No matter whom you are or what you do, the ground is always shaky. And, the really good news is that shaky ground is fertile ground for spiritual growth and awakening.
Judgement and criticism seem like skills. We value being the sideline quarterback or backseat driver. Obviously we must have some extra knowledge, because if the person in question had the same knowledge, they would realize that what they’re doing is wrong, stupid, fruitless, or selfish, right?
In reality – criticism is easy. We’re biologically hardwired for judgement. In the animal kingdom, making snap judgements saves your life. Our amygdala and deep/back brain regions (also known as our lizard brain) can take past experience, sensory input, and genetically coded predispositions to make snap judgements.
Lion = bad.
Berries = good.
Mushrooms = poisonous.
Unfortunately, many millennia on, we still think these snap judgements are valuable. She’s taking a boring job. He’s in a bad relationship. They’re misguided in their beliefs. See? So easy to come up with examples. And I’m sure you can think of examples of the judgements you’ve made (I know I have a fair number of them).
If we move up the evolutionary spectrum to the newer parts of our brain, we get the prefrontal cortex. This is where nuance happens. This is a more difficult place to be and act from. In this brain space, we take our snap judgements and then bring a healthy dose of reality into the situation.
For example: the lizard brain says “why is she taking that boring job?!” Then the prefrontal cortex says “Oh, maybe the team is really great” or “her mom is sick and she needs the extra money”. We realize that our snap judgement wasn’t actually based on complete, 100% truthful information.
Getting out of the lizard brain and into the prefrontal cortex
I suffer from the snap judgements just as much as the next person. More recently, my way of getting myself out of the snap judgement zone has been to think about intention. I believe we have a universal intention:
To be happy. To be free. To feel good.
Even if I don’t understand the decision being made or I don’t agree with the action, I can’t deny their intention, which is very likely a pursuit of happiness and freedom. And haven’t we all done things (good and bad) from this same intent?
Judgement and criticism separates, and it’s not a skill. Discerning the intention behind action, seeing the nuance, and accepting other people’s autonomy is.
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.