Getting the Best out of Our Negative Judgments

Miriam Dyak & Cassandra Cosme De Pree

Our negative judgments can show up suddenly when we encounter a total stranger and realize they're not playing by our rules. How dare they?! Or it might be something that bugs us over and over again in a long term relationship, sort of like an itch we know we shouldn't scratch but somehow just can't leave alone. There it is again, that same thing that always just gets me about my spouse even though I know him well enough to realize it's not something he's doing on purpose to attack or injure me... easy to say, but not easy to feel!


Miriam's story: One of my perennial irritations is being interrupted, and since I'm married to a person who comes from a family where everybody talks all at once, interrupting happens a lot. I kept on flaring up again and again when my sentence or story got hijacked until one day I realized, "Wait a minute! I interrupt myself all the time. I'm always distracted, starting on one task and dropping it for another, stopping my work to help someone else. My husband interrupting me is just the last straw on top of all the ways I interrupt myself!" No wonder I felt so vulnerable to interruption, plus add to that my family background of interruption being seen as deep disrespect rather than an enthusiastic joining in the conversation. And that's actually typical for a lot of people. We often can't abide something coming at us from the outside when we're already maxed on the inside.


I started to think more about this... what was I missing? I was really good at listening, but not so good at making myself heard. I actually could use a little bit of my husband's ability to dive into the conversation and take the space for what hewanted to say instead of always depending on everyone else being quiet so I could express myself. Bingo! Maybe my judgments – “He's rude, disrespectful, doesn't care about me, isn't interested in what I have to say” - were really like one of those gritty little irritants in an oyster that ultimately create a pearl of understanding. Not a comfortable process for me or for the oyster, but I'm a whole lot more respectful of myself these days and a lot less annoyed with him.


Cassandra's story: My judgment was with a partner as well, but I must admit, I also held the same judgments of other people, which is often quite typically the case. I my partner to be "lazy and irresponsible," and I had lots of evidence to back this up! I thought he rarely noticed that things needed to be done around the house and when he would do a job, sometimes he'd even leave it half done and take a break. This was literally shocking, unbelievable to "me." And, because I just couldn't stand to see a job left incomplete, I would often step in and finish the job he started.


As a mother of six children, I was super responsible and hard working and proud of it! I had learned to prevent the inevitable build up of chaos by jumping in and handling anything the moment I saw a need. I was the type of person who would almost grab a glass out of a person's hand to whip it into the dishwasher so there would be no accumulation or mess. You might imagine that my partner and kids thought me a bit uptight and a clean freak. You would be right.


When I began to work with my judgment, the first thing I became of aware of was my own primary selves - the parts of my personality that were mainly running my life. I had a strong pusher, a very responsible, and beneath these selves was a very frightened inner child who was afraid and overwhelmed by all of those children I had given birth to, and terrified by the huge responsibility for their very lives.


I eventually realized how my pusher and responsible mother always jumped in to make sure that any hint of brewing chaos was immediately eradicated, so that my inner vulnerable child would feel safer in the “jungle” she often felt around her. I rarely, if ever, actually experienced my vulnerable child - I wasn't even aware of her. My primary selves were so on top of their job and jumped in to take care of everything so quickly, I had no clue what was going on underneath. My own kids thought I was an uptight drill sergeant who was always on duty and who rarely allowed them to have fun and chill out. Neither they nor I ever saw me as vulnerable. my judgment of my partner, "He's Lazy and Irresponsible!" I encountered my disowned selves. Right before my very eyes was this person who took breaks from work whenever he wanted, could easily let messes build up and seemingly not notice them nor feel the urge to do anything about them - he would even read a book or take naps during the day! He also put in a tremendous amount of time on what he called "working on his business" which from my primary selves' perspective looked more like surfing the net. The more he relaxed, the harder I worked or tried to get him to work. As you can imagine this was not was not very pleasant for either of us.


When at long last I realized the benefits of what my partner's way of being in the had to offer (the ways that I had rejected), I began a process of gradually welcoming some of his approach into my life in manageable doses. At one point I decided that I was going to learn how to take a break and read a magazine (without it being bedtime). It felt so unnatural to relax in the middle of the day that I actually had to set a timer to remind myself that it was time to take a break, and then I would have to set it again so I would read the magazine for 20 minutes and not jump up to clean something or make a phone call. You get the idea.



This judgment of my partner has been one of my greatest teachers and I have worked with aspects of it for years. First of all, it made me more aware of myself, my values, what kind of person I was trying to be that is to say, it made me aware of which parts of my personality were in charge of living my life. I was already very aware that my partner's behavior really irritated me and that I wanted nothing to do with that kind of "lazy, irresponsible behavior," but it was a big awakening to realize there could actually be a positive side to that. What a shock to realize I needed some of what he had!


Understanding this and working with my judgment has been a life saver, bringing me greater balance and choice, more relaxation and self care, the ability to focus and spend more time on my business, better boundaries and greater respect for other's boundaries, the ability to live with more chaos and perhaps most importantly, more connection and relationship with my body and with my vulnerable child. And last, but not least, I began to understand and value my partner's way of being in the world.


I am deeply appreciative of the many wonderful shifts that have come out of my judgment of my partner's annoying behavior!




The dance of our inner selves in relationship (both the parts of us that we love and are proud of and the behaviors in other people that we can’t stand) can be discouraging and quite painful unless we learn how to move out of our old dance steps and begin to embrace the balancing gift of what others have to offer us.


Join us February 28 in Seattle for “When Valentines Go Bad – Getting the Best out of the Worst in Relationships!” We’ll spend a wonderful afternoon together learning an easy-to-use tool for getting past what bugs you in relationship to find the gift buried underneath. What this is about. Tickets