“Tell me how you got on with your homework – noticing what was happening when you were feeling anxious or stressed,” she says.
“I noticed that whenever I’m anxious, I’m usually judging someone as being inadequate or arrogant, or they haven’t done something as well as I wanted them to, and it winds me up. It’s unbelievable how much monologue and even dialogue is going on in my head, and how much of that is me judging others. Every time I see someone – anyone, people I know or even people I don’t know – the judgements kick in automatically. And then I get wound up.”
“Good job. Noticing our thoughts is a big shift in awareness.”
I continue on, excited about my discoveries. “For example, one of my life-long obsessions has been well-made shoes. As far back as I can remember shoes have been a bellwether for me to determine if someone is a person I want to interact with. I’m always looking to see what shoes someone is wearing. If the shoes aren’t stylish, or high-quality, I launch into a tirade in my head. Look at those shoes! What kind of spoon would wear shoes like that? And look at the shirt he’s wearing. What a lemon. I quickly decide whether I’m interested in conversing with someone or not, all based on my judgement of the shoes he’s wearing. Man, it’s amazing how these judgements drive my behaviour.”
“Have you noticed how you behave when you are judging others?”
“Yeah,” I quickly answer, well prepared with another gem I’ve discovered. “On a couple of occasions I’ve noticed how twitchy and even manic I become.”
“Good,” she replies. “You’re my star pupil. That’s great you’ve noticed the judgements and how they induce anxiety. Typically judgements about others are based on a habit of rejecting others before they reject us. The mind uses a collection of judgements, beliefs and positions to protect itself.”
I think about that. I get it. My incessant judgements, as uncontrollable as they are, could well be a flawed device to protect myself, but what I’m also realising is that rather than protecting me, they’re limiting me. My judgements are actually isolating me from other people and the many good aspects of my life. I think how much Esther and I rejected and resisted each other. It was probably almost impossible for either of us to have a relationship.
“I see so many people who struggle in relationships because of two things: they are either judgemental of each other or they are judgemental of themselves,” the counsellor says.
“But how do you stop the judgements?”
“Well, noticing them is necessary to start changing the way we react to them.”
I’m already halfway there, then.
An extract from 'Boundless: A Wayward Entrepreneur's Search for Peace'
(c) Greg Hopkinson 2014
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