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  • Writer's pictureNora Coulter

Letting Go of Judgements

It is unreasonable to think one can go through life without judging someone or something. It is human nature, and try as one might, completely removing judgment from one's life is an impossible task. Judging things can be useful; it can warn us of impending danger, alert us to situations or people that are not healthy for us, etc. It is a decision-making tool that can be helpful, but it can also be an unhealthy habit that fuels anxiety, fear, depression, and anger. For those who tend to judge themselves harshly, it can create a never-ending barrage of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts"; I should have done that, I shouldn't have said this, I shouldn't feel this way. Whether judging actions or feelings, it can seem there is nothing that does not deserve judgment. This constant judgment of oneself can then move outward and lead to placing judgment on others and on situations. It can be exhausting for all involved. So how do you begin to let go of this habit? The first step starts with acknowledging that this is a problem and a behavior that does not serve you. It certainly does not lead to happiness or contentment. Then begin to observe your behavior. Notice when you start to judge yourself, others, or situations. What emotion or event triggers that judgment? Once you begin to identify the situations that trigger the thoughts, you are likely to find that they have one thing in common, they are often not grounded in the present. Even in conversation, our minds will wander ahead or move to the past instead of being fully present. So ask yourself, are you thinking of something that has already happened, something you anticipate will happen, or something that is currently happening? What are you feeling? From here practice, just observing the situation without judgment. It might look something like this: "My friend isn't returning my call" or "I made a mistake a work" or "I have an appointment next." Just look at the facts trying to let go of judgment based thoughts such as "If she was a better friend she would have called me back," or "If I were smarter, I would not have made that mistake at work," or "I have an appointment next week that I know will be awful." The next steps are learning how to let the thought go and pulling yourself back to the present. Visualize putting it on a conveyor belt that whisks it away or allowing it to float away like a balloon. Then fully immerse yourself in the moment. Some find it helpful to describe the moment, noticing what they are seeing, hearing, or doing to help them be fully present. If you are with someone else, focus on the conversation pulling your mind back when you find it wandering. By practicing these skills, you may begin to find that you start thinking of situations or people in a different way, which can lead to fewer critical thoughts directed toward oneself, others, or circumstances. You can begin to decide if a judgment is helpful or just an old habit that fuels emotions that keep you stuck. You are likely to discover that you are more forgiving of yourself and others and discover an ease to situations that were once trying. Learning to let go of judgments takes practice and consistency, and, as with many habits, you may find they creep in from time to time, especially during moments of high stress. But with continued use, letting go will become easier and happen more quickly, bringing more peace to your life and relationships.

If you find this kind of thinking problematic, exploring DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) or ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) may help you facilitate change.

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