I want to first say that the title of this post might be slightly misleading. I don’t believe it’s actually possible to STOP judging all of your emotions. But you (and I) can work towards doing it less often.
What does “judging emotions” mean?
Before I get to the how, let’s take a minute to see what it even means to judge our emotions. Personal story: I was sitting
in my therapist’s office in front of my computer talking to my therapist via telehealth, and I told her about something that had made me experience a healthy dose of shame. I had made a small professional mistake, and I had been blaming myself. This is where it gets interesting: While sharing this with my therapist, I said, “I feel so stupid for feeling ashamed of something I know I shouldn’t feel ashamed of.” And, because my therapist is incredible, she gave me a look that had all kinds of compassion in it.
You might ask, “what’s wrong with judging my emotions?” And, because I’m a therapist, I’ll first say that nothing is “wrong” about it. BUT here’s what happens when you do: you’re telling yourself that it’s not okay to feel emotions. You’re telling yourself that, for example, you’re stupid for feeling shame, rather than realizing that you’re human for feeling shame. And we can (and probably) do this with a myriad of other emotions.
Feeling bad about yourself for getting angry? That’s judging.
Thinking you shouldn’t cry when you’re experiencing something sad? That’s judging.
Ever tell yourself that you shouldn’t feel disappointed? Still judging.
Here’s a nice tip: if you’re saying “should” or “shouldn’t” about your emotions, you’re probably judging them.
And I don’t want to get too “meta” here, but it’s turtles all the way down. If you feel embarrassed about feeling super excited whenever a BTS song comes on, try not to judge the embarrassment. And then try not to judge the excitement!
Now we can get to the how
Awareness is KEY. The biggest and best thing you can do to work on this is to recognize a) that you do it (because you’re human, and humans do this…unless, of course, you’re a robot, in which case: which squares have bicycles in it?), and b) when you do it. When you do it can be tricky to figure out. For this, you might want to talk to a close friend or therapist, or journal, or meditate. Everyone has their own way of learning about themselves, so you do you.
Here’s some prompts to get you started:
- How do I feel about the last time I felt [insert emotion here]?
- Which emotions were/are expressed in my family? Which ones weren’t/aren’t?
- What do I think others think about me when I’m feeling [emotion]?
And just in case you’re having a hard time thinking of specific emotions, here are a few commonly judged emotions: anger, joy, guilt, shame, sadness, grief.
Now that I’m aware of some of the judgments I place on my emotions, how do I stop doing it?
First, and this is important, you don’t have to do anything else. Just being aware will probably get you to stop judging 60% of your emotions (I just made that statistic up; please don’t quote me on that. It’s going to be different for everyone). But, if you want to continue doing the work, here are some tips:
Remind yourself routinely (e.g. in the mornings, when you take a shower, when you’re in your car, whatever works for you, but don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed with emotions to do this) that it’s okay to feel however you’re feeling. Tell yourself, “I’m angry, and that’s okay.” Or for bonus points, you can say, “I love my anger.” That last one might be really difficult, so be gentle with yourself if it doesn’t come easy.
Another way you can work on this is to make a list of a certain number (say, 5) emotions you had each day or week. And then thank your body for letting you feel these emotions. Literally, “Thank you, [your name], for letting me feel guilt this week.” Feel free to journal or meditate on this too.
Emotions are human
Remember that emotions are part of the deal you made with the world (or God, or Spirit, or Universe, etc.) when you were created. You don’t get to be human and not have emotions. ALL OF THEM. You can’t just have the “good” ones. Not only that, but the more you shove down the emotions you don’t like, the more they’re going to have control over you. You can only pretend for so long that you’re not sad, until it begins to show up somewhere else (usually as anxiety or depression, or as physical symptoms, like migraines or stomach pains).
Once you experience your emotions without the harsh judgement you’ve been accustomed to, you might even begin to appreciate them! Your emotions all have a purpose.
Feeling lonely? That’s a reminder to reach out to a close person.
Feeling stressed? That’s a reminder to slow down.
Anxious? That’s a reminder to be present where you are, rather than thinking about what might happen next.
Shame? That’s a reminder to give yourself compassion.
Angry? That’s a reminder that you may need to put up or fortify a boundary.
Bored? This one’s pretty simple: do something that feeds your creative soul!
There is nothing wrong with ANY of our emotions. In fact, they will help us live a wonderful and meaningful life, if we only listen to them rather than judge them.
If you want some help working through your emotions, book a free 15 minute consultation with me to see if I might be a good counselor for you.