life that will be the song you’ve been searching for.

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