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  • Writer's pictureAmy Goodman

To Name or Not to Name

I was talking to a year 12 student about how they are going with their studies and “Year 12” in general.

While stating that they felt fairly pleased with their progress so far (even performing quite well in the subjects they admitted having very little interest in and subsequently, had given the least effort), they had some concerns about their habits and attitudes relating to studying and completing assignments. They went on to tell me some fairly extreme methods of avoidance and attempts to “fix” the dilemmas they kept creating.

What grabbed me was what they said next: “I think I should maybe get assessed for ADHD, I definitely exhibit quite a few ADHD type behaviours. But I’m also concerned that maybe I’m unconsciously producing those behaviours to avoid doing stuff and if I get tested I’ll find out that I’m just lazy.”

The layers of insight and humour exhibited by this individual constantly impresses me.

I pondered this conundrum for a moment.

Whether you go down that path and get assessed or not, find out you have ADHD or not, discover that you’re just lazy or not. None of this changes the answer to the most important question:

Who is in charge?

To Name or Not to Name

When talking about matters of mind and emotion, naming turns a process into a thing. The process rarely has a tangible beginning, the middle is usually what may be perceived as the “problem” and the end is often out of sight.

Naming something however, puts a boundary (or system of boundaries) around what was a process and turns it into a more tangible thing. It externalizes the process. It enables one to see things with less attachment and from a distance. It helps one feel less isolated – if we as a culture have bothered to name it and classify others in this way, then I’m not alone in feeling this way or doing this thing.

There is scientific evidence that indicates the naming of emotions lessen their intensity.

Naming is a tactic but not a strategy for healing or developmental growth and adaptation.

Naming can become problematic when an individual begins to identify AS the thing named. Statements to the effect of: I am depressed, I have anxiety, I am an alcoholic et cetera, while can certainly be an efficient way of describing one’s experience of what they do, it also can be an indication of identifying AS that behaviour.

Once a process is named it has boundaries. Once you identify AS the thing named, you adopt those boundaries.

The longer this identification remains in place, the more exclusively it becomes who you are:

I do that because I have “Y”.

I can’t go there because I am ”X”.

I’m having trouble because of my “Z”.

While these might all be valid statements, therapeutically they do not help.

Name what you do. Compare WITH it what you identify WITH. If you desire therapeutic change or behavioural development turn it back into a process and speak to someone about what you consider to be things you want to work on.

You are in charge.

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