Is there any kind of power at work in using a person's name or assigning labels to people?

Using the name of a spirit is thought to invoke that spirit. Does naming something give us some measure of control over it? When we use a person's name in conversing with them, is there any kind of psychological or spiritual power or influence in it? What about labels? When we call someone a thief or a liar, for example, is that a helpful designation, or does it bring about negative effects?

An old friend of mine, years ago, hugged his cute little daughter and said, "This one is my princess!" Then casting a glance toward his troublemaker son, said, "That one is going to end up in prison!" He did! Was that a self-fulfilling prophecy? If so, what forces or influences are at work in using labels like that?

asked 21 Oct '09, 08:13

John's gravatar image


Names have always been held to have power and giving one's name to someone used to be something that was guarded as you were giving people power over you. I think that was why people used to like to be introduced by a mutual friend - it was like a reference in a way.

Name calling make a big impression on us too - it is someone's definition of their perception of you - real or imagined. The good names are great said in the right way - sweetheart and darling; pet names and warm names that describe lovely attributes and so on, the terms of endearment, have a profound effect on us and reach our heart and warm us and help us grow and blossom. The other end of the scale, the cold names, the hurtful names, the denigrating names and the ones that take our power by causing pain and shock that we can be seen as that by someone, no matter who and no matter if right or not - also do have a power which is hard to deflect.

We also have to be careful about calling ourselves names - silly me and so on - as that also undermines us to an extent.

I was looking at books today and came across one called Women, Fire and Other Dangerous Things by George Lakoff. I could only read the cover as it was sealed in film but it sounded good. If I wasn't on another mission at the time I might have bought it but I came out with another book of equally relevant stuff to these boards called The Physics of Miracles - Tapping Into the Field of Consciousness Potential by Richard Bartlett, author of Matrix Energies. Here are the links to them which tell you what they are about and some reviews - both get very good reviews in their field and I think you will enjoy them. - what categories reveal about the mind. and this raves about it too as does this

The book I brought home with me looks to be another one of those that I was guided to on my journey - I went into Barnes and Noble for a magazine and found myself putting the magazine down and sitting and delving into this book instead. I had to bring it home:


answered 22 Oct '09, 01:15

Rebecca's gravatar image


edited 22 Oct '09, 01:24

I deeply believe that our world is a fantasy, a dream created out of our concepts and beliefs. Therefore the world will pretty much be as you think it is. This also means that if you believe the world to be random or at the mercy of moody gods then this will be your experience. Yet in reality even that apparent randomness comes out of perfect order (your beliefs).

How we label things, people and ourselves is a reflection of our beliefs. Simply giving something a new name won't change it instantaneously because the mind as a creature of habit and it will quickly return to it's usual perception of that thing. But using the new label consistency over a longer period of time can potentially shift your thinking (and thus change your reality).

So yes, how we define things gives us certain power over what we experience in our lives. You can call this power psychological, spiritual, subconscious or whatever - choose your label. ;)

How we label people in particular says a lot about our relationships with others and with the world. If someone is constantly talking about "stupid" or "weak" people, then they probably experience the world as a very competitive place, a place where you have to outsmart and be stronger then the other guy. The people who can see the brilliance in everyone have a more relaxed experience.

A very important component is the emotion behind the words. The feeling we attach to a word is what really makes it "good" or "bad" for us.

Because it is the feeling that is truly important, I think we shouldn't obsess too much with the usage of words. Calling someone a thief is perfectly valid way to describe someone who is stealing. What could be hurtful is attaching judgment or hatred to the statement (something that we tend to do unconsciously).

Your question about the use of personal names is really interesting but I am not ready to give an answer yet. For now I think it's a practical way to communicate with each other.

The story you share is very thought-provoking. While I don't know whether the father's words were responsible for the son getting in prison, it can certainly be so. If he said such a thing in front of you I can imagine that he was doing it on other occasions too. It shows the influence we can have over other people, especially over close ones like our children and family. It also reminds us to always choose our words wisely.


answered 21 Oct '09, 09:54

Toshiro's gravatar image


edited 21 Oct '09, 10:05

Our inner world is shaped by what we focus on, which deeply influences our perception of the outer world. The mind is a filter; it sees only what it wants to see. That doesn't mean that the outer world itself is unreal, or that we have collectively constructed it with our minds; rather, we shape our perception of that world (our inner mental picture of what the outer world is) by what we choose to pay attention to.

(21 Oct '09, 15:58) Vesuvius

Thanks for pointing that out. The statement that the world is fantasy/dream can easily be misunderstood. By that I don't mean that it's unreal or non-existent. I don't know how it was created but it's observable how our perception of it changes our experience of it. So I agree with you on the main point. :) The way we create the world collectively though is through our upbringing, education, TV etc. These often deny us a fresh view on life,be the time we are conscious enough we have all kind of beliefs that are not necessarily true.That's how we create mass (mis)conceptions about the world.

(22 Oct '09, 00:41) Toshiro

My former husband is a traditional Ojibwe (one of the North American indigenous peoples). Within his band, and clan, they are given a name at birth. This will seem to impart beauty dependability or strength depending on what is given. As a teen, when their individual personality is apparent, they will sometimes choose another name themselves, based on how they want others to see them. After a spiritual quest is taken at puberty or just after, they will be told by their guide a name that remains secret. Only the person, their guide and the Creator know this name. Giving out that name would be like giving away a key to oneself and giving away one's power. Just thought I would add another outlook on names and their power. (Unfortunately, this tradition is falling to the wayside in the modern world and many Ojibwe's today have "white names")


answered 21 Oct '09, 17:36

LeeAnn%201's gravatar image

LeeAnn 1

Thanks for the example from the Ojibwe culture. I appreciate your input regarding the power in names. Egyptian mythology tells of the origin of the god, Re, and the world. According to myth, Isis found out Re's name by enchanting a poisonous snake to bite him. The only way Isis could heal Re was by knowing his true name, and by knowing his name, she gained power equal to his, and thus became known as the divine sorceress.

(23 Oct '09, 05:53) John

At a pediatric clinic, a poster of a 5-month old caught my attention. The baby's father was kissing his right cheek and his mother on the other cheek. Below it was a caption, "A kiss at 5 can be felt at 50". This is a simple expression of love and affection that has a significant effect on a child. What more hurtful words spoken by a parent to it's child. The son of John's friend carried his father's hurtful words with him as he grew up. It had a huge effect on his self-esteem and self-worthiness.


answered 22 Oct '09, 08:23

Celine's gravatar image


Labels are detrimental when we use them to stereotype someone else. We stereotype someone when we judge who they are by what the label we have applied to them means to us. In doing so, we dismiss the person, because we are no longer asking questions about who they are; we have accepted an incomplete (and possibly inaccurate) picture of them.

Labels in and of themselves are not harmful. Like any other tool, it is the way they are used (or abused) that can possibly hurt others. On the other hand, the person to whom you are applying the label to can choose to reject your labeling of them, and call you out on its inaccurate representation of who they are.

Human languages are just a series of labels we have applied to concepts and things. It has been shown scientifically that we think primarily through language. Language allows us to cast nets around our ideas, and communicate them to other people. Without language, modern society would not exist.


answered 21 Oct '09, 19:08

Vesuvius's gravatar image


The young boy I believe was deeply effected by what the father said. Because Your father and your mother are two of the people in the whole world who suppose to love you unconditionally as well as God. Now when you think one of them speaks out and says you are bad and going to jail. Than you feel you are bad and you are going to jail. You simply don't care about your self simply because he didn't seem to care. Now you could say i am not going to jail and I am a good person. But at an young age we are so impressionable.

I know from my own experience that words from the people whom you think should love you really does hurt down to the core of your being and it stays with you sometimes until you an old person.

If that parent is continually saying that you can almost say he is programing that child to think and behave that way because that is what he is constantly hearing all of the time.

Now you might say well the child is acting very badly all of the time. I have no answer some times children act out for attention, sometimes they really are very bad, sometimes they just need correction and guidance in the right direction and they always needs plenty of love and postive injections into their daily lives.

But I do know that constant saying that they are bad for I had an neighbor son say my mother says from birth I am bad than surely I must be bad. He started killing animals cats and dogs. I told him he was not bad he could be good if he tried and he was begining to believe me when she moved away so I don't know what ever happen to him. I just hope he heald on to what I told him that he could be good if he stop doing bad things.

I am sure names do have spiritual meaning of some kind which may be very important but if you have not put thought behind or don't know of it than it proboably doesn't matter maybe I don't know. I remember the American Indians did and we need to learn about this. It is the thought behind the words also have so much meaning and it can be helpful or hurtful. I think we all should think more about the words we call someone or the words we use on them.We also need to think about the words we use on our own selves. For example don't call yourself fat, dumb, stupid, ugly, blind, and etc. For this what we are learning now how this effects your reality.

Like we will call someone crazy in an minute but we don't mean they are really crazy we mean they are silly maybe we should start using the silly instead of crazy. Labels can be very damaging to peoples egos and self esteem.

We need to be more understanding of others feelings. We need to speak up if this word hurts or offends you. Maybe if it is an friend they will apolize and stop calling you that. A lot of time people will say when you tell them that hurts when you call me that they say Oh I was only playing but yea it still hurts so please don't call me that.


answered 22 Oct '09, 21:31

flowingwater's gravatar image



"Are the labels we use to describe and define ourselves and each other helpful in some way, or hurtful and detrimental?"

I think labels are fine for things such as canned goods, bedding and clothing; but not for living beings be they animal or human.

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"Was that a self-fulfilling prophecy?"

I think it happens more often than we know. Like you, I've seen it happen too. For example, Dad tells his son he's dumb, that he'll never get a good job and he won't amount to anything. Those words become beliefs. He works dead end minimum wage jobs and ends up drinking himself into an early grave. Or the little girl who is told by most of her classmates and perhaps at home too, that she's not pretty or too fat or not smart enough. All she hears over and over again is "you're not good enough" and ends up on the streets or more likely, in an abusive relationship looking for love in all the wrong places and uses alcohol and drugs to cope. I.


Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Most of us are familiar with the Sticks and Stones nursery rhyme and many of us grew up believing it was true. If you cried, it made things worse. Best to just take it, no complaining or whining and hope what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Some didn't feel worthy for various reasons and lacked healthy self esteem. Those hurtful words or labels became part of their identity and some will carry this pain for life. If you are self confident or if you're older, you prob won't take it personally. Most of these wounds and false subconscious beliefs start in childhood and often come from authority figures be they teachers, parents or religious leaders or because we allow bulling and name calling.

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"Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don't do that. Some day we'll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you." ~ Maya Angelou


answered 05 Mar '17, 19:43

ele's gravatar image


edited 05 Mar '17, 20:38

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