A central goal in DBT is to cultivate a non-judgmental stance towards our lives and ourselves. However, when you experience intense emotions and have stress and significant obstacles in your life, it’s difficult to refrain from passing judgment.
Judgments are spontaneous and often inaccurate interpretations of our environment that influence our thinking and behavior. Social psychology research shows that our motives and expectations slant our judgments. When we are motivated to avoid painful emotions, we are likely to judge those who hurt us, conflict with us or remind us of our shortcomings. Often we’ve internalized the judgments of others and save our harshest judgments for ourselves. As a result, when we face an obstacle, don’t get our way or don’t succeed in our efforts, we are likely to attribute our problems to the personality defects of those around us and ourselves. They are lazy and stupid. We are incompetent, needy or a failure.
Once we’ve formed a judgment we tend to ignore or gloss over inconsistent information that threatens our understanding. We will forget the times we’ve succeeded. We will gloss over the examples of others going out of their way to help us. Most of the time, we remain blind to our biases.
The repeated, day to day experience of intense and painful emotions can create persistent feelings of anger, hostility, helplessness and hopelessness. When we feel helpless or don’t know what to do, we often blame and judge the person who is making us feel that way or ourselves.
Forming judgments is an innate process. We leap from cues of appearance, body language and behavior to judge a person. To get out of this cycle, you must observe your own thought processes to become aware of these automatic judgments. Let go of judgmental language and focus on descriptive information. Getting from judgment to description takes practice and repetition, but it can significantly reduce extreme painful emotions and result in a clearer picture of the world.