For me, one of the hardest aspects of mindfulness is nonjudgment. The idea of not judging myself or evaluating the moment as good or bad was a new concept for me. So much so, that most of the time I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. Judging situations, emotions, thoughts and just about everything else is pretty standard-even if we consider ourselves “not judgy” people. Making a decision if something is “good” or “bad” has it’s uses; food can “go bad” and that judgment keeps us from eating it and getting sick. Maybe we visit a friend who is in the hospital and it cheers them up-we consider this a “good” thing to do and that helps us feel positively about ourselves.
The problem with judgment, much of the time, is we tend to view these judgments as reality, instead of shorthand for our perception in the moment.
My favorite example for this involves a common scenario while driving on the highway. Let’s say someone cuts you off and nearly causes an accident. You become angry and think to yourself, “What an idiot!” You get angrier and angrier as you think of other choice phrases you would like to yell at them. You imagine they must be the worst driver in the world and you begin to hate this person or make assumptions about their abilities and intelligence.
Those judgments become your reality.
It’s just as possible that the person driving that car is trying desperately to get to the hospital because a loved one had an accident. Or they simply made a mistake and did not see you when they merged. Whatever the reason, the reality of the situation is a car moved in front of you more quickly than you would have liked.
This is how judgments do not let us see reality for what it is.
Let’s go back to the example of visiting a friend in the hospital. What if you happened to be really busy and weren’t able to visit your friend that day? Does this mean you’re not a “good” person? We often use these judgments to label ourselves and, again, not see reality. We may believe that not visiting our friend makes us a “bad” friend. We might even begin to assume that our friend is hurt or angry that we didn’t visit. Essentially, these judgments create a situation that may or may not be accurate, causing an upheaval of emotions that may not even have been necessary.
We also tend to judge our emotions. Feeling happy is “good”. Feeling sad or angry or hurt is “bad”. Because of this we might try not to experience or feel those “bad” emotions, or even feel guilty when we do. I have had countless numbers of clients apologize for crying during sessions because of these judgments. We may not want to feel certain emotions because they are uncomfortable, but none are “good” or “bad”. Emotions just-are. They all have a purpose and are necessary.
When we are mindful, we are experiencing the moment as is-without judgment. We recognize the car moved in front of us, but it is neither good or bad, it just is. We acknowledge we did not have time to visit our friend, but it doesn’t define us or our friendship. We can recognize we are feeling sad and just accept the emotion and it’s purpose-without the added guilt or shame caused by judgment.
Are you bogged down by judgment? Do you want to know how to incorporate mindfulness into your life? An Orlando licensed mental health counselor can help! Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable therapists located in Dr. Phillips.