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What's In A Name?
by Graeme Kapono Urlich

Many years ago I had a relationship with a lady who had a lot of fear and insecurity. Her way to feel safe and in control was to be dishonest and to lash out when her deception was found out. The definitions of her rules for being in a relationship would change as needed to feel in control and safe so the goal posts were constantly moving. Needless to say it was a no win situation which I realised eventually.

For quite a long time after this relationship ended, every time I heard of or met a lady with the same name I reacted as though it was the same person even though, as far as I could tell, these were all very different people. My memory of one specific person coloured my experience of everyone new I met with that same name until I recognised that pattern and disassociated the memories from the name. I also reprogrammed the behaviour so I wouldnÕt get annoyed when thinking of the original person anymore.

Since then I have noticed that many times in the past I have made rules about life based on one specific situation that have coloured my experience of different situations and caused me to avoid many experiences that would have been very exciting, interesting and educational.

A name is a symbol, just like a religious icon or wavy lines on a weather map represent certain things or ideas to certain people. The meanings of symbols on a weather map tend to have more strict definitions of their meanings and a wide acceptance of those meanings. A weather man, of course, can gain much more information from the symbols than most of us. To me, many lines close together mean wet and windy weather, while large clear spaces with few lines mean largely fine weather, and thatÕs as far as I get.

Quite a few years ago I worked in the computer industry and had a contract with an investment company that developed large commercial buildings. One day I was setting up a system in the CEO's office when one of the quantity surveyors came in to inform him that he had made an error and a part of one project was going to cost an extra million dollars. The CEO simply chuckled at the news and made references along the lines of the surveyor being a bit of a dipstick who should put some new batteries in his calculator. To most of us, a million dollarsis symbolic of a vast amount of money, and having something cost us that much more than expected would cause tremendous emotional response, but for the CEO of the investment company it was trivial.

In computer programming we have the concept of a namespace. The programming language has many functions that the programmer can use to construct the code he needs, but he has to be very aware of which namespace he is working in, because the same function will behave differently from one namespace to the next.

For example, a namespace with a refresh function will redraw all of the text boxes and buttons with its existing data if it is used on a windows form but when used for a webpage it will call back to a webserver to send a completely fresh copy of the page and data to the computer. This difference may seem subtle but the end result can be dramatically different in a business environment. The point is that the same name, or symbol, can have different effects in different circumstances, just like the name of one woman affected my different relationships in different ways.

Most balanced people have a good ability to recognise context and select appropriate behaviour for the circumstance and to make adjustments where needed, albeit subconsciously most of the time, but even for well balanced people it is useful to step back sometimes and observe behaviour consciously in order to go beyond the normal limits of their lives, expand their potential and reach for a greater level of experience.

It is useful to examine the symbols that we react to most strongly, watching for even subtle physical sensations, and if necessary to redefine their meaning if the reaction and definition is taking us away from who and where we want to be. Some symbols need a range of meanings to suit different contexts without making things too complex to keep track of.

There are situations where names need to have the same meaning for everyone, like the word "Exit" on an airplane, while others require flexibility, like "Doctor," whose specific meaning varies widely. A good ideal to strive for would be a balance of stability and flexibility with an understanding that it is our choice what meaning we give to symbols, while recognising that other people are sometimes likely to assign very different meanings to those same symbols in a different context.

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