I cannot adequately express my thanks for the perspective on life and on myself that Wendy Dolber has helped me awaken to during the past few months. …[ Robert H ] >
Judging Unhappiness[ Mar 30, 2011 ] [ by Wendy Dolber ]
Have you ever been in a roomful of people who appear to be enjoying themselves and wondered why you aren’t. Everyone else seems relaxed and happy, but you feel uncomfortable and out of sorts. You can’t imagine connecting with anybody and you start to wonder what’s wrong with you. Maybe you tough it out for an hour or so, before you migrate to the door and go home to watch some television. Or, maybe you are able to strike up a conversation with someone and find out they feel the same way. Before you know it, you’re talking and sharing and forgetting that you ever felt uncomfortable. The reason why you felt uncomfortable in the first place hasn’t really been solved. But you had the good fortune to be able to share your feelings with someone instead of pushing them aside. This simple sharing opened a door that was ready to swing shut.
This is just one of countless situations where we feel out of sync with our immediate world for any number of reasons. We may experience it at the family dinner table, at a business meeting, the first days of school, in an intimate moment with a friend, or even when we are alone. There may be many practical reasons why we are not connecting in one way or another. We could be in disagreement with what’s being said or done, excluded in some real way, unfamiliar with our surroundings or there may even be a language barrier.
Whatever the reason, when we judge the way we feel as bad – when we say we should be feeling or wanting differently – that we’re bad for ourselves in some way – that’s when we become unhappy. If our discomfort is already the result of emotional issues of any kind, judging ourselves as bad only adds to our burden and our separation. In either case, because we judge ourselves so harshly, it can be difficult to acknowledge our feelings to ourselves. It can be even more difficult to share our feelings with others if we have the opportunity.
In a way, whenever we experience unhappiness of any kind, it’s like being in a roomful of strangers. The very nature of unhappiness in all its manifestations is to judge ourselves as bad in some way – to label ourselves as intrinsically flawed in comparison to the rest of the world. That’s why it can be so powerful to connect with another person in some way. If we can find it in our hearts and minds to dispense with judging unhappiness, we can open the doors to healing for ourselves and others. We can have a real role in unraveling our own unhappiness as well as helping those around us.
The consequences of judging
Think about all the times in your life when you’ve been unhappy in any way and either felt you couldn’t share, or tried to share but were thwarted in some way. How many problems did you hide from your parents when you were a child? How many problems do you hide now? From family and friends or even yourself? There are many reasons, of course, why we might not want to share our feelings with others. But when we judge ourselves, we close the door on the possibility of reaching out when we want to. We stop the conversation before it can even start.
Our judgment is like a veil that obscures our vision, both of ourselves and others. It may be difficult for us to believe that others aren’t also judging us. Even if that were true, that is out of our control. What is within our control is the way we think. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to look at why we are judging ourselves. What aspect of our unhappiness are we judging as bad? Do we actually believe we are bad for being unhappy? What do we really mean by that? What if we didn’t believe that?
Chances are, if we judge our own unhappiness as bad, we are also judging others. Have there been times in your life when you felt annoyed at another’s unhappiness? Have you gotten impatient when your children sulk or your friends seem to be down in the dumps “for no particular reason?” Did you ever feel that you just can’t understand why someone is “self-defeating” or “their own worst enemy”?
These are all examples of judging unhappiness. In our judgment we are saying that the person is wrong to be unhappy because from where we sit, it appears to be unnecessary in some way. While we may believe this, it’s important to know that a person experiencing unhappiness believes just the opposite. If they could actually believe that unhappiness is unnecessary, they wouldn’t be unhappy. If we weren’t judging them, we might be able to help them see that.
We always do the best we can
It isn’t bad to be judgmental. But it closes the door to exploration and discovery. It short-circuits what could be loving exchanges between people. It draws the curtain on healing and understanding. If we want to be more accepting, it can help a lot to remember one very important aspect of unhappiness. When a person is unhappy, they are always doing the very best they can for themselves, according to their own beliefs. We are always doing the best we can. Others are always doing the best they can. If we or they could see another way to think, we would do it. That’s why is so vital to take the step to remove judgment from our attitude about unhappiness. Only when we are free of judgment, can we see the possibilities of thinking differently.