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Labeling as Dividing

February 23, 2013

Yesterday I was rude.  I referred to someone’s non-impaired arm as their good arm.  As if the arm that is affected by a disorder is “bad”.  I am an occupational therapist who has worked with disabled people most of my 30 year-long career.  I would like to consider myself an advocate for disabled people.  And still that statement came out of my mouth.  First, I need to apologize.  I am sorry.  Then I can’t help but wonder about the implications of that occurrence.

Is this an example of our left brain’s power to categorize our experiences and our observations?  I have been meditating regularly for almost two months now.  When I’m meditating, I see the thoughts that flow through my mind. I also see the qualities I apply to those thoughts: good, bad, happy, sad ….  It is difficult to see something and not label is as pleasing or displeasing. 

I believe that this tendency leads us to divide people into groups like able people and disabled people.  As if we aren’t all able and disabled.  This tendency also leads us to divide ourselves – I am intelligent but ugly or I am athletic but stupid or in the case above, I have a good arm and a bad arm.

I just read a book by a woman who is an activist removing barriers to full participation by women with impairments like cerebral palsy.  This respected, educated, successful woman continues to categorize aspects of herself as faulty and undesirable.

I don’t fully understand how I ended up labeling part of a beautiful child as “bad”.  I do believe that this tendency to label in the first place is definitely a part of the problem.  What do you think?


PS: The book I refer to above is “Don’t Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back” by Harilyn Rousso.


From → labels/diagnoses

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