The finger pointing at others is your finger
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The Ego and Judgements
I trust by now you get that the ego is the source of judgements. This begins in infancy, with the “me/not me” project that creates the sense of self in the first place.
Now, I know it’s difficult to step back from your ego, which is actually a construct—it’s nothing more than
- the stories you tell yourself about yourself,
- what you choose to remember about your life history (emphasis on story)
- your stories about how others understand you.
We do not remember the “pre-ego” time, but for several months, we were actually an undifferentiated mass, with no individual identity.
The identity you have is a story
It’s made up. By your parents initially, and taken over by you. There’s nothing either real or true about the story, but most folk will defend their identity to the death.
Imagine a big box of Lego. You reach into the box, and build something by selecting pieces from all of the available parts. Notice that you choose some things, and do not choose others. The other pieces could be used—they are nothing more than the unchosen bits. This is how your ego, your sense of self, was built.
Point being, we end up spending our lives playing with what was created, as if it is the only option. In a sense, we become blind to the other pieces, despite the fact that they travel with us, all the time.
All you have to do is notice
It is only by watching the workings of our mind that we get to the point of seeing ourselves creating ourselves.
Judgement has levels
What I’ve just described is actually quite benign. This essential phase is “differentiation,” or the first order of judgement—“me/not me.” There are two aspects:
- external - I am me and you are you, and we are separate
- internal - this is a part of me, this is not— i.e. I have blue eyes and not brown eyes
There is nothing “wrong” with either of these distinctions. In order to live and work in the natural world, we all must act as if the external world is both real, and “out there.” And some physical aspects of self are present in me, and others are definitely not. (For example, I have O+ blood, and no other type.)
All this goes off the rails with second order judgement
Second order judgement is always subjective and built upon black and white thinking. Let’s use the above example: “I have O+ blood” is a first order judgement. A second order judgement would be: “O+ blood is good and right, and A+ is bad and wrong.”
Second order is “good/bad, right/wrong” duality. Duality is “either/or” thinking.
Another hard concept to get is that nothing has a second order distinction intrinsically. In other words, a second order duality is always relational. Take “tall.” If we describe someone as tall, the wise person asks, “Compared to what?” Tall is relative. So are good, bad, right, and wrong. It just doesn’t seem that way.
And the odd piece, when we are pressed, is that often we cannot explain why we judge one thing as good, another bad. In a flummox, we resort to, “Everyone knows…” or “That’s just what my family believes.”
It’s Difficult to Let Second Order Judging Go
We actually will evaluate until we die. “I want more of this, less of that…” “I find this attractive, that unattractive…” No doubt, we all go there. Living a centred life, fortunately, does not require that we stop evaluating. The centered life requires that we notice what we are doing, and stop ourselves from acting on autopilot. We have the evaluation, and choose the subsequent behaviour.
Here are two things that get in the way of stopping the movement from judgement to autopilot reaction:
Most people rapidly go from a judgement to story-telling. I see this in counselling all the time. People are so unwilling to give up their stories. One client spent a decade trying to get her partner to do things her way. After much effort, she declared that she was going to stop doing this, and accept him as he was.
Next session, she told me how she berated him for something. I reminded her of her pledge. She replied, “I wasn’t criticizing him. I just want him to be aware, like I am.”
In actuality, her story was that her husband is defective, and all she changed was the defect she pointed out.
Focussing on Others
Any time you are compelled to give advice for “someone’s own good,” you’re judging. Any time you think you are superior to someone, you’re judging. Any time you are sure you know the truth, you’re judging. Notice, breathe, and let go.
When you Judge, notice
That’s all. As soon as the judgement comes into your awareness, just name it. “Judging!” Then, let your attention shift from your mind game to the present moment—by having a breath.
This is the key. Awareness, noticing, is all about becoming clear on what is happening, without rushing in to do the “right/wrong, good/bad” thing.
I may evaluate and label the experience, but I do not need to make it more than it is.
This is the endless first step in coming into a more centred and present existence. As soon as you notice yourself moving from the label to evidence (fantasy) gathering, just stop. As I said above, speak the label. “Judging, fantasizing, blaming, story-telling, wool-gathering…” whatever. Then, gently bring your attention back to the current moment.
Know your ego
…or your ego will own you. You have to pay attention to your ego, all the time, as the ego is crafty, and wants to keep you stuck in your judgements. As a matter of fact, the better you get at dropping blatant judgement, the more subtle your ego becomes.
One friend reported hearing the following from a friend: “I am just saying, I have come so far along the path, and all I want you to do is to join me and become a special as I am!” This would be an ego, judging, while shifting the language from gross to subtle.
Your ego knows how to defend itself, and to keep you “in judgement.” All that changes is the tone and timbre. So, your job is to stay awake and aware.
The best “advice” I can give you is this: learn what judgement feels like in your body. Notice what you tighten, what “hurts.” Monitor yourself for that feeling, and use the sensation as warning signal that your ego is acting up again. As soon as you notice, stop, have a breath, and relax. Then choose the most whole and centred action you can imagine.