What’s In a Name?

Peach Rose


“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – says Juliet to Romeo as written by William Shakespeare.

I would agree with Juliet.  Who we are, our truest essence, is not defined by our name.  As Spirit, we are not bound by names, circumstances, physical limitations, job titles, archetypes, gender, even death.  We are free, limitless, eternal beings, here to express our love and joy with the world.

Yada yada yada…

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that.  It’s just that spiritual awareness on that level is better expressed by people more spiritually aware than I, (i.e. Michael Tamura, The Dalai Lama, to name a few).  Jesus.  You know, people who actually live life that way daily.    I, on the other hand, am still in the inconsistency phase.    So, let’s explore another quote.

“Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” – Gertrude Stein.

According to the all powerful source, Wikipedia, Stein’s famous quote is “often interpreted as meaning “things are what they are,” a statement of the law of identity, “A is A”. In Stein’s view, the sentence expresses the fact that simply using the name of a thing already invokes the imagery and emotions associated with it.”

The name invokes imagery and emotions.  Now that’s a powerful concept.  So, I ask again, what’s in a name?



Stories old and new have illustrated the power associated with a name.  In the story of Rumpelstiltskin, a queen is able to keep her baby simply by uttering a name.   Other names are considered too powerful to say aloud or to write down on paper.  In the Jewish tradition, God’s Hebrew name holds a high degree of respect and reverence.  The name is never written fully, for it is viewed as disrespectful if a document bearing the name of God were to be erased or destroyed.  

Harry & His Nemesis

Of course, in modern fiction, there’s the familiar nemesis of Harry Potter, “He Who Must Not Be Named.” Not to mention all the mystery surrounding the real name of “The Doctor.”   “Dr. Who?,” you might ask.  Will the universe end?

"The Doctor"

But I digress…

I can recall two personal experiences involving my name and identity.  Okay, three.  One experience greatly illustrates Gertrude Stein’s view in how a name can carry imagery and emotions, even on an unconscious level.   Another demonstrates how we feel lost when our identity changes.  Lastly, great validation can come through the power of uttering a name.

When I got married, I did the traditional thing and took on my husband’s last name.  It was an identifiably Jewish last name.  I began to have vivid dreams of the Holocaust.  When I would recount the dreams to others or write of them in my journal, I would feel emotional intensity.  My body became shaky inside as I described the imagery of my dreams.  In one dream I was in line to be branded.  In another, I was about to board a train destined for a concentration camp.  ForrestTunnelThe most vivid dream involved me walking through a dark tree tunnel, the ground full of mud.  Body parts protruded along the path.  I chose to swim in the river to avoid the dead bodies, only to find the river bank and the roots of the trees intertwined with dead bodies.  Finally, I arrived in a clearing and viewed a pristine white colonial house on a green lawn.  Up in the window was Adolf Hitler, looking out at his garden.  In my dream, my perspective then took on the view from this second floor window.  I looked down upon a mass grave of Holocaust victims: thin, malnourished, just skin and bones.  I then found myself standing beside this horrific pit of despair.  I began to see the bodies transform.  Soon the bodies filled out to appear like nourished figures.  The figures then began to take on the appearance of porcelain dolls with rosy cheeks, losing a human quality.  From there, the “people” turned into singing and dancing cabbages and radishes in a garden. Something one might see in an old Disney cartoon from the 50’s.  That’s when I then woke up.

I share the details of my dream to illustrate the powerful influence a name had on me.  It was once suggested to me that when we take on someone’s name, we also take on their family karma.  I can’t speak to that based on my personal awareness, nor can I state if these dreams were reflective of a past life, as some might suggest.  I do know that I visited the Dachau concentration camp in my travels after college and have historical knowledge of that time in history, as most of us do. Perhaps I was tapping into our collective consciousness.  Whatever the case, my experience correlates to the time in which I took on a Jewish name.  Illustrating Stein’s explanation, taking on a new last name certainly invoked powerful imagery and emotion.

My second example of the importance of a name came about at the time of my divorce.  I now had two wonderful children who shared the family last name.   I was uncertain whether I should keep my married name so that it remained similar to my children, or if I should go back to my maiden name.   Being a very vulnerable time in life with shifts in identity, security, a time of much uncertainty of my path before me, I recall one song from Jason Mraz that spoke so clearly to me.  Many tears were shed as I resonated with the lyrics: “… If it’s a broken heart then face it.  And hold your own, Know your name, And go your own way… And everything will be fine.”  Knowing my own name became symbolic of personal sovereignty and empowerment.

These first two examples of the power of a name, speak very much to our personalities with which we identify while being in a body here on earth.  They represent the meaning behind the quote, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” invoking emotion and imagery associated with a name; but what about Shakespeare’s quote, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”?  I had stated earlier that as Spirit we are not bound by a name.  These two quotes seem to have opposing meaning.  How can both of these be true?

Simply stated,  we are Spiritual beings having an experience as a body personality while here on Earth.  It is both/and, spirit & body.  Our journey is to remember who we are and to fully incarnate our Spiritual awareness while in a body.  As we become more aware of ourselves as Spirit, the less we are tied to the attachments of the body personality and the limits we perceive to have.  We begin to recognize where we are putting our awareness and authority. Are we unconsciously effected by surroundings and circumstances?  Are we giving significance to names and ideas that are based on untruths?

Perhaps the true power within a name comes when we relate to the Spiritual Essence.  Perhaps Juliet and Stein were referring to the Spiritual quality, the ultimate Truth within.  Juliet knowing Spirit is, no matter the name given.  Stein, recognizing Spirit is present when validated by name.

Viewed in this way, I share the third example of the power of a name.  It was when I began taking meditation and healing classes at the Southern California Psychic Institute.  It was there I first started developing my “spiritual tool kit.” I recall one exercise in which we were asked to say “Hello” to ourselves.  I was to say out loud,  “Hello, Amy.”  A simple exercise, but I was surprised to find myself tearing up as I spoke those words.  I had never before said “Hello” to myself.  Healing came in recognition and validation of myself as a spiritual being and by using my own name, there was no mistaking it.  I was validating ME!  I find to this day, I am often moved when people use my name when saying hello to me.  So often hello’s are generic or we are referred to as “mom,” “honey,” etc.  Once again, maybe I, as Spirit, am invoked to be more present if called by name.  I am validated.  I am here.

Names can be powerful.  They can invoke emotions and imagery; but, what if the emotion and imagery we associate with a name, words, thoughts or circumstance are not desired and do not serve us well?   It is our journey as spiritual beings, to become more aware.  With awareness we can begin to recognize what words and pictures keep us stuck in a loop.  To what pictures are we giving our power?  This we shall explore in a future post regarding our “Spiritual Tool Kit” and “Exploding Roses.”

Until then, take a moment to say “Hello” to yourself as Spirit.  You may, if you wish, place your hand over your heart and close your eyes.  Take a deep breath and say aloud, “Hello ______.” (Fill in the blank with your name.)  Let yourself experience this “Hello.”  You are validating YOU!  And the next time you say Hello to another, take a moment to become aware that you, as Spirit, are saying Hello to the “other” as Spirit.  In this recognition you not only validate you, you also offer the gift of validation to another.

And in the truest sense of the word, Namaste!

-Amy Laederach



About the Author

Amy Laederach is an energy-based therapist and health advocate, facilitating health & well-being for the body, mind & soul, at Everspring Health in Minneapolis, MN. In her spare time, Amy enjoys writing, photography, art and West Coast Swing Dance.