Marshall Rosenberg wrote that “analysis of others are actually expressions of our own needs and values.” Judgments, especially what Rosenberg calls moralistic judgments are almost always an expression of unmet needs. We often judge others to feel safe. But there are probably few strategies to meet needs that can be more painful and isolating than moral judgments.
Often, people who judge a lot learned the behavior as a child from others who were judgmental, or developed it as a strategy while young and growing up in an unpredictable and often dangerous household, or both. What might have begun as discernment–is this parent dangerous at this moment?–became a way of thinking when we encounter anyone, especially those we don’t know.
Obviously some amount of analysis is required to get on in life, not only to make decisions but also to protect ourselves or our loved ones. But the more we analyze and judge, the less connected we can be to the present moment in any experiential or spiritual way. As one of my teachers, Peter Rengel once said, “Whenever we judge ourselves or someone else, we send a shot of toxicity into our nervous system.”
Judging, like many habits of the mind, can be very difficult to change. The mind wants to judge to meet our needs for protection and safety. But usually, we are safe. So when the mind does it’s habitual thing, it prevents us from meeting other important needs, such as connection, intimacy and belonging. If we are unable to let go of the judging and come back to the moment, either by connecting to our breath or body, I suggest using Mindfulness of Feeling Tone, from the Buddha’s Second Foundation of Mindfulness.
In the 12 steps, judging is often called, “taking another person’s inventory.” As soon as we are taking another person’s inventory we disconnect from ourselves and lessen our grounding in the moment. In fact, any judgment or analysis takes us from direct experience into our thinking mind.