I scrolled through a social media feed the other day and noticed a post about judgement. Someone was expressing anger at being judged by a complete stranger. These two people did not know each other. They met in a lift. One person asked the other what floor they were going to. In spite of this brief and seemingly uneventful encounter, a whole world of feeling evolved. You see, one person did not like the manner in which the other spoke. The stranger apparently reacted by way of gesture, vocal tone or facial expression. Things seemed personal.
I watched as the responses to the post rolled in. Some defended the stranger. Others applauded the author for speaking out. I observed my own responses and noted I was feeling frustrated and angry. There was a desire to defend the random stranger to whom the comments were directed. No one knew her in person. No one knew what this lady had been dealing with in her life. Why was I feeling so upset about this situation?
What did this situation remind me of?
My memory took me back 25 years ago when I was in the midst of dealing with a mental illness (described to me by my Psychotherapist as a very mild case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I spent a lot of energy boxing shadows during that time. In my mind, I was trying to defend myself against harm. I would cry out emotionally and accuse others of certain behaviours. The mist would lift and I was left standing there in front of the people I had lashed out at, questioning my sanity in the moment whilst nearby observers whispered amongst themselves making judgemental comments about my emotional and mental stability.
We don’t know what goes on inside another’s head
Nobody understood what was going on with me back then. Likewise nobody knows what the stranger in the lift is coping with. And yet, people responded to that post with comments in perceived judgement of the stranger’s behaviour (and these people had not even witnessed the turn of events). I recognise my emotional response to what was written in that post was not about judgement. The emotional trigger took me back to a time and place where I perceived I was personally judged. The pain I felt was my own. It had nothing to do with anyone else. Just me.
Life is about making choices
Why do we often feel compelled and encouraged to take sides when others around us are in conflict? Why do we need to choose between people? Is one person right and the other wrong? What if, like me 25 years ago, the other person is dealing with a problem they can’t wrap their head around? What if that person is battling ghosts of their past on a daily basis? Life is about making choices. Why can’t we make choices that serve our better good individually? Why do the choices need to involve casting dispersions on another’s character without understanding them?
Judgements and projections are strange beasts. As per my personal process described above, we all make decisions from our personal frame of reference. This is a large part of our human experience. Often these feelings are not about the external source. When you next feel emotionally triggered or pulled into a vortex of judgement, explore what it is that this feeling reminds you of. Is it something from your past? Delving into this question may gift you a jewel of wisdom and healing. They are clues that may either point toward your own healing process or toward greater love and empathy. How awesome is that!
Feature photo courtesy of Pixabay
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