Judgements + Emotions: Why They Don’t Mix

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Why Judging Your Emotions Will Make You Feel Worse

BY LIZA CHERVONSKY

Judgment comes in many forms. We can judge ourselves, other people, or even other things. Some judgements are easy to spot – like that moment where you decide that the outfit someone is wearing is a sure sign you’ll never get along – but others are subtler, so subtle you barely even notice they’re there. But whether you notice it or not, it’s there and it makes it mark.

Judgement of our emotions is a one of the judgement that can slip by unnoticed. Take a moment to consider how you react when you notice you’re feeling anxious. Do you notice yourself labelling anxiety as a negative or undesirable emotion that you need to rid yourself of as quickly as possible? Do you find yourself resisting it, wishing it would just go away?

Imagine the following scenario. You see a child who’s afraid to walk into his classroom on the first day of school. He stands by the door and peers apprehensively into the room. What would you say to the boy? Would you tell him to stop it and reprimand him for feeling so anxious? Would you criticise him for feeling anxious and tell him he’s being ridiculous? Of course not, a reaction like this would be unhelpful at the very least and emotionally damaging overall. He’d learn that his anxiety is bad and that others will judge him if he shows how he feels.

You’d never speak to an anxious child that way. You’d be accepting and gentle and tell him that it’s ok that he feels anxious. You’d let him know that even though he feels anxious right now, he’s safe, and his anxiety will pass and it can’t hurt him in anyway. His first day at school might still be tough, but it will be easier without the negative judgements.

We’re so much more compassionate towards other people than we are towards ourselves. When other people are upset we comfort them, but when we feel emotions we don’t want to feel, we judge and criticise ourselves and it only ends up making us feel worse.
 
So what’s the bottom line?

Take Away Message #1:

Judgment of emotion leads to an increase in unpleasant emotions. Fearing anxiety increases anxiety, getting angry at oneself for being sad increases frustration, and feeling ashamed for being down only leads to further sadness and shame.  

Take Away Message #2:

Negative beliefs about emotions lead to negative judgments of emotions. Believing that emotions are bad or wrong will only cause you to feel worse about yourself when you feel an unpleasant emotion.

Take Away Message #3:

Letting go of self-judgment removes that opportunity for secondary unpleasant emotions to arise. It may not remove your initial emotional response, but it won’t make it worse either.
 
So next time you notice yourself feeling bad, check in with yourself. Are you being self-accepting and self-compassionate or are you criticising yourself for feeling this way? Just for experiment’s sake, try the non-judgmental approach and see how you feel. What have you got to lose?  

Liza is a warm and compassionate clinical psychology registrar who enjoys working with adults, children, adolescents, parents, and families. She is dedicated to working collaboratively and empathically with clients to help them develop an understanding of their difficulties, and to find effective ways to improve their every day coping and general psychological wellbeing. Liza is experienced in treating a range of difficulties including anxiety, depression, procrastination, stress, perfectionism, interpersonal & relationship difficulties, anger management, self-harm, and parenting difficulties.


 

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