Saturday, June 23, 9798

The Judge

We all live with an inner Judge. It judges everything: us, others, the weather, and the fact that our soup is cold. It is functional in that it enables us to discern between things that might benefit us and things that might hurt us, as well as keep our behavior within limits that others will accept.

But left unchecked it becomes an insidious monster that creates constant negativity. It tells us that we’re not successful enough, not capable enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough, not thin enough, not interesting enough. It is closely tied with the ego, and is in fact referred to as the superego.

Like the ego, the superego is a thought process. We developed it during our youth as our parents, siblings, teachers, and schoolmates judged us by our actions, words, and appearance. They criticized, rejected, ridiculed, and punished us when they disapproved of us, and we learned that we had to look or act a certain way in order to gain their approval. We became fearful of stepping out of line and being ostracized by the herd. Over time we cultivated a mental judge that told us, “You must fit in this box or else you have no value.”

The concept of “value” is nothing but a mental fabrication. We use our or someone else’s behavior, physical appearance, wealth, etc to judge our/their “worth” as a human being. When two people are different, the Judge assumes that one must be “better” or “more valuable” than the other. This is absurd. We simply are; “value” doesn’t apply.

The assessment of a person’s “value” is a slippery slope that leads to an even stronger form of judgment: attack. The Judge criticizes either ourselves or others for being the way we/they are. Adjectives such as worthless, incompetent, stupid, lazy, fat, and weak are used as the Judge attacks. This is precisely what causes our negative view of ourselves or others.

So, we start out judging, which is good because it enables us to steer our lives in positive directions; but this morphs into attacking as we label ourselves or others as bad, and this creates negativity.

The Judge persists because we continue to believe that we have little self-worth. Every time we fail to say or do something perfectly, it reinforces the notion that we have little worth. Even when we succeed at something, the resulting good feeling doesn’t last long because all we’ve done is temporarily appease the Judge; we still believe that we are inherently flawed so surely we will fail in the future.

If we can focus only on events and not the idea of “value”, we can avoid attack and all the painful emotions that accompany it. For example, if we do something that has an unpleasant result, we should simply acknowledge that such behavior is not conducive to happiness and refrain from doing it in the future. But if we assess that we are “stupid” or “worthless” for behaving that way, we will experience painful feelings.

One reason the Judge is able to torture us is that we don’t realize that it is attacking us. We believe that it is only acting in our “best interests” and that it is always right, so we believe its harsh criticisms. If it tells us that we are inherently flawed, we believe it. We see ourselves as the problem. We then feel contracted, depressed, and sapped of energy, because we believe we are defenseless.

When we realize that the Judge is attacking us, we will see that the Judge is the problem. It is making erroneous assumptions about our “self-worth” (a concept that has no reality) and launching an unwarranted assault on us. Only when we realize that there is an enemy can we defend ourselves. We can then ignore the Judge’s shrill proclamations that we are flawed or worthless, because we know that they are wrong. Sure, we might have done or said something that had an unpleasant result, but it’s not because there is anything wrong with us; we simply didn’t possess the necessary information at the time. If we’d had that information, we would have behaved in accordance with it, because we are intelligent and capable.

Some people try to overcome negative thoughts with positive ones (affirmations). The idea is that if we can replace negative thoughts with better ones we won’t think negatively anymore. The problem with this is that while we might force ourselves to have certain positive thoughts, the negative ones are still there. That is, we haven’t removed them but merely placed artificial ones on top of them – kind of like putting on make-up. The negative feelings will therefore continue.

Thoughts cannot be “beaten” with other thoughts. The only way to eradicate thoughts is to not think them. So, don’t judge yourself (or others). Have no concept of good or bad, worthy or worthless, successful or unsuccessful. Just be. This might sound difficult, but we do it all the time when we are engrossed in an activity such as work, a game, a sport, or even watching television. During these times of involvement, the mind is too occupied to generate judgmental thoughts, so we have no concept of being good, bad, smart, stupid, productive, or useless.

The next step is to be nonjudgmental even when we are not busy. We can do this by simply relaxing. Don’t try to not think. Just relax. Make no effort. This won’t stop our racing thoughts right away because they are still moving along from the momentum they’ve gained, but over time they will lose momentum because we’re no longer fueling them, and as a result they will diminish.

The Judge has been a thorn in our side for a long time. We won’t get rid of it overnight, but realizing it’s there and how it sabotages us is the first and most important step in breaking out of our enslavement to it.