Psychological Perspectives – What’s in a Name?


When someone tells you their name what thoughts do you have initially? Are you thinking of someone you used to know with that same name? Are you judging the name in terms of ethnicity or power? Do you make associations with the name before getting to know the person? Do you create bias after hearing someone’s name? Does the name influence how you view and interact with that person?

These are questions we probably do not ask ourselves very often. We are introduced to someone and graciously introduce ourselves back without ever considering other factors on the other’s part, or perhaps you do. The question can also extend to how do you feel when you tell someone what your name is? What energy is conveyed in that instance? How do you come across to them based on your subconscious beliefs you have placed on your very own name throughout the years?

One aspect of projection tells us that if we had an experience with a person of a certain name, then we may meet this new person with said name and place prejudices upon the person and perhaps sabotage the relationship before ever getting a chance to get to know the individual based on a situation you encountered with that name in the past. Conversely, if you had a great love or esteemed relative by the name then you may expect and assume that this person has the ability to live up to the expectation you have placed upon the label of their name. Of course, we will be setting ourselves up for a let down by adopting such a premise.

However, for some this is an unconscious process which we may not even be aware of in most instances. Another example is when one is choosing a name for a baby, do you place stigmas and stereotypes on certain names and embrace others based on the mere fact that others before them emulated certain aspects of themselves that you either want to veer away from or draw nearer to. Our minds have interpreted the content that the brain cells have stored in response to the interpretation of the name. We are inclined to reach for what resonates in our mind upon hearing a certain name without considering the actual reality of the stored content of our interpretations. It is important to be able to recognize, be aware of and challenge our mind’s stored information in this area. Everyone deserves the chance to be known for the individual he or she is.

Marcella Talignani is a psychotherapist practicing in Brooklyn, New York. She  has her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is an MSW, LMSW. She specializes in treating a very diverse population of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. Her areas of expertise are individual, family therapy, and couples therapy. The therapeutic modalities she utilizes and are trained in include supportive counseling, solution focused therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, strength based therapy and narrative therapy. She is a goal oriented practitioner who believes that it’s never to late to begin to live the life you deserve! what are you waiting for?  Feel free to contact her via email [email protected]