Psychology Today - The Danger of Labeling Others (or Yourself)


We label people by the characteristics they show all the time. We think of a particular person as being a bully, a nerd, a musician, or an athlete. This label may be a reasonable reflection of who they are right now, but it also carries a belief that the behavior reflects a person’s essence.
When you say that someone is a bully, you not only mean that they tend to bully other people, but also that—at their core—they are the kind of person who bullies others. I have a cartoon on my office door of two prisoners sitting in a cell. One says to the other, “You’re not a murderer. You’re just a person who happened to murder someone.” This cartoon works, because being called a murderer feels like it carries something essential about the individual.


Well now, we sure wouldn’t want to put the label of murderer on someone who murdered. How ridiculous is that?


Good article. Thanks for posting.


The girls who bullied me (nearly to suicide) didn’t think of themselves as bullies. One of them even said to my sister that she was nice to me. That doesn’t change what they did. It doesn’t change the fact that they consciously chose to do it.

Also, I’m not going to let someone at work get messed up by someone else because they don’t know any better. Well Ted messes people over to try to make himself look better and because it gives him some sort of satisfaction.

Nope. I’d tell him, hey Ted is a fjdsl. You want to stay away from Ted.

Also, I think that labeling can help you feel better about yourself. I look at myself as a future business woman. Not a writer (I got published in my college literary magazine and won the school wide award for creative non fiction). I only still want to share my writing because I don’t think about myself as a writer. All the writers in my classes were self aggrandizing jerks who just wanted to tell each other how wonderful their story was so that people would say it back to them. I simply do not want to associate myself with them.


If what I’ve noticed is worth anything then a bully to one can be a dear friend to another.

My best friend throughout my teenage years (12 to 18) was this kid who was raised by a paranoid alcoholic mother, if that’s worth anything, and was a genuine friend to me throughout our years together and yet if you got on the wrong side of this kid he’d go about ruining your life for the most trivial reasons.

I’ve learned that nothing is ever as black and white or clear cut as people often want things to be. This guy I’m talking about was capable of both immense cruelty as well as quality friendship…


Yes I see your point. Adolf Hitler was just a regular old Adolf Hitler, and that’s that. ???

Most folk I hope are smart enough to not judge someone else by one or two time events.

Yes personalities can change. However, if Hitler changed his personality in the end, I do not think that he should have gotten off scot-free for his previous doings.

Accountability should never die !

If a person WAS a bully for a time period, but changed later in life, I do not see that as an excuse. Other people were hurt. Thus the x-bully must do something about that. The x-bully must be held accountable and pay the bill, so to speak.

It is from there, where you move onward.


There are people who are bullies at their core, and the label fits. Very glad my daughter is going to a different school this fall. She needs a break from people who have earned their labels and then some.



More often than not these “murderers” are just your everyday people who happened to F up big time. I know, I was mentored by a “murderer” in my outpatient program. He was actually a genuinely kind and well meaning person with a family and a masters in counseling. He just happened to have made a huge mistake in his youth.


I do know that with CBT, labeling others is a no no - I tend to label people but now I am careful not to exaggerate - or over label others. But the truth is that some labels hold true - I mean as an example if I were to say that “my brother is an asshole”, this would be a true statement - I can change things around and soften the blow by stating the fact that “my brother can behave like an asshole sometimes”, - I guess there is a difference :smile:


Schizophrenics are dangerous and unpredictable.


Sorry if I don’t have any sympathy. If you murder someone, you need put down.


It is not sympathy I am imploring one to seek, it is impartiality and open mindedness. Interest, entirely separate from emotions, in the truth and only the truth. I believe this impartiality the only thing worthy of being pushed on others…to seek the truth in all matters, to see beyond our often befuddling emotions that muddy our waters we must look through, and see things for what they are. See our fellow person for what he/she is. Not what we are told he/she is or what our emotions tell us to perceive.

We are all individuals living in our own individual circumstances after all.


This is true. My wife no longer lets me pick paint colours.



i agree with your point and you are right, my clinical psychologist says i should forgive people but it is very different when the wrong is done to you.
the dalai lama is a very wise man who forgives, but i am not the dalai lama.
take care


No but that’s just it…the wrong HAS been done to me!

I trusted, I loved unconditionally and I was wronged…I was wronged by the freaking world man. I was wronged by this entire freaking selfish society in which we must live…

But…wait…am I the dalai lama??? I’m the freaking dalai lama!!!

I don’t even like llamas!

Oh my goodness…whhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?


I heard one you might like.

They say forgive and forget, but I am not Jesus. Nor do I have Alzheimer’s.

I am a big fan of the justice system doing what you did to others to you. Yep. All the way. Not just kill killer. I’m talking about if you rape someone (anyone) buckle up buddy. I also favor there being an audience like for executions to make sure it is done right (like not breaking the rapist’s arm if he didn’t break his victim’s arm.) And if the victim or one of their family members want to do they honor?
They get priority.

I think that is a much better way to discourage crime.


What’s wrong with llamas?


they spit at you and bite the hand that feeds…

I was the one feeding them for a good year and a half!

As for the eye for an eye stuff, been there…moved on.


The danger of labeling myself…

I did notice that my discussion about my illness changes a bit when I tell people that…
I’m a man dealing with Sz and not that I’m “a schizophrenic”.

Once you accept a label, you sort of accept the all baggage that goes with the label.

My youngest brother has been called a “danger boy” for a very long time. He likes it. Keeping his danger boy title has meant over the years he has tried to do more and more dangerous stuff. The thing is… this past 18 months of pure out of control manic fury… and everyone just shrugged and said, “Well, you know, John is the danger boy, the wild one. It’s just how he is.”

When he started acting out even more and getting even more out there as far as the behavior, would we have seen this as a warning sign sooner, and gotten him help sooner if we didn’t just think he was being the danger boy?


Telling people “I’m a schizophrenic” doesn’t bother me. For one thing I don’t think that telling them that you are a person dealing with sz is going to make them look at it any differently. (Not saying you aren’t right. Just what my take on it is.)

Also when I say I am sza (and explaining what it is, which I like. I have a description that I find hilarious even if no one else does. I say “it’s like sz and depression had a love child”). Also I feel like it helps challenge what people imagine a sz to be. I talk like I would get back at someone but I am pretty sure that it is quickly apparent to everyone that I have never gotten in a fist fight in my life. (I did fight with my sister, but we kicked at each other in an incredibly inefficient way and I don’t think that either of us even got a bruise). So even though as weird as I act (which I purposefully exaggerate a lot because I have found a way to do it that makes people laugh, so although I don’t come off as normal pretty much ever I think it helps people realize that I am harmless).

Even if I cannot change people’s views in any other way, I hope that I can help them see that we are not violent people. Anyone will strike out if they are scared and that is different from liking to hurt people. Sz s as violent people is the stereotype that I hate most.

Besides when I say “I am sz” rather than “I am a person who struggles with sz” I feel like I own it. That it is a part of me and I accept that. (I realize that others don’t feel that way, which is perfectly understandable.) One of the things that influenced me to think/feel that way is the book “Thinking in Pictures” by Temple Grandin. She has Ausburgers (a high functioning type of autism) and she has a Ph.D (not sure in animal science or psychology. But she says that her brain works like a cow’s brain, so her study of cattle does help her understand the way her brain works I think). I have Ausburgers indicators which means I have some of the characteristics of it but not all of them. Things that would scare a cow would scare her and stuff like that.)

And she said that she and many people with ausburgers wouldn’t push that magic button to make themselves normal. A difference between ausburgers and sz is some things that are going on with people with ausburgers can be used as strengths. Like Grandin could build 3D models in her mind and so she was really good at visualizing construction problems before they happened. I realize that there is pretty much none of that in sz.

One thing though is that I think that my illness has helped me cope with the world in an odd way. I don’t suffer from paranoia and I know that would completely negate this, but I think that it helps me believe in people. I am trying to get over my tendency to believe that everyone is good at heart. That is dangerous. But I think it has helped me believe that everyone has value. That might be the ausburgers indicators though. I don’t know.

But in the end, to me I am sza, not I have sza because, until they make that magic pill that moritmermouse is talking about to me it is a part of me. It is with me every day. It is a part of my decisions and thoughts. It is a part of how others see me (flat affect, some of the social graces problems). There are even scientists who say that it effects how my brain is growing. There are many things that I don’t like about it, but as something that features so much in my life, I feel as though saying that I am struggling with it rather than (in my own odd way) understanding it as part of my existence I take away some of what makes me feel different. I don’t know how but it does.