- Paula Jeffrey
Shift Judgment to Curiosity
Last week, I posted in honour of #WorldMentalHealthDay on instagram. I posted it with a quote, spoken by Karen Ridd at the University of Winnipeg, which has stuck with me ever since: Shift Judgment to Curiosity. When I first heard it, it was in reference to conflict resolution, but over time it has become a self care mantra for myself.
The very nature of Mental Illness can be very self-consuming and judgmental. As I have struggled with anxiety in my life, I have identified that it can be so easy to sit into your own suffering, dwell on it, analyze it, and spiral around what you are currently feeling. It is even easier to judge yourself and be very unkind towards your own suffering.
“I am being lazy”
“I should get out of bed”
“I should take the dog for a walk” “I didn’t do enough today”
“I am wrong for letting this take over me”
Everyone on social media could post their tips in cute graphics, suggest ideas for self care, tell me to take a walk or work out or eat better. But when mental health is suffering, laying in bed and eating comfort foods is much more appealing, and sometimes that’s what we need.
Over many years, I have sought help through talk therapy, EMDR, friends and family, and most of all: Homeopathy. All those venues have gotten me to a place where I can focus on the prevention of mental health breakdowns and continue healing the judgments that have settled in my brain. I still have bad days, bad moments, and I still catch myself judging; but every day I choose to shift judgment to curiosity.
This past week, I woke up Tuesday morning feeling the after effects of Thanksgiving, and the New Moon. It drained me, I didn’t eat well, I didn’t sleep enough, I committed to too many engagements. That Tuesday morning, it caught up with me and I had no motivation, I was tired, and I was anxious. It would have been easy to stay in bed all day (and I almost did), but I checked in and identified: I was tired, I was drained, and I was hungry (for healthy food). I shifted judgment to curiosity.
I stopped identifying all the things I should be doing and what I was “failing at” and I took a step back to identify my feelings. In practice, I often ask patients if they feel a particular emotion in their body, many initially say “no”, but then look off to the side and start thinking. Many come back with a definite “You know what, I feel it in my chest/my throat/my stomach”. As we explore this sensation and shift judgment to curiosity, healing begins.
In my own life, in moments of stress, anxiety, anger, or even joy. I try to consciously take a moment to ask myself the following questions:
🌱Where do I feel my current emotion in my body?
🌱What does it feel like?
And then, I sit into that physical manifestation and allow it to happen; I accept my emotion. If I find any of those steps difficult, I may opt to write it down and do a quick journal. If I can’t connect emotion to my body, I check in to see if theres any seemingly random physical pains and sit into those - more often then not, the mind-body connection follows.
So I checked in. My head was heavy and foggy with fatigue, I felt achey in my joints because I didn’t walk my dog the last couple of days, and I was hungry! I didn’t even notice how hungry I was!
Usually at this point, I’m able to better identify what my body needs to heal in that moment: a nap, a walk, a good meal, a day off, a visit with a friend. My earlier judgments may shift to curiosities that may lead to solutions…
“Am I overtired? Maybe I need a nap”
“Am I burnt out? Maybe I need some restorative yoga”
“Did I eat properly this weekend? Maybe I need a more nourishing meal”
“Did I overwork last week? Maybe I need this morning to recover before diving in this afternoon”
Now, let’s be real, this isn’t going to magically fix everything, but shifting judgment to curiosity can be a way to exercise kindness towards yourself. Treat yourself how you would treat a little kid.
Shifting judgment to curiosity can help see the forest through the trees (the big picture).
Shifting judgment to curiosity can help you step outside of yourself and work with your body and emotions instead of against it.
So on that Tuesday morning, after checking in and identifying my physical emotions. I dragged my butt out of bed and did yoga, which relaxed my mind enough to nap, and then I made a veggie loaded stir fry. I took my dog for his (my) regular lunch time walk and slowly started to feel me again. But the most important part of my day was accepting my state and allowing it to happen. By afternoon, I had taken care of myself and was ready to commit to some of my work for the day.
How can you listen to your body better? What is it asking for today? Check in and leave a comment, maybe you'll inspire someone!
In good health,