Labelling is a cognitive distortion that results in a person attaching a label to themselves or others on the basis of a single event. Labelling results in a temporary event becoming a permanent, unchangeable characteristic of a person. For example, if I make a mistake at work, I’m an idiot. By attaching these labels to ourselves or others, we then filter out information that does not fit with the label and focus on information that applies to the label. At its core, labelling takes a solveable problem and makes it a permanent characteristic of a person that can never be changed. If I label myself as an idiot, I will always be an idiot. Therefore, I turn a minor problem into an unchangeable, negative situation and this can lead to interpersonal problems and/or negative feelings towards yourself.
The first step in addressing labelling is to notice when you are engaging in labelling. Once you recognize that you are labelling yourself or another person, then the key is to shift focus to the behavior that you notice, not a characteristic of the person. By doing this, you short circuit the labelling and you might find that you feel less intense negative emotions towards yourself or the other person.
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