and what to do with it
by Hal Stone, Ph.D. & Sidra Stone, Ph.D.
This article is about
judgment and its effect on relationship. There are few things in relationship
that are more painful than out-of-control judgment. Without question,
relentless judgment damages relationship, sometimes irreparably.
When we look at family
systems, we usually find one or more persons in a family carries judgment
while other family members are on the receiving end. These judgments can be silent
or they can be overtly expressed. In any case, when allowed to continue
unchecked, judgment will do its damage and relationships suffer and
Many people donšt even
know that they carry judgments. They have been judgmental for so long that
they are totally identified with their judgments and consider them as a
natural and necessary part of their personalities. These people donšt see
their judgments as separate from themselves in any way. In the early days of
psychology, psychologists referred to this identification with a thought or
feeling as being egosyntonic.
Conversely, some people
are raised in family systems where they are judged constantly. As they move
into adulthood, they are so accustomed to being judged that they donšt even
notice what is happening. They don't realize that they are being beaten up
constantly - by other peoples' judgments and by their own internal judgments
(via their inner critics and inner patriarchs). We have discussed this at
great length in our book on the Inner Critic and in Sidrašs book on the Inner
Patriarch, The Shadow King.
THE LAWS OF THE PSYCHE
In considering the meaning
of judgment in relationship, there are four fundamental psychological laws
that we will be discussing in this article.
Law # 1: Whomever
we judge or whatever we judge is an expression of one or more of our disowned
Law # 2: In
addition to the disowned selves, underlying every judgment is an underlying
vulnerability of which we are unconscious and/or unable to communicate.
Law # 3: So long
as these disowned selves remain in existence in the personality they will
return to haunt us over and over again in one or more of our relationships.
Relationship is the playground of the intelligence of the universe that
ultimately forces us to embrace all of our selves.
ˇ Law # 4: As a corollary to all of the above laws, we can say that the people or things or objects or ideas that we judge or hate the most have the possibility of becoming our most important teachers once we know how to work with our judgments.
Before we continue our
discussion of judgment we would like to present some basic definitions for
those readers who are new to the work on the Psychology of Selves. For those
of you who are familiar with our work, they may clarify some points or answer
some of your questions.
In the growing up process
all of us are creatures of conditioning and the personality that we develop
is a function of this conditioning. We either identify with the ideas,
emotional responses and psychological training that are given to us or we
rebel against them. In the growing up process all of us are creatures of
conditioning and the personality that we develop is a function of this
conditioning. We either identify with the ideas, emotional responses and
psychological training that are given to us or we rebel against them. All of us are identified with our primary selves
until we begin the process of separating from them. There is no escaping this
reality, not for any of us. In Jungian terminology, the primary selves would
determine the nature of the persona.
When we grow up in a
family we identify with certain selves. This means that automatically we
reject the opposite selves. Thus if a woman grows up identified with being a
more giving and maternal kind of woman, then her disowned self will be the
opposite energy, her more selfish and self serving interests. Disowned
selves carry our repressed psychological and emotional content. They are the equal and opposite of our primary
In Jungian terminology,
the shadow would be the equivalent of the disowned selves so long as it is
understood that shadow refers to repressed content that can be either
"light" or "dark."
Unconscious contents in us
are constantly jumping out of us and landing on other people, objects and
ideas. You walk by a store that carries crystals. You see a magnificent
crystal and you feel that you must have it, that it belongs to you, no matter
how expensive it may be. You are filled with all kinds of new feelings as you
gaze at it. You have projected an aspect of your own spiritual nature
onto it. It may be a truly beautiful crystal, but the magic that you give it
is the magic of your own unrealized spiritual/ creative nature.
A very busy businessman
buys a World War II Jeep and spends a fortune fixing it up. It drives
terribly and is always breaking down and he has a love/hate relationship to
it. What has compelled him to buy this jeep and spend a fortune trying to
make it work for him? He has projected onto the jeep his disowned adventurer
and his own playful child. His primary selves are the Pusher and all its
allies. The Jeep is no longer a Jeep. It is, instead, a playground for the
neglected playful and adventurous parts of himself that have been buried for
a good many years and that he is trying to contact by owning this Jeep. The
problem is that it is still a World War II Jeep and not a playground and what
he yearns for continues to live in projected form, outside of himself.
A man falls in love with a
spiritual woman who is a disciple of a well-known guru. He judges her
constantly for her spirituality. She finally leaves and he is bereft. He
yearns for her. After a few months he enters into a new relationship with a
woman who is part of the same spiritual community as his first partner. He is
projecting his own disowned spiritual nature onto the women and he finds this
irresistible, that is, until he begins to judge it. He will continue to do
this until he is able to begin to integrate his own spiritual nature. Until
then, the judgments will continue along with the intense attractions. Such
projections are one of the key elements in keeping psychotherapists in
business. With therapists one projects positive emotional, intellectual and
spiritual contents onto the therapist in the hope that ultimately these
qualities will become a part of your own nature.
Projection is akin to a
bridge that reaches from us to the other person or object. We are able to
walk across this bridge and once we are on the other side we find not just
the other person, but we also discover, often for the first time, our very
own disowned selves.
Judgment is a reaction to
someone or something that has a negative valence. When we judge, we feel that
there is something wrong with the other person or thing. Judgments are
connected to the autonomic nervous system and if you tune into your body, you
can feel the level of emotionality that underlies the judgment. Judgments are
always a function of the primary selves reacting against the threat of the
Discernment is an
objective evaluation of someone or something that is not based on a disowned
self. There is no negative valence to the evaluation or reaction. Judgments
can be transformed into discernments by the procedures described in this
The ego is the term
developed at the turn of the century, primarily through psychoanalytical
theory. It was originally described as the executive function of the psyche,
the part of us that runs the ship. What we understand now with the psychology
of selves is that the ego is simply the group of primary selves that is
running the personality.
When spiritual seekers
talk about "getting rid of the ego," they are seeing the ego as
essentially negative and they want to get rid of it because they feel it
interferes with genuine spiritual development. In fact, the primary selves
are very important to our well being and our ability to use power in the
world. They have developed to help us to deal with life on this planet, and
they do the best they can. The trick is to learn to not be identified with
them. When you try to "get rid of the ego" you are in danger of
becoming a victim and may lose your ability to be effective in the world.
The Aware Ego
Whenever we separate from
a way of thinking or acting we are no longer identified with that particular
primary self. We now have an Aware Ego in relationship to that primary self.
The Aware Ego is a process that develops as we unhook from our primary selves
and become aware of, and experience, our disowned selves. The Aware Ego
process is always shifting and can be eliminated if a strong primary self
takes over for some reason.
It is the Aware Ego
process that begins to serve increasingly as a coordinating agency to
regulate the different selves. In particular, it is what enables us to
embrace opposites and learn to work with them in our relationships.
The Aware Ego is not
Awareness but rather mediates between Awareness and the many Selves.
Awareness witnesses activity but does not live life. It is the Aware Ego that
keeps one foot in the world of Awareness and the other foot in the world of
the Selves and thus makes proper choices for living in the world.
The Aware Ego is not the
Self as used in Jungian terminology. The Self in Jungian terms refers to
those elements of the psyche that are beyond the personality layer. The Aware
Ego embraces the personal level on one side and the Self on the other. You
cannot pin down the Aware Ego because it isnšt a thing; it isnšt a self. It
is a coordinating mechanism that is born during the early stages of the
transformational process that has the job of surrendering to, and mediating
amongst, all of the selves.
The Operating Ego
As we separate from the
primary self system (or primary selves) we develop the ability to use the
primary selves without being under their control. We begin to be in charge of
the horses that pull the chariot instead of them being in charge of us. As
this new ability develops there are still elements of the primary self system
that direct our lives, usually without our knowledge. We call these
continuing primary selves the "operating ego." Thus the
operating ego is the group of primary selves that continues to operate in us
as our Aware Ego develops. It is grows smaller as the Aware Ego grows
refer to the ability to say "no" and "yes" appropriately.
Ask yourself the basic questions: (1) What are you doing that you donšt want
to do?" and (2) "What arenšt you doing that you do want to
If you are a responsible
type of person and are always giving up your own time to help others, then
you will suffer from a loss of boundaries because you are not making a real
choice about what you are doing. Instead, it is the primary "Giver
Self" that is making the choice for you. When we lose our boundaries, a
judgmental self often emerges which judges the person we perceive as invading
our boundaries. A lack of boundaries also opens us up, leaves us defenseless,
and actually encourages the judgmental self of another person. Clear
boundaries and real choices reduce the need for judgmental reactions.
WORKING WITH JUDGMENT
Now let us return to the
four laws of the Psyche that we spoke about earlier and we will show you how
to use your knowledge of these to work with - and benefit from - judgment.
Law # 1: All
Judgment is Based on Our Disowned Selves
Whatever you judge is a
disowned self! Whatever you hate is a disowned self! Whatever drives you
crazy about your partner is a disowned self! On the other side, whatever you
yearn for and overvalue is also a disowned self.
"My God." you
might say, "My step mother was the witch from hell. Do you mean to tell
me that she is my disowned self? No way am I going to try and embrace her. No
way am I ever going to try and be like her. She is pure evil!" So you
say and so she may be, but it doesnšt change a thing. The intensity of your
negative reaction lets us know with absolute clarity that your stepmother is
your disowned self and that she has a very important kind of medicine that
you need to complete yourself and become more completely who you are.
How does this happen? You
grow up in a family system that is very painful to you. Your father remarries
and his new wife is the opposite of your real mother. Your real mother is
passive and loving and giving and much more easily taken advantage of. Your
father separates from her when you are quite young and your stepmother enters
the picture. She is everything your real mother isnšt. She is selfish,
uncaring, sexual, cunning, manipulative and quite closed energetically. You
push off from her and identify with your mother.
Because you are so hurt by
the stepmother on so many occasions you turn off all positive feelings
towards her and enter into primary allegiance to your own mother with whom
you identify totally. So you become even more loving and caring person than
you were before. You are wide open energetically and judge anyone who is
cool, has strong boundaries, and behaves impersonally. That is, unless you
fall in love with the person. You decide that you are never going to behave
the way your stepmother does. Your primary selves are like your mother's and,
possibly, your father's. It is your primary self system (or primary selves)
that judges your stepmother. Aware Egos do not judge. Primary Selves do the
Your first task is to
unhook from your primary self system. This means separating from the nice
self, the loving self, the serving self, the open self, and the giving self.
This does not mean getting rid of these selves and becoming the wicked witch
of the east. It means separating from them and learning to use them
consciously and with choice.
The second step is
recognizing that the wicked witch of the east is a part of you that you have
buried. More accurately, it is a part of you that your primary selves have
buried. In Voice Dialogue we ultimately allow these voices to speak so that
you can become aware of, and experience, their absolute reality. Ultimately
you will learn to use this wicked witch energy in a conscious way. The Aware
Ego will then be able to spread its arms and embrace both the loving/ caring/
Christ energy on one side and the more selfish/ self-serving/ wicked witch
energy on the other side.
The rewards of this are
great. If you live in the light then you can only get along with people of
the light. When dark energies come your way you are lost. By learning to use
the stepmotheršs energy you gain the power to deal with darkness.
So pay attention to your
judgments. Start today. Start at this moment. Write down every judgment that
you have in a small pad. Once you get the hang of it you will be amazed at
how much more accelerated your own consciousness process will be. Remember
that we are not advocating becoming the person that you judge. We are simply
asking you to be reminded of the fact that the judgments are coming from your
primary selves and that you have a method here for integrating your disowned
selves. Living in constant judgment, whether you are the judge or the
recipient of the judgment, is like living in a body of water that is very
dirty. As you step out of the world of judgment you step into ever-cleaner
water. Our world desperately needs people who can step out of these murky
ponds and help themselves and others move towards clarity.
Many spiritual people
judge judgment and try very hard to rid themselves of it. This simply means
that - for them - judgment is a disowned self. You cannot get rid of judgment
by trying to act loving. All you do is drive the judgments underground where
they fester and do much damage in the shadows. Instead of trying to bury
judgments, accept the spiritual task of embracing your judgments and learning
how to use them as the teachers they can be.
Law # 2: Vulnerability
Lies Beneath Every Judgment
We have seen how every
judgment is based on a disowned self. In addition to this, it is also the case
that with every judgment there is an underlying vulnerability. Usually this
is completely unconscious. Sometimes there is an awareness of the
vulnerability but you feel ashamed of it, and cannot share it with anyone
else. How does this work?
John gets very angry with
Mary because she is always late when they go out together. He gets more and
more judgmental and angry and she gets later and later. During one of their
counseling sessions, we ask John what he feels underneath his anger. Can he
reach his underlying feelings? He then says a surprising thing. He says that
when Mary is late he feels that things are out of control and he starts to
feel a panic reaction. The same thing happens to him when the house gets
messy and he judges her for not being neat. We asked him to share with Mary
what this felt like and the most remarkable conversation occurred. He
described his childhood home as very chaotic. His siblings were running wild
and his mother was constantly overwhelmed. His father was an alcoholic who avoided
taking any kind of parental responsibility and control. Everything felt out
of control all the time. So John stepped in and began to try and bring order
to the chaos. He started to parent his brother and sister and his mother and
father as well. He did everything he could to see that things went smoothly
and stayed under control.
It was clear now why he
judged Mary. Hearing his vulnerability was very different to her than feeling
the sting of his constant judgments. It also became clear to John that Mary
was carrying his disowned selves and that he had to eventually claim the
parts of him that he had to bury as a young boy.
Let's look at another
example. Julie and Marie go to a party. Julie loves to flirt and flirt she
does. Marie is very upset and very judgmental towards her when they get home.
She tells Marie that she behaved badly and made fools of both of them.
What was the underlying
vulnerability? Marie finally admitted that she was very jealous, that the
flirting scared her and made her feel that she was going to be abandoned. The
communication of vulnerability can do amazing things. More often than not, it
brings people closer together and deepens their intimacy! And at the very
least, it certainly beats judgment!! Marie's next challenge was to deal with
her disowned self - a very flirtatious Aphrodite energy. Marie had disowned
her flirt years before in reaction to her mother who was very attractive,
very flirtatious, and who also had many extramarital adventures that had
seriously disrupted the family.
In our own personal
relationship, understanding our vulnerability and our disowned selves in
relation to our judgments has moved our process in extraordinary ways. Sadly
enough, this kind of consciousness does deprive us of that delicious feeling
of righteousness that we used to enjoy in the days when we could remain
judgmental for prolonged periods of time, with each of us dancing in the
"aren't I superior? dance in the "it was really your fault" prison. Basically we have made the following
decision: Judgment feels dreadful and the faster we can get out of it, the
better we both feel.
Law # 3: Every
Disowned Self Becomes One of God's Little Heat Seeking Missiles
We first wrote these words
in our book Embracing Our Selves more than 15 years ago. They were
true then, and they seem even truer today. The intelligence of the universe
has devised a remarkable way to force us to claim our disowned selves and
relationship in it. We have seen how each of us is identified with a group of
primary selves that determines who we think we are and that defines how most
people see us. Whatever the primary selves that we are identified with, on
the other side both equal and opposite, are the disowned selves that balance
In relationship we are constantly
coming into contact with our disowned selves. We are either strongly
attracted to them as they are embodied in someone else or we are strongly
judgmental towards them or we have both reactions. The strength of our
reaction is a function of the number and strength of the disowned selves
involved and the strength of the underlying vulnerability that is present.
The point of all this is
that there is no escaping our disowned selves. We will marry them or they
will manifest in one or more of our children. We will unwittingly hire them
to work for us or they will drop from the sky and appear at our doorstop. Our
partners will have affairs with one of our disowned selves. We will live in
the ongoing purgatory of our judgmental nature, judging others and feeling
alone. Or we will be the victims of someone elsešs judgments. A great deal of
the pain of human existence occurs because of the disowned selves and the way
they operate unconsciously in our lives.
Whatever you can do to
discover which selves you are identified with and which selves you disown is
important. The more you can live life embracing opposites, making real
choices, and setting proper boundaries, the less judgmental and self-critical
you (and the others around you) will be. We cannot over-emphasize how much
this is going to change the quality of your life and your relationships.
Our judgments can act as a
light to lead us directly to the nature of our disowned material. So remember
the basic rules. It is your primary selves that carry the judgments. The
Aware Ego does not judge although it can make discernments. Remember, too,
that underneath every judgment is your underlying vulnerability. This is
often difficult to grasp because vulnerability is usually disowned in this
culture and many of us don't even know what it looks like.
Law # 4: The People
We Judge Are the Teachers We Need
Once we recognize that our
judgments come from our primary selves and that the person we are judging is
carrying our disowned selves via the mechanism of projection, we are ready to
make a remarkable discovery. We are ready to discover that the judged or
hated object is the teacher we need - at this particular point in our lives -
to help us to complete ourselves. We are always looking for teachers in white
robes to teach us about spirituality. That is only one kind of teaching. So
far as relationship is concerned, the best teachers are in your life right
now at home and at work. They are the people that you canšt stand, the ones
that you incessantly judge and talk about. They donšt usually wear magical
robes but, nonetheless. they do have the medicine you need.
This is really a very
shocking idea because it requires a total change in perspective. It means
that rather than feel the righteousness of our own judgments we look at the
other person and initially say, "Dear me, you donšt mean that Slob Sam
is a teacher for me! He acts like he lives in a pig pen." Once you get
over your nausea and shock and possible fainting spell you are ready for the
next step. "If I am so totally negative towards Slob Sam, then I must be
identified with being too proper. I must have gotten rid of my own slob
nature in growing up in my own family system."
Now you begin to establish
connections and deepen your understanding of what is happening. You say to
yourself, "I remember now how my mother was always berating my father
for being a slob. I became identified with my mother and I couldnšt stand my
father. He was an earthy guy with no manners very real but not educated and
not proper. I can see, too, how my younger brother went the other way. He
identified with my father and joined the slobs of the world."
Finally you begin to
appreciate how much Slob Sam is a teacher for you. You don't need to
understand the dynamics of the entire process. You just need to begin to
appreciate that Slob Sam has something for you. He has a medicine that you
need, he has your disowned self. As this consciousness begins to settle in,
another very remarkable thing begins to happen. Your dreams begin to change.
For many of you, the change in attitude towards your former enemies impacts
your unconscious and new kinds of dreams begin to emerge, dreams which will
help you to integrate your newfound selves, and act as your own inner teacher
Our world is full of
hatred and judgment. In many places judgment has become such a primary self
that no one stops to even consider the amount of damage that is done to other
people. In the political arena it has been raised to a fine art. We remember
attending a meeting of the Victorian State legislature when we were in
Australia and the mutual attacks of the political antagonists were absolutely
wild! They looked as though they'd kill each other if given the opportunity.
We hear New Yorkers judging Californians for being too loose, too free and
touchy-feely while Californians judge New Yorkers for being overly rational,
uptight, and concerned with appearing sophisticated. All these judgments are
based on disowned selves. It is all around us and inside of us.
We carry our precious
judgments for decades. We judge our fathers, our mothers, our stepparents and
our stepchildren. We hate political parties and the political process,
political candidates, actors, and actresses without even realizing that we
are living in constant judgment. We have gone on long enough with this
unconscious worship of judgment and criticism. It is time to stop this
nonsense and learn how to use judgement as a vehicle for consciousness and
healing. It is time for each of us to accept this challenge, to examine all
of our relationships, and to see where it is that we continue to remain stuck
in the quicksand of judgment. The rewards of this work are great and well
worth the effort.
Š Hal & Sidra Stone April 2, 2000