Sticks and Stones
I have an internal conflict that I need to settle, and what better place than this blog to hash it out? The question that is on my mind and in my heart today is: how does one appropriately handle negative judgment from others?
First, let me clarify what I mean by negative judgment. Once upon a time, negative judgment could have been just about anything. I believe I have come a long way in this department, but it’s clear to me that I have quite a bit further to go, because it is a topic with which I am struggling. In the past, an unreturned phone call, a strange look on someone’s face, a car passing me on a freeway could have all constituted negative judgment. Because, in my paranoid heyday, I could spin tales in my head that the dog walking down the street was thinking negatively of me.
I have come miles and miles from that starting point, and I believe my recovery plays a huge role in this progress. I am definitely more at peace with myself, much, much better at catching myself when projecting thoughts and feelings onto others, and even realizing that the opinions and feelings of others do not have to affect my opinions and feelings.
But, still, there are times…
Judgment can take so many different forms, and the struggles with judgment are certainly not the sole property of alcoholics and addicts. But, to give a few examples of what I mean, I’ll start with recovery. There are those who don’t understand recovery and will wonder aloud, “why can’t you just have one?” Or, “you’ve been doing this for a while now, do you still need to go to meetings?” Or, judgment can take the opposite approach: “it seems like you are not as involved in your 12-step program as you once were, are you sure you’re still doing it right?”
Judgment can affect any other part of my life. I once had a very close family member actually utter the following words to me, as we were talking about my decision to stay home and raise my children: “Don’t you feel like you’re wasting your education?” Yikes.
Hopefully I have illustrated my point on negative judgments. So the question on the table is how to handle when I am feeling judged. And when I say handle, I mean both internally and externally.
Currently, my external approach will vary depending upon who is “launching the attack,” and how sensitive I feel about the subject matter. Internally, my approach is the same: I feel crushed, defeated, which usually quickly translates into anger and resentment that I am feeling attacked.
Since I’ve come far enough along to know that I alone am in control of my thoughts and feelings, I realize that I need to make changes within myself to make this recurring problem go away. But I’ve got to say, as far along as I’ve come, I’m not there yet. If someone accuses me of something, even if my logical mind knows that it is untrue, and probably has more to do with their own problems and insecurities, I still haven’t been able to fully internalize that their shit doesn’t have to become my shit (excuse the vulgarity, it is just the best word I can come up with!).
So the next way I can figure to solve this problem is to look at the alternatives. If I am feeling judged, and obviously for the sake of this discussion the judgment is unfair, then what are my options? As I see it, there are a few:
- I can argue ad infinitum to convince the person that he or she is wrong in this judgment. People reading this who know me personally are laughing right now, because that has been my modus operandi for as long as I can remember. I can say, from repeated personal experience, this option almost never works. I am rarely able to get a concession that satisfies me, and usually I wind up feeling aggravated on top of everything else.
- I can walk away. This alternative can work in some situations, but not all. Certainly not in cases where you live with the “judge,” or where there are actual issues involved that need to be resolved. Walking away has never really sat well with me (see #1 above for more on that), as I usually wind up walking away, stewing about it, and thinking of all the different ways I can return to the scene of the crime and argue my point.
- I can retaliate. I can give as good as I get. If someone is questioning my character, I can fire off similar questions about theirs. This is the option that is almost irresistible when I am in the middle of a skirmish. The problem with this option is that the thrill is very short-lived, and is followed by a lot of guilt and remorse (sounds a lot like addiction, doesn’t it?). Also, as a person in recovery, I am trained to avoid situations where I will have to go back and make amends, so my minds puts a warning signal out the minute I start crafting my zingers.
- This fourth option should be the most well-balanced and reasonable approach, but I’m not sure I’ve got it. Certainly the external would be to avoid options 1, 2 and 3, respond reasonably to whatever needs a response, and possibly to communicate that I am feeling hurt by my perceived judgment. Internally, I guess the best approach is to let it go. Just as my feelings aren’t facts, neither are anyone else’s, so if I am good with myself, then it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If I’m being honest, that sounds like a pipe dream to me.
But maybe this is one of those things in life that I have to work towards a perceived ideal, while realizing that I will never fully attain it? I don’t know, but I do know this… just writing this out has helped center me, so I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to feel better!
Reading back through this post, the miracle today is recognizing the progress I’ve made on this issue. I may have a ways to go, but I’ve come a long way, baby!
Posted on September 19, 2013, in Recovery and tagged Addiction, Debtor, God, Judgement, Judgment debtor, Mind, Philosophy, Recovery, Sobriety, Thought, Twelve-Step Program. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.