M10: Letting Go of Judgments
In the previous exercise we worked on becoming mindful of negative judgments. In this exercise we are going to take the next step and learn to let go of some of those negative thoughts.
So you might have noticed last week that the mere act of observing and noticing judgments helped you adjust some of those judgments. We are going to do more with that in this lesson, and we will be objectively rewriting these judging thoughts in a way that is more productive.
There are two exercises here. You should use them both every day for the next week.
Judgment into Non-Judgment
The idea behind this exercise is to try to rewrite our negative judgments in a form that is nonjudgmental. You will still express what happened, how you felt, and what you thought, but this time without using words that will express a negative and judging attitude. Describe the situation factually, write down what feeling you had, and write down what you were thinking about.
Here are some examples that will help you get the hang of it:
1. Judgment: "I hate this baby crying on the plane. Not everyone has to be a parent!"
Mindful form: "I hear a baby crying loudly in the seat behind. I feel angry at his parents and I feel like they need to do a better job. I am feeling irritated and angry."
2. Judgment: "I can't seem to advance in my career, I am such a weak person. Probably nobody can even remember my name because I am unimpressive."
Mindful form: "I haven't had a promotion in five years now, and that makes me want to blame myself. I am feeling discouraged. I am also thinking that maybe the reason I didn't get the promotion is that I am not personable enough."
3. Judgment: "My boyfriend is so selfish, I hate him! What a jerk! He only thinks about himself! He always forgets the plans we make."
Mindful form: "My boyfriend forgot about the plan we made today. He doesn't always do that though. I feel angry and I feel like I want to have an argument with him. I am thinking that he only thinks about himself (but that is not true)."
* In this example, the person added a reality check to the thoughts she was thinking.
4. Judgment: " I can't stand going to the family gatherings. My in-laws are so mean. They are always bragging and they are so fake!"
Mindful form: "My in-laws make comments that annoy me. I don't like how much they talk about buying stuff. They make me feel unfriendly and like going home."
5. Judgment: "The stupid driver that was in front me obviously didn't know how to drive! Who does he think he is, cutting me off!"
Mindful form: "The person in front of me was driving very fast and cut across my lane. I felt unsafe. This whole situation made me feel enraged."
Now, in the worksheet provided, try to do this by yourself.
In this exercise, think of a negative judgment that you repeatedly have. It can be about yourself, about a certain event or about somebody else.
Step One: Describe the Judgment
Try to do it objectively. Describe the judgment in a nonjudgmental way just like in the previous part of the exercise. For example, maybe you are constantly judging yourself for not being able to quit smoking.
You would write:
I have been smoking for 2 years now, and I usually tend to label myself with offensive words because I haven't managed to quit yet. I have this bad habit and I know that it is harmful for my health.
Step Two: How I Feel Because of the Judgment
Usually the negative judgment produces negative feelings which is why we want to try to change that. Write down how the judgment makes you feel - do you feel worse or better than before you made the judgment? Describe it.
After I judge myself I start feeling self-hatred and I feel depressed. That just makes me want to smoke more so that I'll soothe myself, and I have even less confidence that one day I will quit.
Step Three: What Life Would Look Like Without this Judgment
Can you imagine how you would feel and what you would do if you didn't have this negative judgment? How would it be different for you? Would you feel more at ease? Would you try a different action or behavior and maybe achieve a different result? Think about it.
If I didn't have this negative judgment about my smoking habit I would probably feel less self-hatred and depression. I think that I would accept faster and more fully that I have a bad habit that needs changing. I wouldn't feel burdened with all these negative emotions caused by judging myself, and maybe I would try a program or read a book that would help me quit.
Every time during the day when you notice that you have this judgment on your mind, try to transform it by thinking about it in a non-judgmental way. So, instead of saying to yourself "I'm so stupid, I'll never quit smoking", remind yourself that it's a habit that is already there and that there is nothing useful coming from judging yourself. Be aware and accept the new feeling of non-judgmental attitude and perhaps gradually you will reach a point where acceptingly you will try to find a solution to this problem.
I can't think of a judgment that repetitively comes to my mind. Can I pick one that is relatively new?
Yes, you can choose a judgment that is recent, it doesn't have to be an old one. If you remembered it, then it is perhaps one that bothers you and that you would want to mindfully look at. The first time you can practice the exercise with whichever judgment comes to you. Since you will have started thinking in this direction, maybe next time you will become aware of something that has been bothering you for a long time.
In Part 1, I am not sure if I'm doing the mindful part of the exercise well. How can I be sure?
You can use the phrases I am thinking, I have the feeling of, I want to act in (a certain way). Also, when describing the situation, write down what happened like you observed the situation from the side. Just state the facts of the situation. Try to be as objective as you can. If the mindful part still triggers negative emotions when you read it then maybe your wording is still written in a judgmental way. You can check and do the exercise Mental noting again, because it might help you.
I am not sure that it is such a big problem when I think judgmentally about things.
If you haven't done exercises like this, or haven't thought about the concept of negative judgments, it is natural to think that they rarely cause negative emotions. This belief often occurs if we haven't tried to be mindful of them. We suggest referring to the previous exercise Mindfulness of negative judgments (the one that this exercise builds upon) and first do that one for a week. With time you will probably become aware of emotions that you previously weren't noticing.
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Comments About Letting Go of Judgments
It’s great to know that DBT therapy helps a lot in dealing with anxieties regarding judgment. After a certain incident online, a friend of mine got depressed and vowed to never publish her art online anymore. I think DBT will help her get through this.
I added an extra step to this that really helps me: Come up with counter actions that you can take. What are some things you can do to help yourself release your negative judgements? Ie. I negatively judge the way I look. Action: Practice positive affirmations, stay hydrated, eat well, etc.
Thank you for that step, Kayla. I will try that. I know the part of DBT that touches on being vulnerable to strong emotions has helped me understand the importance of caring for myself as a protective measure.
Thank you for this clean, clear website. You are helping me understand more deeply the 2.5 years of DBT trainings I have taken!!
It is so helpful to see the practical side of DBT added to the theory.