My name is George
GEORGE, MY NAME IS GEORGE
One day I gave a beggar some money and I asked him what his name was. His sad face and his body, crooked with resignation, changed in a second. He raised his eyes, his face lit up, he sat up straight and he told me, a bit scared: “George, my name is George.”
In the beginning there was the first name, mine, yours, hers and his.
Almost all of us received a first name. Because of it we identify ourselves, we know who we are, and others around us recognize us and use it to call us. When we are called by name we know we exist. Without it we are just a shadow. “Because the first name is the true founding word of an existence” (Elisabeth Horowitz, L’anfant et L’arbre Genealogique, Paris 2006).
At birth, the child receives one or more first names, and this is not by mere chance. The choice that was made is based on reasons, arguments, ideals. The first name one receives carries the whole story: the name of a grandfather, an important person in the family, the name of a girlfriend, the name of someone missing without a trace, sometimes the name of a dead child, the name of a song or of a place which reminds of a certain event.
Throughout their life, people will not only carry their name but also the energy of the story that accompanies it. Many times, parents are not aware of the choices they make. They can justify their decision to give a certain first name to their own child, but nevertheless the real reasons remain unclear. The clarifications come along only when they link the first name of the child to the family tree.
There are cases when parents give two first names to a child. At home parents call them by one name and the other name is used at school or by their friends. Here, there is always an open question: what is the identity of this child? How will this make its mark on their life? in the case of those who have received three first names, the story becomes even more complicated.
Some children receive a diminutive name: Johnny, Billy, Danny, Annie, etc. It remains written on all the documents that person will have throughout their life. Here you can use your imagination (if you do not have examples in your own life) and see what it is like for that adult, let’s say 35 or 65 years old, to still be called by the name of a child. How does that adult experience their professional role? They are “forced” to remain in a position of infantilization for the rest of their life. It’s like they’re not being given the chance to grow.
Other children receive the name of one of the grandparents. Even though the choice is justified only by the fact that it is the name of one of the grandparents, the real reason, why that grandparent and not another one, often remains in the shadows.
There are other cases where the child receives the first name of a child who died before him/her. You will find out more about the replacement child in future articles. The child, even if he/she does not know anything about it, will always feel that something is wrong. That is, they need to do and demonstrate by working more than others in order to be seen by their parents. The story carries on and as adults it’s difficult for them to be noticed by their bosses, colleagues or friends.
Children receive a first name and are called either by a diminutive or by a shorter form. What identity will Benjamin have if he’s called Benjy or Isabela (Izzy)? Even though this is often an expression of love and endearment, using this form of the name when calling the child after a certain age will leave traces in what they will feel. The abbreviation is a form of shrinking the energy of the original name. That will make the person not know how to use their full potential. It is as if they’re using only a part of the power their first name bears.
Not all things described above, nor those that will follow are necessarily bad things or carry negative meanings. What I want to do here is to emphasize the importance of the name one receives and how it can influence a person.
Many of those who come to therapy say they are not confident enough, and that would be the cause of their failures. If you take only the history of your first name and discover what is behind it, it is possible that one of the reasons behind your anxiety is directly related to the reasons you were given that name.
The name that a parent gives to a child is something that generates another dynamic in the development of the child’s identity, but also of the adult’s later on. From celebrating their name on the same day to stating their own desires.
I was saying earlier that somebody’s first name is one of the first things that helps each of us build their identity. Because when they are called by name they can feel special or ashamed, angry or detached from it, people carry through their first name the energy and emotions of the story behind it.
Your first name is the one you interact with in all your close relationships, and it is the one which connects you to others.
Listen to your voice when you say your name! What do you hear?
Write your name on a sheet of paper! What do you see?
What’s the story of your name? My name is Cristina. What’s your name?