This week, one of the words-of-the-day from Merriam-Webster was “judgement”.

Judging is something we all do. It can even be considered “normal” as a part of our survival instinct. Why? Because we need to make a determination about the world around us. To understand what is safe and what isn’t so that we avoid threats and danger. Within that process we judge experiences, thoughts, feelings, people, and places and so on.

Even thinking about “judging” as either good or bad, or right or wrong is judgmental and mostly ineffective. Why? Because it is a finality. There is nothing beyond it. Adaptation doesn’t stand a chance against judgement. That is also how the brain may interpret any judgement we make, leaving us to stop searching for new possibilities. It can keep us from moving forward and from feeling good about ourselves or others.

Whatever we judge, that is our perception and sentence that we must live with. Or that others may have to live with in the attitude that it generates from us towards them.

This is one of the most common areas of struggle that clients bring into the counseling room. Judging what they are doing, how they are feeling, what others are doing, or what “should” be.

Judging may serve us well in survival but most often not personally or socially. This is becoming more prevalent as we have more points of comparison online in social media. Survival and threat are no longer the bear or dinosaur, it is with our own internal emotional content in the comfort of our own home. A place that should normally be safe. We then carry those associations with us into the real world and they can alarm us unnecessarily at any point.

So, what can we do?

We can dig deep to understand why we are doing it and/or follow basic rules of cognitive-change to try to manage our judgment-thinking. Regardless of which approach you decide to take, the first part of any change is awareness.

Here are some brief steps using questioning that some find helpful to begin the process of change and awareness:

1. Catch yourself doing it – when are you actively judging?
2. Check in with your expectations – why do you feel it necessary to judge?
3. Make a decision – do you want to think differently and not judge?
4. Make a plan – what are you committed to doing differently when you judge?

Using our thoughts to manage how we feel can take time and practice. For some people it is important to reorganize deeper-held associations and meanings while other people find it enough to become aware and decide to do something different.

If you are struggling in making the changes that you want to make it may be helpful to seek out a professionally licensed psychologist, counselor, or clinical social worker as a sounding board. Between you as the expert in YOU and the counselor as an expert in psychological phenomenon, you will be able to work together to find the best approach.