Not long ago my daughter told me that I was judging her and she wanted me to stop.
I pointed out that in order to make that request that she must have been judging me in order to come to that conclusion. We stuck our tongues out at one another and started to laugh and she got the point.
After all I can’t be judgemental can I? I’ve been trained to be non judgemental, I spend a lot of my life being objective and not accepting stereotypes when people come to therapy sessions.
The thing is that we all judge the world around us all the time. We judge people, ourselves, the safety of situations, our own happiness, whether we are hungry… well I think you get the idea. It’s how our brains work and it’s what has made us number one predator top of the food chain and all that. However we now appear to have moved on beyond that in that we appreciate the qualities of things around us, the finer points are now becoming apparent to us as well as the basic is it safe, will I die, can I eat it type of judgements.
If we’re all judging people all the time then it can’t be bad can it?
Well I suppose that there lies the problem, what do we mean by judging? So here’s my take on it.
Our initial way of judging is when we find ourselves going with our gut feel, what springs to mind first in a situation. If we go with that there is only the feeling that it’s right and proper and it’s an honest reaction. If we stick with that though we are accepting the first thing that comes in to our head and where’s the evidence for that being correct? Our conscious (fast) brain is a pattern matching machine that looks for similarities and presents them out as possibilities that we often take for truth.
Each one of those thoughts is actually just a possibility that matches the current situation. So we have to demand more proof and if the evidence stands up to scrutiny then it’s OK to think that. If it doesn’t stand up then we have to say that it’s not true in this situation.
Is this important?
Well I have to agree on some level with my daughter on this one. It is important. The important thing is that we are not just accepting the first thing that pops in to our heads as truth. Just because you read it somewhere doesn’t make it true. Just because a lot of people think things are true doesn’t actually make it true. If the evidence isn’t there then it’s just a possibility.
To see this in action there’s a myth that the sting from a crane fly (daddy long legs) is the most deadly poison on the planet but it delivers so little of the poison that it has no effect on us. There are a lot of people who believe that it’s true because they’ve read it on the internet and been told by friends and some of those friends are qualified with degrees and PHDs so it must be right. The people who study bugs (entomologists) say that it’s not true. I’m with the not true brigade on this one.
It’s a trivial example but it illustrates the point.
I have another example which isn’t quite so trivial. I was sitting with a friend having a drink in a pub garden and a woman walked past. I have to say she looked quite stunning. Then from the next table somebody said look at that! she’s so in to herself that she doesn’t look at the likes of us. Now I’m old enough to have lived through the seventies and beyond (sixties too if I tell the truth) and it looks like for some people that attitudes haven’t changed. It made me think why do I not accept that thought? Well my wife has the same look when she’s had to wear her glasses for a few days and she gets her contact lenses back. I have also seen people who were looking for someone with the same look, we don’t see them see us because they saw us earlier and we’re not the ones they are looking for (so to speak). So there are two other possibilities that are much more believable in my world.
Yes it is a problem if we accept those first thoughts without questioning the evidence because our conclusion can be so wrong. We may not be able to stop judging people but we should be making an effort to judge the quality of our judgements. How hurtful could we be if we’re wrong?
In my next post I will look at judging ourselves.