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  • Writer's picturehayneslamottepsych

Therapists Hate Him for Revealing This One Mental Health Trick!!

What are judgements?


No one wants to think of themselves as judgmental. While it’s a term that often carries a negative connotation, the truth is that we all use judgements in our daily lives. It’s baked into the very way our language works, and often serves the purpose of saving time in our descriptions and our thinking.


Judgments can be defined as statements that categorize or label things as good or bad, right or wrong, worthwhile or worthless. When we say: “The leftovers in the fridge have gone bad” – what we really mean is that the food now has bacteria that would make us sick if we ate it. But who has time to say all that? Clearly, judgments can be helpful in our daily lives for saving time in our descriptions.


The Problems with Judgments


So if we all make judgments and they save us time, what are the issues with them? I would boil it down to three main points:


1) Judgements can make our communication less effective because they can obscure the true nature of things. The simplest example of this is using the judgment “That’s a good idea,” when we more accurately we mean “I like that idea.” You could imagine two passionate music consumers getting angry arguing over what the best Radiohead album is (which is obviously Kid A, btw) without realizing it’s a moot point because each person having their preferences doesn’t actually contradict one another.


2) Judgments can harm our relationship with others. People generally do not like feeling judged or negatively evaluated by others. When we harbor and express judgments about others, even when it’s not about characteristics of the person you’re with, it can cause them to feel emotionally unsafe sharing information around us in the future. In this way, unchecked judgments can have the effect of pushing others away.


3) Judgments applied to ourselves can unnecessarily prolong uncomfortable emotions. When we criticize or judge ourselves in our own minds (“That’s so stupid, I always screw things up!”), this activates our body’s natural threat-detection system, the Fight-Flight-Freeze mechanism. This is why it is not possible to criticize ourselves out of having distressing emotions (“Come on! Don’t be anxious!!”), and it instead adds to emotional intensity. When we limit our judgments about ourselves, we can thereby limit how long the emotion is dominating our experience.


The Heart of Non-Judgmentalness


At this point, you may be wondering, okay so what room does that leave me to have opinions, a point of view, and my own feelings? Does this mean I have to give myself over to Stoicism and show no emotions?


Nope, thankfully not! Non-judgmentalness is essentially about learning to describe “what is” without attaching labels of “good” or “bad.” Instead, you would describe the (likely) consequences of events.


Our own emotions and thoughts are also events that, in this framework, we can observe and consider the consequences of. When we do this, it can help us think a way out of a pattern or habit we were engaged in with that emotion or thought. We often benefit when we evaluate and describe what is helpful and harmful to us, and our emotions can help us do that.


Non-judgmentalness does not mean you give your approval to everything, or that you don’t have emotions, or that you have to keep quiet about your preferences. What it does mean is that when you think and talk about a situation, you describe things in terms of their consequences for you and others instead of their labels.


Changing the Habit of Making Judgments


While it would be difficult-to-impossible to completely remove judgments from our thought-processes all-together, making judgments about ourselves and others is essentially a habit that can be changed by first bringing it to our conscious awareness, and then by systematically trying to re-frame our judgments. In the same way that people develop muscle memory when they learn a sport or an instrument, you can learn a new automatic process as it relates to judgments that you eventually won’t have to think about consciously.


The first step to changing judgmental thinking is to notice it. Unfortunately, the #1 tendency when we notice judgement is to start by judging ourselves for making judgments. You know, “There I go judging myself again! At this rate I’ll never get better!” This has the effect of making changing our thought-process more unpleasant and harder to do. As result, the first big challenge of the process is to stop ourselves from judging our judging, trying to instead notice our judging.


One other point about judgments to note is that, in addition to judgments in our words, judgments can also be apparent in our tone of voice, as well as other non-verbal cues, such as rolling our eyes in a conversation.


Here are 3 helpful tips for reframing judgments with non-judgmental descriptions:


1) Describe only what you can observe through your senses. As part of this, we acknowledge that we cannot observe other people’s thoughts (only what they tell us and their body language/facial expression).


2) Describe the consequences of things rather than using labels. For example, when someone eats what they deem to be a lot of cheese, it’s likely not helpful to label oneself a “terrible glutton who can’t be stopped,” but instead to acknowledge that “My stomach issues may improve if I can find a way to eat less cheese.”


3) Put words to your own emotions. Describing our emotional experiences actually helps strengthen neural pathways from your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for abstract thinking and planning, and your limbic system, responsible for regulating emotional responses.


Of course, judgements are so heavily ingrained in the way that we use language that it is challenging and can take time to change, This is why it can be helpful to have a therapist as a guide through this process. If you live in Seattle or the greater Washington area, and are interested in working on this via telehealth, please feel free to contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation today or learn more about my approach on my website.

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