Judgement is something we experience in several ways; we may be on the receiving end of the judgement of another, we may be the person criticising someone or we can judge ourselves through the self-criticism of the inner critic.
Judgement is to a relationship as emotion is to an individual. It is an alert or a warning to notice something important, either about our safety, our sense of belonging or our sense of dignity.
This ‘relationship’ can be between individuals, or it can be between an individual’s own internal parts.
The result of judging is that we feel superior and the result of being judged is that we have a sense of unworthiness or that we have been on the receiving end of an injustice. It can be a cycle that repeats between individuals, or within ourselves, for long stretches of time.
When we are on the receiving end of judgement our bodies will often urge us to dismiss the judgement in an instant as an act of self-preservation and conservation of energy. If we dismiss the criticism, then we don’t need to expend energy to think about it.
Judgement can also surprise us and derail us so that we feel unable to continue pursuing our line of enquiry. We can feel humiliated and shamed and if we receive judgement repeatedly, we can become deeply insecure and uncertain, sometimes suffering depression and anxiety.
When criticism is delivered badly or in a reactive way then we can get caught up in resisting, reacting emotionally and we might use the behaviour of the other person as an excuse not to listen.
We can even interpret the comments of others as judgemental when they were not intended that way. This then becomes a sign that perhaps the issue itself is something that we hold self-judgement about.
When we act judgementally this is the expression of an emotional response. For example, when driving in the car if we see someone overtake towards us, we will probably judge the person driving as stupid or dangerous and this is expressed as anger. We might shout, ‘you idiot!’ This anger is masking fear because we have been placed in a vulnerable state. Our safety has been compromised. Judgement has a serious role and is sometimes very necessary to our survival.
When others come across as judgemental, it is helpful to remember that they are coming from their own experience, which will be different to ours. Their perspective might offer us a new way of thinking about something. This then provides us with the space to think about different ways of meeting our needs, while not causing others to feel uncomfortable. The trick is to ascertain through conversation whether they are coming from a place of wanting to help us or to answer their own needs – and it may be that answering their own needs is useful to both parties. This then becomes a win/win situation for both involved.
Judgement can also be seen through the lens of constructive criticism. This form of judgement invites us to hear new information and to see things from different perspectives. The content of the judgement becomes important and provides an opportunity for a change in belief or behaviour.
To choose to be self-judgemental purposefully allows us to put ourselves in a state of reflection and evaluation. We might then come to a deeper understanding of recurring themes in life, and we might begin to see possibilities of how to change these if they are unhelpful.
Judgement is an opportunity for revelation, new awareness, a chance to change and an opportunity to see where we can become accountable.
It is the place where we meet the consequences of our choices in life or of our unconscious actions. We get to come face to face with and confront our own evasions, the shortcuts we take to save energy and the ways we might have misunderstood. It helps us to make well considered and discerning decisions, where thoughts, emotions, sensations and intuition are equally viewed and taken into account, consciously.
When we are open enough to ask ourselves the difficult questions then we liberate ourselves from the withering cycles of right and wrong and blame and shame.
It takes courage to stand here as we have realisations; things begin to dawn on us as we become deeply honest with ourselves. Body shaping and movements along with thought patterns are sensed, understood and accepted, often after years of a feeling of uncertainty and confusion around repeating issues. This ‘radical honesty’ allows us to look more deeply, answer truthfully and then take the tough decisions that need to be taken.
It becomes clear that what we have been doing all our lives has played a large part in shaping and creating our future – quite simply cause and effect.
Please get in touch for art invitations and supporting questions to deepen into your exploration of the shape of judgement.