There is a shadow in all our striving to be good: a way a dichotomy is inherently created when we label certain things as good and others as bad. Judging our judgment is a huge place where this shows up. We all judge. It is the very nature of our minds to assess and seek to make sense of our world. And yet the word “judgment” has become laden with negative association. We learn that we should be nonjudgmental. We learn that to judge makes us critical, controlling, maybe even bad or unlovable. And yet this response is, in itself, laden with judgment! “Judgment is bad” is a judgment!
So what is the alternative? Mindful awareness with radical acceptance and openness to uncover our shadows. With mindful awareness we can explore our judgment from a place of curiosity rather than shame. We can uncover the deeper layers of where this judgment originates. Radical acceptance means embracing the full 360 degrees of our human experience including the fear, anger, sadness, jealousy, shame, hate, despair, joy, power, and so much more that we are. There is such an important difference in being able to explore our inner world from a place of openness instead of striving to get rid of our “bad” parts. When we venture inwards in this way, there is an inner emotional safety. We can be revealed to ourselves without risk of self-shaming. We can allow the parts of ourselves to be seen that are not ready to be gotten rid of.
With this approach, we become more free to recognize the feelings underlying our judgment. Perhaps there is projection onto another of our own disowned or rejected aspects. Perhaps we discover the young places in ourselves that felt they needed to control in order to survive. Maybe we uncover a great fear of closeness and recognize that judgment has been a way of keeping others at arm’s length. With radical acceptance we can give permission for these dynamics within ourselves to exist, without pressure that by doing so we are being bad. Then the invitation is to meet these younger places with our attention, care, and responsiveness, just like the most loving and compassionate parent. I call this Self-Parenting. We can engage an inner dialogue to help these parts of ourselves express their needs and to respond from our mature adult.
There is a great difference between acting out these energies in a way that harms others as opposed to claiming them and attending to their needs internally. When we do the latter, we can allow the judgment (or any other challenging emotion) to burn with all of its intensity. The miraculous part of this is that somehow, when we truly accept and give permission to a difficult aspect of ourselves, it will often relax its hold and show up in our lives with less tension. I see the practice of this in my life as being similar to nesting dolls. In any given moment, I can ask myself where there is a sense of striving to rid myself of something I am experiencing. From this awareness, I invite myself to give permission for that very thing to be there while at the same time allowing the part of myself that wants to be rid of it. A moment later, there may be another layer of resistance towards what I am experiencing. It can be a very beautiful practice to continue uncovering the layers of resistance and bringing permission to each one as it comes into awareness.