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HIba Khatkhat.

How to Declutter Your Mind

You’ve heard it before: “Don’t be judgemental. Judgements are bad”. You’d be surprised to know that this isn’t necessarily always true. In fact, you need judgments. It’s how your brain works. Judgements are essentially shortcuts. Your brain processes a lot of information all at once. Judgements come in handy sometimes. For example, your brain needs to make a decision in a split second when you’re trying to cross the street or when you’re driving. It needs to act quickly to determine what’s safe and what’s not, then act or execute. Your brain is judging very quickly if something is safe to do. This is when judgments are helpful and why we can’t eliminate them.

So what’s all of this that you hear about non-judgmental people?

Well, non-judgmental people experience judgments too. What makes them non-judgemental is their awareness. Non-judgement is a skill learned through behaviour and practice. It is not a personality characteristic. And your judgment isn’t a character flaw. 

Taking a Non-Judgmental Stance

Your goal is to develop a non-judgmental stance. This mindset is about taking evaluation out, not necessarily going from negative to positive judgment. When you judge something as “good”, you’re still evaluating it. Judgements aren’t always negative. When you say “this tree is beautiful”, you’re judging the tree in a positive light. 

Black man with eyes closed with a slight smile

Taking a non-judgemental stance also doesn’t mean going from excessive negative views (aka devaluing something or someone “this is the worst thing”) to excessive positive views (idealizing something or someone “this is the best thing”). The eventual goal when you’re practicing this is that you drop judgment completely as much as possible during this practice. 

So does this mean you can never say “good job!” to a friend, loved one, or colleague? No, it doesn’t. There is inherent goodness in each person and in what they do. There’s inherent goodness and wholesomeness in the universe. The purpose is to differentiate acknowledgment from judgment. You can go back to using these words as shortcuts to comment on and respond to what is observed after you have given them up as judgements. 

The Intention in Practice

You do something hurtful. You can acknowledge the behaviour was hurtful and it had unwanted and maybe even unintended consequences on someone you care about. You might say “I did a bad thing” as a shortcut to observable behaviour and its outcomes. And you may even attempt to repair the hurt. You might feel guilty or ashamed about the behaviour but not WHO YOU ARE!

 

Now, if you think and say “I’m a terrible person for doing this”; this would be a judgement about who you are. And this would intensify the shame and guilt, and maybe even bring on feelings of worthlessness. This will keep you stuck. You are more likely to avoid, suppress, and block things in this scenario. You’re also more likely to not repair it. In other words, you’re more likely to do things that make the situation worse for you and the other person. This is one of the main differences between the 2 situations. And when judgements can turn into assumptions and interpretations. You start to tell yourself a story.   

What Can You Do?

Start catching your judgements. Follow these steps:

Step One: Build Your Awareness

Because you’ve probably associated the word judgement with negativity, you can actually practice noticing ALL judgements, positive and negative. A fun light-hearted way to do this is to get a counter clicker, and then click it every time you notice a judgement. You can do this for a short period of time or the whole day. It’s up to you. The main thing here is to notice and observe your judgements. This helps you become more aware of them. 

Step Two: Don’t judge your judging! 

You can find yourself judging your judgement. When you catch yourself doing that, take a deep breath and return back to noticing and observing. You can picture the judgement floating away like clouds in the sky. 

These two steps will help you observe your judgements. 

Mastering these two steps helps you have choices on what do with your judgements: accept or change them.

Step Three: Accept or Change the Judgement

When you catch your judgements, you can label them as that. You can keep it simple: “I’m having judgment” Or “I’m noticing judgment at this moment”. You can get specific with it if you choose to: “I’m having a judgemental thought” Or  “This thought is a judgement”. This is an acceptance strategy.

You can choose to change the judgemental thought into something more balanced. This is about describing non-judgementally using the facts. For example, “They made me feel awful” can become “I felt ashamed when they did this”. You can even be more specific and say “shame showed up for me”.

Benefits of Describing Non-Judgmentally 

When I first started to practice, I started by describing non-judgmentally objects in my space to get the hang of it. You can pick an item and describe it factually. For example, you can pick a shoe. If you were to describe a shoe factually you might say:

  • It’s an item used for walking or running
  • It’s an item that has a low/medium/high heel, OR
  • It’s an item that has a 3-inch heel
  • It’s dark in colour
  • It has a rounded/pointed front, and so on  

You can see how describing non-judgementally can help you:

  • Be specific
  • Be factual
  • Be detailed
  • Have clarity 

One Thing to Remember about this Process

You can judge with your thoughts but you can also judge with your body. A non-judgmental stance includes non-verbal body language, facial expressions, and behaviours. For example, if you’re rolling your eyes. You can choose to pay attention to this also.

Being able to notice your judgments helps with decluttering your mind because you can get out of interpretations and assumptions much more readily. After all, assumptions and interpretations are other forms of judgment. 

We all love to tell stories about ourselves and our world. It’s who we are as humans. I love stories. And, at the same time, stories can be full of assumptions and interpretations. And, isn’t so helpful when combined with intense emotions, stress, negative thinking, trauma, and complex life situations. In those instances, they can do more harm than good whether you intend to or not.  

Here’s a handy cue card you can keep with you. It can guide and remind you as you practice. Feel free to take a screenshot of it and save it on your phone. You can then access it at the beginning of your day to prompt you. 

Let’s set our intentions this week to practice taking a non-judgmental stance toward ourselves and those around us. It’s not about perfection, it’s about practice. And, practice makes permanent!

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Hiba Khatkhat

Hiba is a holistic psychotherapist specializing in trauma, couples treatment, and culture. She's passionate about solving mental health crises by practicing prevention. She brings over 18 years of experience working with individuals, couples, & families in her private practice. She is known for her work on the transmission of trauma and its impact on relationships.

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