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You're not my …
May 21st, 2014 (May 22nd, 2014)

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

You're not my …

Labels limit others ( It's easy to fall into the fallacy « I'm right, henceforth you're wrong » about facts, but it's also easy to fall in this error when labelling others. The solution is the same when labelling situations or people, since it responds to the same difficulty of "solidifying perceptions by introducing labels / boundaries / entities": questioning one's own  certainties and one's own  intentions… « What am I trying to protect really? What am I clinging to? »

For example, from time to time, you might tell someone « you're not my boss » or « don't cling to being a boss. » In other situations, instead of 'boss' you may use 'parent', or whatever label assumed  to represent "someone who has a say": 'teacher', 'lawyer', 'banker', 'agent', 'priest', 'regulator', 'elected official', 'client'… or even 'self' (as in "you don't know what I've been through, you're not myself")! 

When this happens, it represents an interpretation of their intention, an interpretation  usually experienced  as a certainty.  But this is blindness to the fact that, at any moment, the one 'clinging' to a label is the one using it!

The one clinging to 'boss' or any other label is you: you reduce another person to this label (or, worse, reduce another to someone reducing himself / herself to this label!) and you imagine this is enough to know what their intentions are.
This is a classic example of "mental fabrication" (obscuring, putting a veil on reality; reducing the reality at hand to a caricature believed to be the reality itself).

It's also an attempt to cherry-pick a specific box, to put the other person out  of it, only to then claim that this box is the only  relevant box… as if « you're not my client, and only my client would be entitled to say something here&now » allowed to wave all other  concerns away (e.g. legal or ethical). You're just trying to play a joker card and opt out of a conversation that is frustrating you!

When someone says something to you, it is way too easy to assume it's because they  'cling' to some sort of authority, or because they  'cling' to being right.

They might in fact 'be' a conventional authority, of course, but this has little to do with them 'clinging'. They might in fact 'be' conventionally right, in the specific context at hand, but this has little to do with them 'clinging'… Quite often, they might just say something either because some practicalities need to be dealt with collaboratively, or because they care about you in your full context (and they assessed that talking about the weather  is not the most promising way to care effectively in the present situation)!

Throwing a label on someone's intention is often inaccurate. It also is a defence mechanism, closing the door to anyone disagreeing, using whatever label one has at one's disposal to try to obtain an unchallenged space: « you're not my (insert label) » usually just means « don't disagree with me, I know. »

Not only you're the one clinging to a definition but, even if the recipient did cling too, the injunction would not convey any useful information for anyone  to cease clinging!

Instead of telling to someone else « you're not my … », question your own intentions: « What am I trying to protect really? What am I clinging to? » Only when you question your own intentions will you discern others trying to help (maybe clumsily, maybe with some biases, maybe with some mistakes, but still a much 'better' intention than initially projected!).

This is not  to say that every 'feedback' has to be taken at face value: others may indeed 'cling', or may indeed be wrong, but it is about accepting that them being wrong would not  necessarily make you right (!

When you need to enquire into the situation at hand, here & now, reality —that is to say: most of the time!— presuming that you already know, that you don't need to listen therefore that you can label someone out of the 'relevant' influencers, is not  likely to yield great results, i.e. is not  wise! Separating yourself from others is rarely wise; collaborating with others usually works better… and, if indeed you truly know better, then leading the collaboration is wholesome ('leading' requires 'convincing' though, i.e. 'listening' and 'responding', not 'ignoring').

Photo © Nathan Gleave (