Judgment is essentially a strategy employed when one wants to avoid an uncomfortable feeling state. Something in the external world happens (someone does or says something you don’t like) and, almost before the uncomfortable feelings can even be felt and experienced, a label is cast upon the other.
Once the totality of the person’s humanity has been fixed within the confines of some convenient label (jerk, liar, loser, selfish bastard, etc.), the labeler has spared themselves the responsibility to consciously experience whatever feelings were triggered. A sense of security has then been seemingly restored, which is only an illusion, as the repressed feeling will live on until it is resolved.
The person unconsciously knows of the deeper truth that labels are lies, or cover-ups, and so still restlessly spins atop the unexperienced feeling. They will likely continue to talk about whatever situation triggered them with different people, seeking their agreement to try and strengthen an argument they unconsciously realize as false. They will talk endlessly to intellectualize the feeling, seeking the ultimate righteous viewpoint that will ensure the feeling remains repressed and unexperienced.
What they are really seeking, however, is empathy: someone to be fully present with them as they witness them expressing themselves, without rushing in to fix or agree with them to seemingly eliminate their suffering. Agreement with some arbitrary position of the mind, however, does nothing to alleviate suffering. It may make one appear a “good friend” to the sufferer, as they’ve given them what their ego was seeking.
But only pure witnessing, which allows the person to be with their feeling fully so that the energy can be released through experience, can alleviate the suffering imposed by the mind’s resistance.
Pure witnessing may require you to observe some discomfort that arises within yourself in response to another’s suffering. You may have to remain still without enacting a very strong urge to rescue them with your agreement, which will ultimately only strengthen their mind position and needlessly prolong their suffering. In your silence, they will more quickly come to see the illusory nature of their position and be willing to relinquish it, reclaiming responsibility and their personal power. They may even access the feeling and release the energy that was previously bound in blame.
Your greatest gift to them is presence, not agreement.
Emergence of feelings
At its core, judgment of others arises because we unconsciously and automatically judge the emergence of most of our feelings: our so called “negative” ones, that is. We’re pleased to boast about some newfound love or the excitement we have in response to some life circumstance we judge as favorable, but condemn to the basement of our subconscious anything resembling anger, jealousy or hurt.
It seems to me, from observing my own healing process and witnessing many others, that there is often a very subtle layer of shame that covers many of our feelings. We are ashamed to have these feelings, so when they surface we quickly move our energies outward to avoid the shame, which seems to me to be one of the most pervasive, toxic and least recognized of the emotions adversely affecting our society. It is so deeply embedded in a large number of people that they’ve developed automatic reactions to protect it from being revealed and their having to experience it.
Judgment is one such strategy they’ve adopted to avoid shame and other undesirable feelings. Judgment is a conditioned response, a reaction which prevents the body’s innately wise intelligence from responding appropriately to what the situation requires. It is the transference of responsibility, the giving away of one’s power by making others responsible for one’s inner state. It is choosing to be a victim.
We may think that we are containing others within the labels we cast upon them, but the deeper truth is that we’re only imprisoning ourselves, particularly our own hearts. Resentments begin to accumulate, becoming blocks to our forgiveness that slowly poison our hearts, and which are the deeper source of heart ailments that mainstream medicine attributes primarily to diet, exercise and genetics. Those are undoubtedly influencing factors, but are ultimately more superficial ones that are an outgrowth rooted in deeper unconscious resentments that stem from outstanding judgments.
Every label we cast diminishes our capacity to be compassionate, to be free, to be alive, and to be loving. It is not possible to live fully in the moment while also harboring judgments, either old or new. They must be witnessed and discarded as unreal to allow a true communion between two people to occur.
We must be empty upon encounter to truly receive one another.
When I judge you, I have attached myself to what is false in you. I am seeing only your surface, relating to your most superficial aspect, insisting that it is who you are. I am missing your deepest essence, which is love. I cannot meet you there, however, until I take back the judgments I’ve projected onto you and feel the underlying feelings I was trying to avoid.
Escaping my past
It is really my past that I don’t want to face that I’ve burdened you with. Something you did or said brought it to the surface and I didn’t feel safe to experience it, so I threw it upon you. It was easier to make you responsible for it and then condemn and avoid you.
I am trying to escape myself, however, in my condemnation of you. But I remain captive, a slave to my own projections. For once I’ve dehumanized you, another will arrive onto whom I will cast yet another aspect of my shadow. One by one, new mirrors will step before me, hoping I will pause for a moment of revelatory stillness, rather than reacting to create the same miserable result yet again. Perhaps I will have to condemn the entire world, sitting alone with but contempt and my judgments as companions, before my heart can no longer bear the bitter loneliness I’ve made my home.
Perhaps my past will then burst through the dam of my judgments, allowing me to see at last through clear and loving eyes. Or perhaps I am not ready within this body, and would rather take it to the grave clutching my judgments, maintaining my righteousness, grumbling “nobody loves me, nobody understands me” with my final breaths.
Tyranny of shoulds
You may think to begin looking outward at the ways you are labeling others, but that is only secondary to looking within at the myriad ways you judge, label and condemn yourself, moment to moment. You are often a victim of the tyranny of your very own “shoulds,” heeding their cries over the authentic impulses of your deeper, liberated being.
You often go about comparing yourself to those around you, violating your own uniqueness. You expect too much from yourself, imposing impossible ideals upon yourself and then denying and condemning all within you that doesn’t conform. You think yourself worthless and thus look to others for approval and validation. You think yourself ugly and so manipulate your appearance to hide from the world. You think yourself flawed, and strive endlessly to overcome yourself. You do just about everything aside from resting content in that which you already are at this very moment.
Only when you’ve accepted yourself and are no longer divided within, however, will you possess the capacity to respond compassionately and intelligently rather than reacting to others. Until you do, however, give thanks to those you’ve labeled “enemies” for their gift of revealing what is still repressed within you.
It is the seeing that is freeing. So as a mirror, they’ve done their part to liberate you. It’s up to you to accept what you see. Awareness is all that you need, and fortunately, it is the very ground of that which you already are.