What's in a Name?
by Graeme Kapono Urlich
Many years ago now 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
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 wouldn’t get annoyed when thinking of the original person
Since then I have noticed 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 that’s 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
colourful 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 the idea of having a million dollars let alone having
something cost us that much more than expected would cause tremendous emotional response but in that
context it was trivial.
Another relationship that I had was with a person who had very fixed, black and white rules that she
applied to every situation every time. This proved equally challenging because even though I knew what
the rules where there were situations coming up that required temporary modification of the rules to
deal with them effectively.
In computer programming we have the concept of a namespace. The programming language has many, many
functions that the programmer can use to construct the code he needs but he needs 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 the refresh function will redraw all of the text boxes and buttons with its existing data
if it is called on a windows form but when called from 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.
Most balanced people have a good ability to recognise, albeit subconsciously most of the time, context
and select appropriate behaviour for the circumstance and to make adjustments where needed 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
sensation, 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.
Differences in interpretations of the same symbols can be seen all around the world. Muslims all base
their religious practice on the Koran but we see different groups of Muslims with various
interpretations of those writings. We see many Christian groups also with various interpretations of
the bible and heated arguments about definitions even within the same groups.
In the examples above one person’s definitions were too fluid which further fuelled the fear that
created them while another’s were too rigid and limited to cope with an ever changing environment.
Being too rigid also fuels fear because the world just can’t comply. A third person’s definition of a
symbol, a million dollars, was simply less significant in his context than average.
There are a few situations where hard an fast rules are necessary, like when flying a plane safety
probably should come first, while others require flexibility. A good balance of stability and
flexibility with an understanding that it is our choice what meaning we give to symbols while
recognising that others are likely to assign sometimes very different meanings to those same symbols
and that different context will apply is ideal.
Graeme Kapono Urlich (August 2011)
Aloha New Zealand - School of Huna and Hawaiian Shamanism