In this Article, I want to talk about the significance of labeling what we experience on a moment-to-moment basis. In thinking about this, I called to mind the statement: "The Map is Not the Territory." This statement comes from General Semantics, which Alfred Korzybski created in, I believe, around the mid-'90's. The basis of Korzybski's approach to understanding human behavior is that we are enslaved by our language; as I recall, he was a mathematician.

(Mathematics is considered to be a, "pure" language in that it leaves no room for error or misunderstanding within its structure. More can be learned about Korzybski's General Semantics, at:

I took a College Course in General Semantics in the '60's and it was one of the best things I ever did for my ability to think clearly. "The Map is not the Territory," refers to our mistakenly believing the, "Map" (names/descriptions) of aspects of reality accurately reflect that reality. "You" are not your name; how often have you introduced yourself by saying, "I am ....," giving your name? You are not your name, it is simply a handle, (label) that others can use to put you into their little boxes.

By our naming and labeling things, we assume we, "know" that person/thing and no longer think about them in a fresh, new way. Our educational system reinforces this belief in labels. Just as one's Belief System is the, "Box" they think out of, our Maps/Labels/Names/Categories, etc., etc., are the small boxes inside that bigger box--our Belief System.

I find it interesting how many reports there are of people who, in their cars, taking their cues from the car's computer directions, find themselves in very difficult, and, frequently, dangerous, situations. This one has to wonder if they never looked out their car windows, and thought about where they were at.

Most individuals in our Society are similarly on "automatic" when they delude themselves into believing they are, "aware," but are simply cruising along into difficult life situations, based on their Belief Systems.

I amused a group of people at a gathering one time, when someone was complaining at great length about how hard a particular course was, (one of the psychologies). I stated that it wasn't difficult at all; all that person had to do was to learn the "vocabulary" of that system, and they would be able to memorize it quite easily, and proceeded to rattle off examples from that theory. This came as a great revelation to all who were listening at the table! Everything we think of as a, "subject" is a Belief System; the vocabulary is the language of that System.

It has been a long time since, "new" formulations have been truly unique; they, in general, use other Systems as building blocks to the new formulation. New vocabularies are then developed for the theory to make them appear to be new and different from the previous ones.

Korzybski's, "The Map is Not the Territory," as are his other inspired understandings about the language we use, is very important. Not only every thing which has been made a separate, "subject" has a built-in Belief System, every language also has a built-in Belief System of those who speak it, primarily. (Our drive to have minorities all speak English, is effectively a drive to kill that minorities' culture!)

Through our educations we become very good at "the naming of parts." Science, in general, is a good example of our Societies' belief that anything and everything can be separated from the whole, and studied independently. The information derived from this studying and naming of parts is believed to be accurate, (True/Facts, etc.). That information is then extrapolated and held to be relevant to the whole of what was being studied. The "map" of the part is put together with all the "maps" of the other pieces, and believed to accurately represent the whole "Territory."

This is little different from the Sufi story about the group of blind men who were asked to each describe what an elephant looked like by feeling a part of its body.

I had a revelation one day, many years ago now, when alone far out in nature somewhere, I found myself, instead of relaxing into the experience of the place, naming what I was seeing--types of trees, flowers, plants, etc., etc. I actually woke up a little bit, then and there, at the realization of what I was doing in my mind.

Every day we apply our labels on everything we see hear and experience; rarely do we every stop and examine something, or someone, as though seeing him/her/them/it, or hearing it, for the first time. Only little children experience the world in this way. As an experiment, from time-to-time, try to remember to stop yourself and try to experience something as though you had come upon it, or anything similar to it, for the first time ever.

Author's Bio: 

My self-educational background has been in learning, and writing about, why people do what they do. My educational background includes the study of established Belief Systems in the field of Psychology, ranging from Freudian theory through Abraham Maslow's work on fully-functioning individuals, as well as Art. My BA is in Human Services, and my Masters is in Art Therapy--MA-AT.

In the 1970's I wrote a manuscript, (unpublished) called: You in the Process of Becoming; A Guide to the Self. In it I outlined a systems approach to understanding human behavioral dis-functioning. My current writing and thinking is an outgrowth of the understanding that, if an individual wishes to be able to think, "critically," i.e., originally, clearly and without contamination from Consensus Belief Systems, it is essential for that individual to thoroughly understand their own underlying Belief System.

This approach can be used in understanding an individual's problems in dealing with everyday situations and problems in relationships. In discovering how one's underlying beliefs shape personal behavior, and examining where those beliefs came from, can do much to change the resultant behavior.

You can access my blog at