About Shadow Judgment

Here’s a new article that explains some of what is going on in the mind.

In brief: Something to look at here is the idea of shadow judgments. It is just another way to describe the function of the ‘selves’. Selves we like or think others will treat right we will identify with and accept as “Me”.  And the shadow selves, the aspects of Me that we judge as inferior, shameful, or whatever they trained us to think, we will disown the shadow selves and not see even them as Me.  This results in cognitive fusion with one of the opposite selves (for example, good boy/bad boy) which results in us being trapped reacting to the stories about our selves that are in our head that we are emotionally and cognitively fused with.

About Shadow Judgment

All of us have aspects of self that are unknown to us. I call these shadow aspects (A hat tip to Carl Jung). We literally cannot see them, despite the fact that they are in plain view. It is as if they are hidden in the darkness.  One of the most important shadow aspects is shadow judgment.

Judgment is an inherent human cognitive process that is necessary for abstract thought. Minds judge. We cannot stop judging. Judging is a type of thinking.

This use of the term judgment does not mean the same thing as the common usage of the term ‘judgmental’ which means something like ‘opinionated’, critical, or disapproving’. This usage of judgment refers to the pure cognitive process of evaluating our reality and drawing distinctions. If we cannot judge, we cannot plan a meal or figure out what to do next.

When I know I am judging, it is conscious judgment. If I am unaware of my judgment it is shadow judgment.

Every judgment logically contains its opposite. If we judge something as ‘good’, something else always will be judged as ‘bad’. Without heads there can be no tails, without right there can be no wrong, without darkness there can be no light.

Shadow judgment is not good or bad, it just is. It depends on how it functions for you in your life. For example, I might be unaware of the judgments that are involved when I am throwing ingredients into a soup I am preparing. However, if I have a lot of experience at making good soup, I probably do not have to consciously think about every little thing I am doing.  Now, if I am making a new soup, trying something I have never done before, I might have to stop and consciously judge the ingredients and cooking methods in order to have the soup come out right.

We even judge cheese. For example, I can make the judgments “Cheddar is good cheese, it’s tasty.” Or, “Cheddar is bad cheese, it’s boring.”

Cognitive Fusion occurs with shadow judgment.  If I an in shadow judgment, I will be cognitively fused with the judgment, which means I will see my judgment about cheddar as True Reality. There will be no doubt in my mind that my judgment about cheddar is ‘true’ or ‘right’.  I will not see that my cheddar judgment is simply my opinion. “I know what’s right. Cheddar cheese is good cheese. That’s the Truth.” This is a shadow judgment.

Now, if I understand how judgment works, if I am conscious, I will not be cognitively fused with my judgment. Instead, I will be defused. This means that I will understand that cheddar is neither good cheese nor bad cheese, it is just cheese. I am aware that the evaluations of “Good” or “Bad” are simply judgments that are based upon my cheddar experiences. Thus, because where I have been, my cheese history, etc., I know that I cannot help judging cheddar one way or another. When I understand judgment, I can consciously know that my cheddar judgment is subjective, not absolute, and is subject to change. “Cheddar cheese is just cheese. I find it to be good, but others might have a different view. Heck, I might have a different view tomorrow.” This is an example of conscious judgment.

Conscious judgment allows us to hold a flexible either-or/both-and perspective, seeing both sides as possible views. Shadow judgment creates a rigid fusion which sees one perspective as true and any other perspective as false.

When we are caught in shadow judgment processes, we are unaware that it is our perspective that is creating our reaction in the present moment. We think something ‘Real’ (like ‘bad cheese’) is causing our experience.  We do not realize that it is our shadow judgment that is creating our reaction to reality.  What this means is that shadow judgment causes us to see the source of our experience as outside of ourselves instead of as inside ourselves. “That cheese ruined my day. It disappointed me. I got angry because of the cheese.”

What happens if we are shadow-judging ourselves or other people, instead of judging cheese? Here is where this work becomes a very powerful key to freedom.

Imagine the different private experiences we might have while holding these shadow judgments as Absolute Reality:

I am bad/ I am good
I am nice/ I am mean
I am beautiful/ I am ugly
I am a failure/ I am success
I am cursed/ I am blessed
I am sexually defective/ I am sexually wonderful
I am right/ I am wrong

One’s self image is, in essence, an image created from compiling judgments about the self. When we are initially forming a self image, when we are young, we form a lot of our self image based on how we perceive others judge us, and we figure this out by how they treat us. If we get a lot of praise and positive feedback from our family and the world around us, we will often have a pretty positive image of ourselves. The opposite is true as well, of course.

Many of the judgments about our self image are shadow judgments.

We like to think well of ourselves—it feels a lot better than thinking poorly of ourselves. When we think about who we are when we are judging ourselves, we tend to put the pretty aspects of ourselves in the foreground and minimize the uglier aspects.

However, when we believe that cultivating our self image is the key to happiness, what we fail to consider is that no judgment can ever encompass the whole truth. Any judgment is always simply one person’s perspective. That means no self concept is the whole truth and no concept about another person is the whole truth—they are simply perspectives. Likewise, how another person judges us is simply a perspective about us, it is not the whole truth. Everything you and I think is a perspective.

Let’s go back to cheddar cheese. If we understand that cheddar is really neither good nor bad, we won’t have any reason to react strongly one way or another when it shows up in our life. However, if we really believe/judge that cheddar is either awesome or that it is the worst cheese on earth, then we can easily get elated or upset if we hear that someone is planning on serving cheddar. A strong shadow judgment elicits a strong reaction.

Thus, a strong shadow judgment traps us in our reactionary mind. Our reactionary mind is a product of our history and culture, it is programmed and automatic, it is not conscious; it cannot, therefore, ever be free.

When we are shadow-judging, we are reacting blindly ac cording to our judgment. We are not free when we shadow-judge; we are prisoners of our minds. To be free, we must let go of clinging to ANY perspective, any judgment, as if it were the sum total of truth.

Here’s a big clue about the work we all need to do: Strong reactions are like big bright flashing neon arrows pointing inward to our shadow judgments. If we react strongly to someone or to some situations, there is probably shadow judgment at work. Our strong reactions do not tell us much about the other person or situation, in reality, but they tell us a tremendous amount about our shadow judgments.

Bottom line: If you want to be free you must be aware of and deal effectively with your shadow judgments.

Not positive, not negative, just neutral, in the middle.

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