The mind is made to judge. It’s simply decision-making at work. Some things are judged as good; we try to get more of those things. Some things are judged as bad; they earn a “no, thank you.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with judgments. It’s just how the mind works.
Sometimes judgments are helpful. They help keep us safe by steering us away from danger. But when we take judgments as facts, things start to go haywire. We may decide that putting ourselves in certain situations, doing particular activities, or interacting with certain people should be avoided. We may even come to believe that some people are either good or bad.
In terms of how we feel about ourselves, taking a nonjudgmental stance allows us to approach and observe our thoughts, urges, and impulses from a compassionate perspective, rather than beating ourselves up over them and feeling guilt and shame.
Nonjudgment isn’t about ending all judgments; it is about changing your individual relationship to them. It’s essential that we observe judgments as mere thoughts to prevent us getting swept up in their power. Instead of judgements, aim for facts; these are much more helpful in managing the strong emotions that come from judgments.
Let’s say you forgot a friend’s birthday. If you were judging yourself, you might call yourself a “bad friend.” This might lead to all sorts of negative emotions, like shame, that could cause you to avoid your friend because seeing them would cause you to feel bad about yourself. Instead, if you chose to accept the facts of the situation and let go of your judgments of yourself, you could call your friend, wish them a belated happy birthday and take them out for a nice lunch.
Here are some ideas for letting go of judgments:
- Ask yourself, “Is judging effective in this situation?”
- Replace judgments with statements of consequences: “This is helpful because . . . ” or “This is harmful because . . . ”
- Practice describing people, events, or things in different ways, rather than using words such as good orbad, worthwhile or worthless, and beautiful or ugly. They are what they are.
- Remember not to judge yourself for judging!
Suzette helps individuals, couples and families regulate their emotions and create lives worth living. You can follow Suzette Bray LMFT on Facebook and Instagram @suzettebraylmft for updates.