Mindfulness Practices that Help to Settle the Emotional Brain – Step 9 (slide set 3)

**The ideas contained in this post are the opinions of the writer and communicated without reference to supporting documentation. Any uses of “she” or “he” in the communication of ideas are not intended to covey sexual bias. Breakaway MHE Disclaimer

Author: Peter Miller

If there is one thing that humans do a lot to inflict great suffering upon themselves that would be making judgments. Even though we do it by necessity because we need to make many decisions each and every day, we also do it in many instances “just because”, or because we want to express something or experience “pleasure”. It can be like we don’t even know we’re judging when we’re judging, and don’t even really consider when it’s needed and when it isn’t. We make judgments by ourselves and we make judgments in groups and gatherings. Our judgments can go inwards (be directed at ourselves) and outwards (directed at others), and in many cases we make unnecessary judgments BOTH towards ourselves and towards others.

In mental health conditions like Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), it is very important to understand the various ways that emotions get “over-activated” and harder to manage – therefore making life harder than it needs to be. That being said, this set of slides has been designed to help you understand how making unnecessary judgments can end up “over-activating” your emotions, and also how to start becoming more mindful of judgments so as to reduce how often judgments are being used.

For instance, people with BPD will often say that “they are their own worst enemy”, and this usually means they are making many unnecessary judgments towards themselves and it is becoming emotionally stressful (lots of worthlessness and shame feelings, for example). After developing mindfulness skills and using these skills to identify judgments as they are occurring, it becomes increasingly possible to let go of the judgments and the commonly experienced emotions that go with them. Having less emotional stress/distress as a result of making less judgments makes it is easier to function and adjust the BPD pattern in general. Does this possibility inspire you to practice becoming more mindful of judgments?

To determine if we are making necessary judgments or if our judgments are unnecessary and only “adding to our emotional load”, we can take note of the types of words we are using, the types of tones we are using, our body language, and how much our discussion of things has to do with what’s happening in the present moment. If we are using more extreme/derogatory language and sarcastic tones, for example, this could alert us that we may be in the midst of making unnecessary judgments. If we are rolling our eyes or making a fist, talking about issues that we are not well-informed about or that are about the past or the future, then again, our judgments may be contributing to more emotional stress rather than helping us remain settled.

In addition to using the mindfulness exercises in Step-9 (slide set 1, and slide set 2) to practice noticing our judgments, we can also adjust the way we think and speak when we judge. For instance as explained in the slide below, we can replace our “judgments” with “describing consequences” for the purpose of experiencing less accompanying emotion. If we were to just stick with the judgment (e.g., “he is an irresponsible bum”), then we are probably more likely to feel things like “disgust” and “anger”; but if we switch to describing consequences, then the emotional experience may be something less intense, perhaps only “mild frustration or concern”, or maybe even “sympathy or empathy”.

Another interesting thing to consider about judgments is that every person in the world has their own way of getting caught up in them, and therefore adding unnecessary emotional stress to their life or influencing the level of emotional stress in others. It is truly a “human thing” to do to judge, and very unique to the individual based on a combination of genetics, development, relationships, role modeling, and cultural factors. Whenever people make their judgments, whatever those judgments may be, they will probably believe their judgments are justified and necessary. It takes sincere interest, willingness, and effort to self-reflect (become mindful) to the point of differentiating between necessary and unnecessary judgments.

A common and relatable area of interest in regards to perceptual variation between humans and the tendency to make unique judgments is politics. Even if you have no interest in politics, you are probably aware that there is a “left of center political orientation” and “right of center political orientation”. It often amazes me how the same situation (e.g., gun control, abortion, immigration, welfare) can be viewed so differently by people with different political orientations. Each political orientation views things their own particular way and feels equally strong about it. The emotions that come from political thinking can be very extreme indeed, and there is judgment attached to all of it.

If you suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, then you are probably aware how much judgments about political issues can influence your emotions, and that it would therefore be wise to become more mindful of judgments to better manage your emotions when things like politics are discussed or pondered. That being said, your particular way of perceiving the world is very understandable because of your unique biological and cultural heritage. It is ok to be who you are and to be human – to make judgments. The key to better managing yourself in this human reality of judging is to become more and more mindfully aware of yourself. If you can keep your emotions regulated while noticing your judgments, then you are effectively taking responsibility for this part of yourself.