Another example of type-casting – this time with a Liverpudlian!
This example concerns one of our trainee psychotherapists, from Liverpool who told how he had to go to Crown Court to be a witness in a case as part of his work with youths. He asked the court usher which court he should go to regarding the ‘Jones’ case, and the usher showed him in – into the high-sided box for the accused rather than to the open benches. In actual fact, he was the probation officer in the case. He later told me that he was not entirely surprised at the behaviour of the usher in response to his accent, “After all, all Liverpudlians are perceived as lying, thieving Gits!”
The almost universal tendency to evaluate behaviour in relation to our own needs makes it quite difficult not to think in terms of labels. The driver in front of us who goes slowly when we want to go fast is an “idiot”; the child who makes a noise when we’re trying to sleep is a “nuisance”, and so on. We’ve already considered the dangers of using labels. We also saw how our tendency to label others and the type of label we use is more a reflection of ourselves and our relationship to our world and ourselves than a statement about the other person.
If we consider carefully, we will see that the use of a label is almost always a response to the frustration of our needs. This is fairly obvious in the case of the slow driver in front of us, but sometimes we apply labels to people who have little or no direct impact on our lives, such as, the “useless tramp” that we pass in the street. In this case the relationship between our own needs and the label we use is not quite so obvious. However, if we accept that our view of ourselves is predominantly based on the changing reflection of ourselves that we receive back from the world around us then we can start to see that by using this label we may well be responding from a sense of fear or disdain.
The tramp’s presence represents a threat to our sense of self and our sense of safety. We need security and safety, and the presence of the tramp threatens that, hence our use of the label.
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