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  • Jeff Brenneman

I cannot stop Judging

Now we move into the “How” skills for Mindfulness. We’ve taken care of “What” to do to be present and in the moment, to be mindful. Just to remind you, in case you are new here, that's to Observe, Describe, and Participate. I'd invite you to look at previous weeks posts if you are interested in those.


We still need to pay attention to the ‘how’ of things.

The three “How” skills are Nonjudgmentally, One-Mindfully, and Effectively. Bonus thought - these “How” skills are super helpful in practicing ALL of the other DBT skills.


I'm pretty sure it is impossible to stop judging, and we can move towards less judgment. Judgment is one of the ways we, as humans, order our world. Judgment is not always harmful, and a lot of times it is. Judgment is always about evaluation. My preferences are judgments. I like fly fishing. I like playing guitar. I like watching horror movies. I like pizza. I do not like raisins. I do not like doing laundry. These are some of my preferences. Side note - I feel oddly vulnerable as I just wrote that. I actually took a break from writing because that feels really vulnerable. So, right now I’m judging myself for feeling vulnerable for putting out some of my preferences for all to see.


Ok, this post is now moving a different way than I was planning. Right now I’ve had the thought, “I should not be feeling vulnerable for just throwing out a few things I like. If I put this post out there, people will think that there is something wrong with me.” So, I’m having judgmental thoughts about myself right now and they have popped up for me over the past day since I first left this writing. Now I will face this stuff and use nonjudgmental stance.


I just had the thought, “This is harder than it should be.” Another judgment. So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’ve had thoughts that are judgmental towards myself. I’m going to call them judgmental thoughts. Be mindful of the thoughts, simply observe and describe them. If I do this without judgment, the thoughts are just thoughts, nothing more. As I mentally step back from them, they have less power. I can accept that I feel the vulnerability. My brain and body interpreted that there was a threat from you who will read this post. You may judge me for that experience or maybe you won’t. As I mentally create a little space there and identify those things as judgment thoughts, I get to decide how to handle them.


I can now take in the larger picture. See, judgment limits our world and nonjudgmental stance can open it a bit. As I create that space, I can get access to more possibilities. There may be some of you that judge me for my reaction, and that doesn't really matter. There may be some of you who are helped by my admission that I felt vulnerable and uncomfortable for putting some of my preferences out to the world (well, anyone reading this post anyway.) And there will probably be some of you who don’t really care one way or the other.


Whether or not you end up judging or not judging me, liking or disliking my writing, or whatever other reaction you have, it will have very little impact on the rest of my day. I will see the clients on my schedule. I will interact with colleagues. I will head home at the end of the day and interact with my family.


I’ve had so many times in my life where a small thought like, “I should not be feeling vulnerable for just throwing out a few things I like,” has completely derailed me. Where that thought has made me do very few meaningful actions for a day or two. Maybe for you they have more impact or maybe less impact. When I entertain those thoughts, continue the judgment, I have made them reality whether they are actually true or not. So that thought that I should not feel something, creates distress inside. Most of us run from distress or try to get rid of it, sometimes in some very unhelpful ways. When I grab on to those thoughts as reality, I suffer. I am not accepting pieces of me. I say to myself that something about me is unacceptable. The crazy thing is that if I do not accept ‘that thing’ (in this case the feeling of vulnerability and the judgmental thought after) I have no chance of changing anything.


That’s just one small example of the impacts that judgment can have. If I judge someone else, I can suffer in other ways. I may not make a connection with someone, or I may assume what that other person is thinking and end up feeling kind of miserable because of something my brain is making up that is not true. I’ll give you a small example of this type.


When I attended a silent mindfulness retreat earlier this year, I only spoke with a few people before we went silent. I made assumptions about a number of people, assuming that they had been attending these retreats for years and had lots more experience than I did. If you read my previous post about the ‘white socks’ judgments you will read some specific fears I had about some of those folks. It’s also an example of just how ridiculous (yes, that is a judgment) our brains and bodies can be at times based on our past experiences.


One thing I often do, just an automatic thought that pops up for me (a little less often than it used to) is that wherever I am, I think the other people there have life more figured out than I do. Over the years, I’ve met a number of people and through getting to know them a bit I’ve discovered that no one I’ve talked with actually has things figured out. We are all wandering through life doing the best we can. When I entertain those thoughts and have the emotions associated with them, I rob myself of possible connection. I end up disconnected from people that I could be connected with. Of those people I have approached, I’ve found things in common with most of them. So, using Nonjudgmental Stance can help me (and you) heal.


That may have meandered a bit. Summing up, judgments like preferences or a judge determining the outcome of a contest or court case can be very helpful and necessary. Judgments where we evaluate ourselves or someone else in an overly negative or positive light almost always have consequences we really don’t want. Will we all continue to have judgments that hurt us? Yes, I’m afraid we will. Through practice of nonjudgmental stance we can have less and we can move on from them quicker than we used to.


Hope this was helpful.


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