The Comfort of Categorization

In categorization, we find topical appeasement with ourselves. It is said that we fear most the unknown. And if this saying is correct, many of us fear ourselves for lack of knowing who we are. In attempts to quicken the process of self-acquaintance, we may join various groups throughout our lives. We do this to gain some sense of identification. However, these group memberships do not always align with our true selves, and we are left with identification sans investable resonance. Often, we categorize ourselves so that others may understand our relationship to a belief system or activity. However, we may not have reconciled ourselves with the system represented by this categorization.

Nomenclature as identity

When we seek outright categorization, it is because we feel insecure about our identity. What better way to understand our beliefs than to define ourselves in the categories appropriate for a belief system? It is the easy way, and fails many times to actually guide us to ourselves. To seek categorization solely for its own sake, we come up short in the act of self-discovery.

Categorization will inevitably require action if it serves as more than a social representation of allegiance and participation in a group. It’s one thing to say one is a dancer, and another to dance. The act of categorization remains often for those not entirely committed to their identity, or unwilling to part with the group that no longer serves their life path.

Tree in Forest of Plants photo by veeterzy

Personality tests and personhood

There are many tests available online that will categorize you into a personality group. Some employers even pay for subscriptions so that they can have their employees take the test. One employer will use the test to help ease tensions in the workplace, whereas another employer will leverage the personality test in malicious intent of subduing “stronger” personalities. If a personality test is shared, it serves someone.

The personality test provides little insight, other than to the individual clouded with misperceptions of himself. Even so, holding those misperceptions, he is not likely to pay attention to those categorizations that do not serve him. Personhood cannot be incapsulated in a test, particularly given the changing tides of people’s emotions, momentum, and more. The invalidity of these personality test nevertheless comfort¬†those who receive the results.

Group categorization and sense of belonging

There is comfort in categorization. Perhaps the comfort is derived from a sense of belonging to a group, whether superficially or not. Through categorization, only slight commitment is required. There is no minimum of meetings and phone calls that necessarily tie an individual into a categorization. It is enough to claim acceptance, induction, membership through the means outlined by the group, if such means are specified.

Some groups require far more prerequisites to admission than do others. Comfort is born of the established formal ability to define oneself within that space, and often, with minimal effort. Different personalities are drawn to particular levels of regimentation in their categorizations. Some believe that more regimentation will keep them truer to the live they are supposed to live. The same can be said of those belonging to the most loosely regimented groups.

Dunes of Namib by Keith Hardy

Categorization is a bond that’s sought or put onto people, and is veiled with a sense of comfort when the association is culturally acceptable. Alternatively, categorization can render an individual with a cultural disservice if the bond was not personally chosen (or felt like it was not chosen), or is not culturally acceptable. Some seek membership in groups for the purpose of categorical differentiation, and this serves a cultural purpose when played as a rebellious act.

The intricacies of group belonging go beyond interconnectivity and seep to personal, hierarchical, and regimented planes. Through repercussion (with neutral connotation) of categorization, individuals establish presence and relation within spectrum of belief. Comfort invariably arises, even from the most socially detrimental categorizations, maybe for the sole fact that nomenclature has been established.

There is comfort in categorization because there is comfort in definition. Definition combats the unknown, which some may fear above all else.