In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) one of the key things is learning mindfulness. When they break it down, learning to be mindful is to do activities “non-judgmentally”. What I’m finding is we don’t really know what this means. Additionally, we’ve had past conditioning that has made the idea of not judging more of a “don’t be mean” type of thing rather than the way that really brings you to peace:
completely let go of judgment
This means you let go of your point of view entirely.
So you notice you are thinking about things and telling yourself the story about how you are alone or not alone, or you are this kind of a person or that kind of a person and you are lacking in this area or that person is lacking in that area, or that something bad is happening or something good is happening and you need to clean this, and you…. and the entire time you are JUDGING.
Whoa. So you probably just thought it meant not making an evaluation about what someone is wearing and calling it bad. Rather, the practice is that you bust yourself and your mind when you catch it telling stories. I think this becomes a little easier when you realize that the negative mind is always running a negative story – it won’t ever stop – that’s basically what it’s job is! So if you have low self-esteem you could say everyone does if they are believing their thoughts. Everyone is thinking but usually people aren’t stopping to ask themselves, “Hey, are these thoughts true?”
But then people say, “Well, I can’t let go of my point of view entirely or I will run red lights or run into trees”. This always makes me laugh. Everyone tends to say the very same thing. Then I say, notice that you stop at red lights and don’t run into trees without using your thinking mind of a story of how “people shouldn’t run into trees”. It just kind of happens. If something runs out in front of you while you are driving, you hit the brake before you think about it. You thought you personally were just smart enough to hit the brakes, or attentive enough? Well, it appears that it happens on its own.
So people then say “Well, I would be able to stop judging if… I didn’t have all these issues from my past…” or “If other people around me weren’t doing mean things that make me have to stay attentive”…. Or “Well, maybe other people could learn this but I’m not a deep thinker”… all of these are stories.
So then once all these stories are busted more appear – “Well, I have to make decisions by weighing options and there are times when thinking needs to happen – judging needs to happen because I need to weigh the options then act”…. Yes, agreed. But this is more like what is called discernment, not judgment. Discernment doesn’t feel bad. We weigh options and go toward things and away from other things but these decisions are based on intuitive knowledge and values and logic. All of these decisions happen very efficiently when you aren’t judging. You’ll make tons of decisions. Decisions/discernment feel peaceful. Judgments feel bad. They tweak you.
I can’t do this thing because I’m too messed up because of my past.
There is too much for me to do – I can’t do it all.
I’m great at this thing but not at that thing.
I’m a bad (….)….
It’s hopeless, there is no point to life….
This person doesn’t like me…
This person shouldn’t have said that –
Those kind of people aren’t loving.
I’m bad if I get divorced/don’t get married/don’t call someone/do call someone…..
I’m bad if I want this thing, that thing….
Oh, I shouldn’t have done this thing, that thing
I should look differently than I do by……
If I do this …., that will happen (something bad).
My favorite quote about judgment goes something like this:
It’s not that you shouldn’t judge, it’s that you can’t. You would have to know an infinite number of things that you can’t possibly know in order to make an accurate judgment.
and, one more…
If you notice yourself judging, don’t judge your judging. (this is from the DBT workbook)
For many, judgments happen so fast we don’t even know we are doing it. This is why people who think of mindfulness think of people sitting around in a lotus position – yeah, you may need to spend some time in the silence so that you tune in to your mind and hear the judgments but that’s not really what mindfulness is about. It’s more about noticing your thoughts and not buying into them and then going about participating in life. You can do this no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing. There is an app on the iPhone called the “mindfulness bell”. Try setting it to go off every five minutes so that you stop and see what you were thinking about right then. Then ask, “Hey, is that true?”
Here is the last thing I’m going to say about judgment. If you notice yourself judging REALLY NOTICE and take a REAL LOOK around. If you notice that you believe the thought “I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH” then REALLY LOOK AROUND and SEE IF THAT’S TRUE. Go ahead and look at other people and do a real comparison. Make an assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. I mean, do it don’t think about doing it! But also notice what measuring stick you are using to make the assessment. Is it a healthy measuring stick? Or someone who is judging’s measuring stick?