Facing the Judge & Jury of Your Inner Critic

Facing the Judge & Jury of Your Inner Critic

Miz Mindful

Facing the Judge & Jury of Your Inner Critic

 All Rise!

The judge, otherwise known as the harsh spokesperson for our inner critic, steps into the courtroom. "Order! Order in the court!" echoes throughout the room as the twelve decision-makers enter the jury box of our minds. One by one, they slowly take their seats. Labels, Comparison, Expectations, Bias, Doubt, Perceptions, Stress, Shame, Anxiety, Ego, Opinions, and Perfection. They sit in stillness, awaiting our thoughts so they can add their input. Quickly, they send their verdict to the spokesperson on the bench. He hits his gavel, setting off the spark of negative self-talk.

The spark grows and takes off like a raging wildfire, burning holes through any positive affirmations or intentions we have set for ourselves. We run for cover, evacuate any small foundation we have created, and return later to only a shell of what our original plan was.

Unfortunately, this is often how our minds work. Within seconds, a small, seemingly innocent thought becomes a timeless thread of negativity flowing through our brains. It can ruin the best of moods and intentions.

After spending years attempting to create new versions of my life through the law of attraction and positive thinking, often wondering what I was doing wrong, I stepped up my game and decided to learn to master my mindset. Because I was fascinated with how the mind works, I learned to combine the components of mindfulness with art, science, metaphysics, and trauma-informed communication to create the bridge of change toward a mindful lifestyle.

Creating a Bridge of Change

The principles of confidence are the foundation for building a bridge toward growth and change. Once there is confidence in ourselves and our abilities, the judge and jurors hold less power over our thoughts.

Using the first component of mindfulness, awareness, we can examine the areas where our confidence is lacking. We can call upon our jurors to assist us in the assessment.

When I created a bridge of change regarding the language of poetry, I called up the jurors, Comparison, Perception, Bias, and Labels. My jurors would tell me, “I am not smart enough to use the big words.” “Poets are scholarly people that have a much larger vocabulary than mine.” “I’m too old to comprehend the language of poetry.” “Poetry makes little sense to me.” “I never did well in language in arts.”

All these sparks created such a firestorm of negativity that I avoided reading the poetry of writers who were part of my community. However, it did not stop the jurors from speaking. They called in the forces of Anxiety and Shame for not “getting over it” and doing a better job of interacting with my community on Medium.

Try-Learn-Competency Loop

In the present moment phase of mindfulness, I looked at the confidence-competency loop for guidance. Try-Learn-Competency.

A friend recommended I try reading poetry and then writing about what I was learning. It turned out to be a genius suggestion. This re-framed approach allowed me to view poetry through a different lens that I already felt some competency in. I built new skills around the understanding of poetry writing, and it held the jurors at bay. I started experimenting and writing a few Tanka poems.

Interestingly, it became not about the poetry skills itself but the action of trying and experimenting that raised my self-esteem. That is the beauty of the Try-Learn-Competency loop. Your brain latches on to your willingness to try. It is your choice of being willing to try something different that unlocks the potential.

As soon as I took those first steps on the bridge of change in this area, my mindset about poetry shifted from fixed to growth.

Taking Off the Blinders of Judgment

Non-judgment, the third and final component of mindfulness, is the one most people miss or skip altogether. It ties directly to our underlying feelings and emotions. The ones that are intertwined with all the jurors. Our silent indicators of what we feel are right and wrong, good and bad.

I did that with my poetry example when I avoided reading poetry. Rather than learning not to judge it, I felt I was protecting my emotions and setting a boundary. I silently judged poetry as only for certain people and considered myself as not being one of those types of people.

Boundaries are essential, even crucial sometimes. However, setting boundaries based only on a judgment rather than a necessary choice can be self-defeating. Let me explain a little further.

Sometimes, people mix up non-judgment, acceptance, and emotional intelligence. However, in my life’s journey of change, my own, and from my work as a facilitator and coach, I have learned a few deeper techniques to get beyond the surface of these words and phrases.

Symbolic Lady Justice

Let’s start with using the symbolic Lady Justice as a visual representation. She holds a sword for strength and truth, balances the scales for fair choices, and wears a blindfold to stay unbiased from outside appearances or influences.

Unfortunately, most of us can’t get past our subconscious reactions, produced by the underlying feelings and emotions, to get to the core truths beneath the thoughts.

Changing the Way We Think

Our brain’s number one goal is to keep us safe. However, it produces some irrational thought patterns based on our past limiting beliefs and experiences until we decide to change them. To achieve these changes, we need to introduce cognitive thinking and reactive emotive techniques using trauma-informed communication.

In addition, our body reacts almost simultaneously to these patterns. If you construct the boundary based solely on your judgments instilled with a limiting belief, it will be hard to uphold in the long run because you haven’t changed the thoughts that cause the behaviors, plus your body will react in the old ways.

I saw this often with clients in substance abuse and anger management groups. They judged their actions as bad, so they needed to change. They did well for a while, setting boundaries and goals for themselves, and walked the path of recovery.

Then BAM. An event sets the jury in motion, and the person cannot hold the boundary because the brain reacts, the old thought patterns and behaviors take over, and the body reacts, leading them to cross back over the line of recovery.

Cognitive and Reactive Emotive Techniques

Cognitive and Reactive Emotive techniques are tools used in the process to excavate the buried truth from underneath everything else we learned. Primarily, Cognitive techniques focus on our thoughts, while Reactive Emotive techniques focus on the underlying belief system of the thoughts and the reactions that go with that.

I add trauma-informed communication because a significant amount of trauma incidents can go hand-in-hand with thought patterns based on our limiting beliefs and experiences. In addition, per Van der Kolk and other experts, the body holds tightly to trauma memories, even when the conscious mind doesn’t recall the memory of the experience.

By using cognitive and reactive emotive tools and trauma-informed communication, I achieved results for myself and my clients that went beyond anything I had read in any textbook. For example, with each poem I wrote, it became like an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) session and moved my brain further into healing.

Focusing on the patterns, syllables, and words desensitized and reprocessed the prior attached emotions connected to the words. I didn’t learn that anywhere; it just happened. New thought bridges were built.

Taking an Oath to Discover the Truth

My attorney whispers in my ear, “I am going to put you on the witness stand. All I want you to do is stay in the present moment and speak the truth. Are you willing to do that with me?”

Me: Yes, I am.

As I step into the witness box, I am asked to raise my right hand and repeat, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

Me: Yes, I do.

Attorney: “You previously stated that when you are in the present moment phase of mindfulness, you use the Try-Learn-Competency loop for guidance.”

Me: Yes, that is true.

Attorney: “You also previously stated you have used cognitive and reactive emotive techniques to excavate underlying truths beneath our previous learning. Are these psychological terms? Can you briefly explain a bit more?”

Me: Both are psychological terms that address how, sometimes, our brains process our thoughts, emotions, and reactions based on the past, not our present moments. In turn, they can appear to be irrational rather than logical. If they become too distorted, they become unhealthy.

Attorney: “Do you believe you think irrationally?”

Me: Of course not. I try hard to be positive, open-minded, and understanding.

Attorney: “Do you believe that thinking irrationally is bad or silly?”

Me: Yes, I do think it’s bad. It often means someone doesn’t know what they are talking about. (judgment)

Attorney: “Did anyone ever tell you that you were being irrational?”

Me: All the time growing up. If I disagreed with their point of view, I was dumb, didn’t know what I was talking about, and being irrational. (limiting belief)

Attorney: “What did this make you do?”

Me: I tried harder to do it the way they wanted. I felt their way was the way it was supposed to be done, the only way to be done, and I ignored my own ideas as being dumb or wrong. (perfection)

Attorney: “Now, I’m going to give you a few things that are considered cognitive distortions; you let me know if you do these and how, okay?”

Me: Okay.

Common Cognitive Distortions

Overgeneralization — defining your abilities based only on one or two past experiences.

Jump to Conclusions — assuming you know what the other person is thinking before they say anything.

Emotional Reasoning — taking your emotions as facts; if you feel something, you search for or find the reasons to justify the feeling.

Mental Filter — hearing only the one bad thing instead of all the good things.

Heaven’s Reward Fallacy — suffering and hard work are the only things that lead to rewards. When you don’t receive the rewards, you get frustrated and stop trying, or you try even harder. This can also be called the Karma fallacy.

Me: Yes, I can see where I’ve thought like that many times in the past. Sometimes, a few of them still pop up, but not as often.

Attorney: “Can you give me a safe example of a situation where this happened?”

Me: Safe? When we talk about my thinking in these terms, none of it feels safe. Putting that out into the internet world leaves me open for judgment (a big fear), but for terms of this court, I will use my writing as an example.

Attorney: “Go ahead, proceed.”

Me: My relationship with my articles and editing help here on Medium puts me into several of the cognitive categories you mention. Heaven’s reward fallacy goes hand-in-hand with emotional reasoning. I should be better at my writing and my self-editing at this point; I need to do the hard work to succeed. I shouldn’t need help anymore. Often, I feel embarrassed that it takes me so long and I still need to edit so much. My mental filter appears when my articles are returned because I only hear the mistakes, not any of the good stuff, and it feeds into my emotional reasoning of embarrassment and that I’m not good enough. I return to the heaven’s reward fallacy and get frustrated and shut down. I fall deep into the overgeneralization of so many past experiences of not being good enough and jump to the conclusion of what others think of my writing and again turn that toward my emotional reasoning.

Attorney: “So, how did you change that?”

Me: I haven’t completely changed it, but I have become willing to. I look at the emotions I am experiencing as simply an emotion. It's not good or bad, just an emotion. You see, when I labeled them as bad, like feeling not good enough or embarrassed, they became unhealthy. I would avoid the situations, repress them as they came up, and judge myself.

This is where I use trauma-informed communication with myself. This type of communication focuses on the behavior, not the feeling or the person. The outcome is meant not to judge or fix it. I talk to myself with compassion and use supportive words as if I were talking to a friend or my child regarding my feelings. I listen to my self-talk and ask myself questions based on who, what, why, and when. I ask myself, “How can I do it differently?”

Next, I repeat facts like, “I am learning. They are helping me by giving suggestions about the writing composition, not judging me as a person.” “I am getting better all the time!” “It’s okay to ask for help; they care about me.”

Attorney: Sounds like you know what you are talking about.

Me: I guess I do. Can I say a few words to the court?

Standing Before the Judge Today

Your honor, I believe these jurors are no longer a jury of my peers. The jurors hold bias based on my old limiting beliefs. The scales were unbalanced in the past, and their blinders have worn-out holes that allow them to see outward appearances, which flaws their thinking process.

The worn-out old shoes they try to fit me into are no longer mine. They were only a part of the old fixed mindset before I grew and learned to change toward a more logical way of viewing my truth.

There is no longer Shame, Comparison, Expectations, Perfection, or Bias. I will admit there are still Labels, Doubt, Perceptions, Stress, Anxiety, Ego, and Opinions, but those no longer have the same definitions they once had.

I request a new jury, more progressive, more growth-oriented, to share the space in my courtroom brain, to assist me further rather than drag me back to the past, and honestly, sir, waste both of our precious time. Life is short, as we both well know, and I appreciate your consideration in this request, but honestly, I already have chosen a new jury, so it's just a formality.

The court is adjourned!

As I continue to study mindset techniques and the art of facilitating change, I learn that my judge and jury will always be a part of who I am. And that’s okay. It is the truth of who I am and what makes me unique, but I now have a different definition of mindful living.

“Being aware of the truth of who I am and what I value in my present moment without feeling judgment.”

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