Judgment will keep your brain occupied…forever.
Do you ever ask yourself WTF? Why does no one understand what I am going through? Why can’t people just see it my way? How is it that everyone around me is just there to piss me off?
Humans are like any other animal on this planet. We wake up and we do things. We sleep, laugh, cry, kill, save lives, and eat. We are moody sometimes and happy other times. We walk around this world of ours with goals and aspirations. Ok, so maybe deer don’t walk around with goals and aspirations but we are fundamentally just animals.
There is a huge difference between us and the average deer, however. We have deep emotional feelings. We stretch those feelings out over much longer periods of time than most other animals. Have you ever seen a clinically depressed dog before? Me either. We blend those feelings into everything we do, which provides us deeper meaning. It’s what propels us to get out of bed every morning, otherwise, we would just lay around in a puddle of our own sloth and do not much of anything other than eating and sleeping. We can magically create meaning where there once was no meaning by merely adding emotional weight to anything.
But why do we do this? Why do we add emotional meaning to enhance our lives (and sometimes even make our lives miserable)? We are self-reflective creatures. Sapiens are the only animals on this planet known to reflect on the past, present, and future of our lives. We understand that our lives are finite. We can see how things we do right now affect our future selves. We are able to step outside our present selves and reflect on things that have already happened and things that are waiting to happen. Despite having this magical ability we often times do not use it. We are driven and creative and we like to make things but we don’t slow down enough to reflect on our own lives.
We do however reflect on the lives of many people around us. Some of us do this more than we would like to admit. We spend valuable time wondering why others are the way they are. It consumes us to the point of complete frustration. You are not alone. We all do this. I am not a saint and I am not going to say that I don’t do this. I will say that it is not helping any situation or dilemma you may be facing.
Figuring out the frustration
Not the only reason but one of the main reasons we do this is a thing called snap-judgement. We, based on a sometimes millisecond scan, judge those around us. Whether it comes from a past experience or just some kind of 6th sense, we feel like we already know everything about someone without even interacting with them. Let me give you an example:
Where the hell did this guy learn to drive? Did he get his license out of a vending maching? how is it that he is even allowed on the road in any capacity? Oh, I see it now. He has (insert your most hated state) plates and people from that part of the world just don’t know how to drive anyway. They all drive like maniacs. I mean, look at his hair. This guy can’t even get a decent haircut. What makes me think that he could possibly drive correctly… with a turn signal. With all that hair it is a wonder he can even see his rear view mirror……..
Someone merged into your lane without looking and without a signal. Who the hell does that? So the judgment begins. Not only have we judged this person and accused him of being an idiot behind the wheel. We have also categorized an entire state as being bad drivers. We have profiled and stereotyped a whole state of people (maybe an entire race depending on how you feel and who is driving). I know this sounds trivial and yes “we all do it from time to time” but this is behavior that bleeds into our everyday interactions with anyone else. Believe me, if you can do it on the highway, you can do it anywhere. You can do it without even thinking about it.
Congratulations!! You have successfully wasted valuable time and energy behind the wheel of a moving vehicle not to mention changing your mood in the process and, depending on your level of road rage, put others around you at risk. You will think about this for a long time after the incident has occurred (adding feelings to create some sort of meaning). You may carry it with you into the office or home depending on which leg of your commute you happen to be on. You may even dwell upon the incident for hours, days, weeks, months, or even years. If nothing else it will change the way you view others on the road.
This does have a potential upside. You will be more aware of YOUR surroundings when driving and quite possibly be able to avoid occurrences like this in the future by simply seeing said behavior miles away. But for the sake of your own ability to sleep well at night, you have simply added to the load on your brain.
Building a better tomorrow
There are a few ways you can approach this and a few outcomes that will happen. The only one I will focus on here is positive because that is what this is all about. Being a better human. Doing things to improve your well being and influence those around you to do the same. Like anything else in life, it’s not going to happen overnight. You will have relapses from time to time. Recognition of a pattern of behavior you are WILLING to change is the most important thing. Consistently recognizing and then correcting is what will bring you closer to actually overcoming.
You can’t read anyone’s mind. Not even your own.
You are not a mind reader. None of us are. We do have some instinctual artifacts floating around in our bodies but that does not mean we know exactly what someone else is thinking or feeling. We simply have to understand that we are all going through life. We are all dealing with one thing or another. At any given point the person cutting people off could be you. Intentional or not it happens. Do you yell at yourself for hours afterward and then lose sleep because you were the guy (or girl) not paying attention? Nope. So why should it be different with anyone else. You want to get mad that is perfectly fine with me. Just remember this little trick… put yourself in the mindset that the person you are judging so harshly could be experiencing the worst day of their life. I would venture to say framing the situation in this way is probably the best thing you can do. It evokes sympathy. It evokes humility. It creates purpose (reason by virtue of emotions). Why wouldn’t you just assume the worst case for that person? It will do two things for you when you do:
- it will ensure that you are not mad at a person you have no knowledge or facts about.
- it will free up your mind and your emotional load so you can release rather than hoard the feelings of anger that will follow.
Are you such a saint that you were put here on this earth to go around judging everyone else for their shortcomings? You most certainly are not. None of us are. The quote that comes to mind is one of my favorites:
I’m spiritual but not religious, so don’t judge me! ;-). I do think this one line sums up a lot of humanism. Furthermore, don’t judge yourself so harshly. I think that would be the second take-away from all of this. The better you treat yourself, the better you talk to yourself, the better you will handle those around you.
You are only in control of you. You can’t change anyone else around you. You can influence people but it is ultimately their decision to make a change. Be the best you that you can be. Stop burdening yourself with the woes of the world. Creating your own sphere of positivity is one of the best and most rewarding things you can do for everyone around you.
Also published on Medium.