On Labelling Experience

We humans love to label and diagnose things. I think it’s because we feel a sense of relief, normalcy, predictability, and safety in having a nice neat little box in which to file our experiences under.

The depression box, the anger box, the anxiety box, the insecurity box, the obsessive compulsive box, the addiction box, the stress box, there’s no end to how many we can come up with.

Then once we have an experience of anything we don’t like, we just put it in the box accordingly and chalk it up to  “it’s just how I am” or  “given that I have depression, of course I’m going to feel depressed”

What it doesn’t take into account is that this is an illusion. The illusion is that there’s something we have or something we are that determines what experiences we’ll have.

And that’s simply not true.

Labels and diagnoses are after-the-fact. They are not causal, nor could they be. Depression is not the cause of depressed thinking. Anxiety is not the cause of anxious thinking. An anger problem is not the cause of angry thinking.

The one and only cause of these experiences are thought in the moment, that’s it.

A depressing thought comes into our mind, gets brought to life in our sensory system by consciousness (which make it look and feel as though it’s reality) and then we have the ensuing experience until it passes.

If we don’t know that’s what’s happening, and especially if we think our experience is caused by something outside of us, we’ll tend to take that thinking really seriously.

And because we take it really seriously, we shower that kind of thinking with attention, energy,  judgment and resistance.

So the next time a depressing thought happens to come into our heads it gets our attention in a bigger way than it did before, which makes it feel even more real, which makes us take it more seriously.

And then when we have a habit of taking depressed thinking seriously we noticed that we’re in a depressed feeling a lot of the time!

Which of course leads us (and other well-meaning medical professionals) to conclude that we have depression as a condition, an illness, a solid thing… as if depression is anything other than depressed thinking taken seriously over time.

It really is that simple. I know it sounds like it’s too simple to be true but what’s truly at the heart of all labels and diagnoses is that certain types of thinking are taken seriously and believed to be reality in an attention, meaning, misunderstanding spiral until it becomes a mental habit.

And yes, of course brain chemistry changes. But our biochemistry changes as a result of thought, it’s a domino that falls when our thinking knocks it over.

Biochemistry is not the cause of thought changing, thought is the cause of biochemistry changing.

What freed me from years of suffering from anxiety was when I insightfully saw that my anxious thinking was just normal thought that I was taking seriously and making meaning of because I mistakenly thought the outside world of circumstances was the cause of how I was feeling.

Once I got clued into the inside-out nature of life I realized that I was in hours of anxious thinking each day because I was taking that thinking to be true, misunderstanding its source and becoming extremely hypervigilant about it.

It stemmed from a misunderstanding, but after so much energy, attention and resistance was placed on my anxious thinking, it showed up more and more.

And then the icing on the cake was adding the label ” I have anxiety” or “I’m an anxious person” which keeps us more locked in to the same experience, seeing more of what we expect to see, and completely discounting all the times that our experience is contrary to the label.

The irony is that the label and diagnosis that was supposed to make us feel better in the first place ends up causing way more suffering, habitual thought and downward spiralling than if we had just let our experience be whatever it happens to be in the moment, nothing more, nothing less.