My name is James P. Krehbiel. One day my dear 92 year old mother called my business office. I can’t recollect what she wanted, but I knew that it had never happened before. I recall that Tammy, my business administrator, was working the switchboard at lunch and took the call. “Is Petey there?” my mother said. Tammy responded with, “We have no Petey that works in our office complex. “Oh yes you do,” my mother replied. “You have a Petey Krehbiel and he is my son.” Tammy, with a bit of laughter and eyes wide open said, “We know your son as James, but I will get your son Petey right away.” From that moment on, Tammy has referred to me by the name that nobody in my professional life had heard - Petey.
Names hold meaning, history, cherished values, and energy. They also may represent, in some symbolic way, the essence of our relationships. Names explain to other people who we are, but more importantly, they provide us with awareness as they distinguish us from others. Our names are reminders of the way we project ourselves to the world.
Maybe I have a split personality? James and Petey don’t carry the same energy. James is the softer, gentler, more professional side of me. Petey is the part of me that likes to take risks, gets feisty, and can be impulsive at times. I think these two energy systems actually compliment one another quite well. I actually believe that we all have various energy systems or subpersonalities that crystallize early in life as way of coping with the world.
Often, certain versions of a name may represent a parent’s desire to maintain their parenting rights. We have Markey, Bobby and Tommy. Unless you live in the South, these names represent a parent’s desire to cling to the connection of one’s child. I think that is why I call my adult son little Peter. Through the use of affectionate forms of a name, parents can sustain a sense of connectedness long after the children have left.
Isn’t it interesting how names can change when people leave one relationship for another? Recently, a woman told me that her first husband called her Barbara even though her family refers to her as Bobbi. Her first marriage was an abusive relationship that fortunately ended. When she remarried, her new husband followed the path of her ex-husband by also calling her Barbara. The energy fostered by that name was too sad and consequently she opted to have her new partner call her the name that characterized the best of her history - Bobbi.
Sometimes names can create embarrassment. People are prone to slips of the tongue and may call someone by the wrong name. To make matters worse, sometimes politicians make goofy comments using wrong names that cause them trouble with the media and adversaries. Have you ever called a friend by the wrong name, because you were too preoccupied? Even more debilitating, have you ever called your partner by another name during an intimate moment?
Did you every wonder why prospective parents spend so much time reviewing names prior to the arrival of a new baby? Names are powerful tools, like words. We want them to characterize our children in a positive light. It’s hard to take a name back, so it is important to get it right the first time. For parents, names are filled with all the hopes, dreams and aspirations for those we love.
There certainly are lots of names. There are trendy names, biblical ones, political names, “cutsy” names, and titles from yesteryear. It’s interesting that many of the names of our elderly are now in vogue! Some people select names based upon the meaning of the words. My daughter’s name Amy means “the beloved.” Her daughter’s name Malia means “peace” in Hawaiian.
Sometimes people hate their names, particularly their last names, and go to the courthouse to change them. Others are fascinated by their last names, and go to the library to search for clues to their family history. People, after divorce, may change their last names to remove any vestiges of negative energy from their past as they build a new beginning.
Our names will be connected to our legacy. People may not remember our professional lives, but hopefully they will remember our names and what we stood for. I like my names. My mother said her grandfather, James, was a kind and considerate man. I like that energy, so I will keep the name along with Petey, the little boy who liked to slide in the street playing a pick-up game of baseball.
James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC, CCBT is an author, freelance writer and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. His personal growth book, Stepping Out of the Bubble is available through www.booklocker.com/books/2242.html. James can be reached at www.krehbielcounseling.com.