From time to time, my partners and friend counsel me to use my title more often. “It’s legal, and you’ve earned it,” they say. My answer is that since I have indeed earned it, there’s no need to label myself outside of emails and when I am writing specifically about spiritual or religious matters. In the course of my career and pursuit of Truth, I have learned that “Dr.” doesn’t make information more or less accurate. Indeed it doesn’t even make someone more credible once someone gets deep enough into a subject.
“Dr.” just means that someone has studied enough previously published information that is thought to be correct, and that they can hopefully conduct research, and draw educated conclusions on their own. What happens though, when a large proportion of the previously published information was wrong?
You guessed it. The doctor has to relearn the new information.
The field of counseling and psychology is not and has never been an exact science. Human experience is not uniform, and we’re not blank slates. As a spiritual counselor with a religious education and degree, I have a bit more flexibility than the conventionally trained psychologist or therapist. You learn something new every day, and in our branch, you have the luxury of admitting that. It saddens me that so many don’t get that though.
Whenever I see a preacher outed for activities that go against the main stream of their faith or worse, criminal activity, it makes me wonder. In some cases, they’re obviously sociopaths, or what I like to call broken thinkers, who believe that they are not just different from most but above humanity and above natural or criminal/civil law. In others though, I think it was a problem of inflexibility. They dug themselves a hole with their title and social position, that they couldn’t get out of without being outed.
It’s not only preachers and doctors of whatever that this happens to. In many ways, many people label themselves and apply meaning to it that doesn’t belong there. In an argument about corporal punishment, during which people who are firmly against it, label any striking or restraint as abuse, and lob insults at parents who’ve had to do it, they don’t see how they themselves are being emotionally abusive. When called on their own abusive and threatening behavior, their self labels come out. “I’m a nurse/doctor/therapist/survivor of abuse/whatever,” implying that because of this, it is impossible that they are being abusive. Their behavior towards others is blatantly abusive, but their label somehow absolves them. Anything they do is okay because they have a badge.
It reminds me of when I watched a certain outed minister state that he wasn’t Gay or Bi, just voluntarily seeking out and engaging in homosexual behavior. It’s also reminiscent of the excuse every cop who’s ever used unnecessary force has given.
The overuse or misuse of labels and titles, official and unofficial, disassociates people from the true impact of their behavior. It’s not Nicole doing it. It’s Rev. Dr. Lasher doing it. It’s not Nicole yelling at her husband about something stupid. It’s Abuse Survivor yelling because 30 years ago she was traumatized by an incident involving an extension cord and is now paranoid about their being stored outside of closed drawers.
So while Rev. Dr. Lasher would tell you to chin up and butch up, and not be insecure about your body, does that mean Nicole can go and get her stomach stapled when her life isn’t in danger from her belly roll at all?
I’m not totally against the use of titles or labels that indicate someone’s education, experience, or position. It’s just that we should all remember that we are the person under that title. That person is still accountable for their behavior, and the title or label changes none of that. The label is just a social shortcut, but the proof of who you are is in your actions. The truth or untruth of your words is not dependent on your label. If you are a mean spirited, abusive person, being in a social or health profession doesn’t male your poop smell like roses. Having been abused also doesn’t make it okay for you to abuse people.
So let’s all be mindful not to rest on our laurels, whether that be a professional title or a past trauma. Be your best and do your best today.