Mindfulness: Judgment

The definition of mindfulness, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, is “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

The opposite of judgment is compassion. In my opinion, there are many roads that lead to compassion, but the one I am finding that has not failed me is the road of curiosity. Curiosity is a willingness to learn. Sometimes it leads to pain; sometimes to joy. But, it always “ends” in a greater understanding of something, including the realization that we may never understand whatever it is that we need, no, want, to understand.

For YEARS, I have been judgmental. It might be better to rephrase that. For YEARS, I have HATED myself. Actually, I still battle myself daily. I can be downright mean. You should hear the things I say to myself. On second thought, I don’t want you to hear those things. You probably say similar things anyway.

I have recently run across, thanks in part to my therapist, several quotes on social media about trauma healing, self-hate, and judgment.

“We can feel sad about the past without feeling guilty about the past.
We can feel brokenhearted without hating ourselves.
Trauma likes to connect every bad feeling we have to a negative belief about ourselves.
But sometimes things just suck. Doesn’t mean we such as a person.”
Dr. Glenn Patrick Doyle

“I have to stop hating my parts. I have to stop being so discompassionate towards them, and blcoking them out, and refusing to care. I have to accept that they are me, and I am them, and only together will we heal. THat is the way forwards.”
Carolyn Spring

“You’re NOT gonna be the one survivor who manages to recover while emotionally (or physically, for that matter) kicking the sh*t out of yourself.”
Dr. Glenn Patrick Doyle

“People cling to their hates so stubbornly because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
James Baldwin

There is a reason why my therapist shares these quotes with me. I have tried relentlessly my entire life to hate or judge myself into healing. Guess what? It hasn’t helped. As a matter of fact, I recognized something about judgment the other day during my Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course.

An individual was sharing an experience they were having during one of the practices in class. I sat and fought against the impulse to give advice or engage in a back-and-forth discussion. Instead, I listened and attempted to normalize the person’s experience through body language and sharing my own experience. You see, this person was experiencing something that EVERY HUMAN EXPERIENCES, but they were brutally beating themselves up over it. It hit me just how narrow-minded judgments are, and how they seem to push others away who have the same experiences. I am not saying this person was narrow-minded or intentionally pushing people away. What I am saying is I realized how my own judgments are narrow-minded and push others away, and I am most often judging myself harshly for things that are experienced by other humans.

I also noticed fierce self-hatred for being human and making mistakes (which pushes people away) also further confirms my original belief: I am a terrible person. Why would someone want to be around another who so adamantly accuses themselves for something HUMAN or NORMAL or NATURAL? When people walk away out of frustration, it isn’t confirming my truth. It only confirms how little curiosity and compassion I have for myself—and maybe others.

Further, no one can take away my self-hate and judgments from me. No one can do it for you. If I choose not to hear the normalcy and humanity in each of my situations, no amount of arguing will change my mind. It would be exhausting for everyone. It pushes most of us to double down on our efforts. When I (we) look at the situation, circumstance, or myself (ourselves) with curiosity (as mentioned above), I (we) can see others and myself (ourselves) more clearly. We can give ourselves compassion. We need to see ourselves as a human just as we see the people around us as humans. My therapist frequently tells me I’m “not that special.” The last time she said it, she pointed out how beautiful that is.

Maybe, just maybe, today, we can look with curiosity at what we judge ourselves most harshly for, and then maybe we can follow that up with whatever measure of compassion we can muster.

“Maybe let’s just be human today, one day at a time, as best we can.”

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