Reducing Emotional Distress By Becoming Nonjudgmental

This is a concept that is being used in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to treat Borderline Personality Disorder. We all are guilty of being judgmental about situations, people, and events. When we are in pain, the hurt, fear and anger tend to make person judgmental. However, if we practice not to pass judgment, we can eventually reduce the intensity of our pain. The reason we become judgmental is because of our bringing up. We constantly hear from our parents, “That was good.” That was terrible.” “That jerk made me angry.” Hearing judgments like these make us internalize the habit of judging and we grow up doing this automatically when we encounter situations. When we pass negative judgments, it gives us painful emotions. Judgment actually triggers the anger. In therapy, clients are taught to be nonjudgmental and it helps in reducing emotional pain. Judgments actually add to a person’s emotional distress load.
Try to notice when you are facing strong emotions and immediately check your thoughts and see if you can identify any judgments that you are passing on to the person, object or event. In DBT,clients are given mindfulness exercises to increase the awareness of their thoughts and emotions. People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder have difficulty doing the mindfulness exercises because they tend to obsess on their thoughts. However, the more they try to resist the thought, the more they struggle so the best thing is to just observe the thought, and not judge it or push it away. Just acknowledge its presence.
When we pass judgment, we actually do not help the situation because we tend to be general and not specific. Suppose we tell the child that he is” sluggish” but we ignore the specific sluggish behaviors and do not point them out. The child will not be able to learn which behavior to modify in order to be not sluggish. Labeling does not help. However, when you are nonjudgmental, you are more likely to be effective in your communication and the child will hear which behavior to modify specifically.
We also tend to pass judgments on ourselves and beat ourselves up. This can also add load to your emotional distress. When you berate yourself by calling yourself “hopeless”, “failure,” you are verbally abusing yourself. This habit can lower your self esteem and give rise to painful emotions. Overtime, it becomes a habit and it is hard to break bad habits. In order to be less self critical, try to cultivate the habit of not being critical of others. It is easier to catch yourself doing this than evaluating your own judgments about self. Because when you begin to notice your judgments about others, you will automatically become aware of your automatic self judgments.
Because we tend to pass judgments on others, our interpersonal relations become dependent on these. The more critical you become of others, the more distance will be created in your relationships .On the contrary, if you reduce judging others, it will have a positive impact on your relationships In order to become nonjudgmental, it is important to become aware of the language we use when we evaluate people, situations and events.
Being more nonjudgmental does not mean that you have to become passive and tolerate injustice from others. It means to become more assertive and be more specific in your communication. The goal is to become neutral versus becoming positive or negative. You might argue that being positive is a good thing but think about it. If you judge a person and give a positive label, you will believe that this relationship is “good.” However, if this person does something wrong, you will judge this relationship as “lousy” Therefore, it is better if you stick to the facts. In every relationship, there are ups and downs so when you focus on the matter of facts, you are less likely to be disappointed and have emotional pain.
In order to be nonjudgmental there are two things to remember, according to Ms. Sheri Van Dijk, MSW: 1, what are the facts of the situation and 2, what emotion you are trying to express. When your child is being lazy, rather than saying, you are “sluggish” tell him that sleeping in is the behavior you are referring to. Then express your feelings with an “I” statement, “I feel disappointed when you are late for your school because you sleep in and do not get ready in time.” This way, the child will hear your specific feelings and become aware of the specific behavior versus hearing a label attached to his personality. Another example is– we all get frustrated when the car ahead of us is driving too slow for the speed limit. Instead of calling this driver a name like idiot or jerk, replace it with a nonjudgmental statement like,” I am feeling annoyed because this guy is driving so slow.” In order to become more non judgmental, it will be good to adopt a new vocabulary and use words like ”necessary”,” appropriate” and “inappropriate”, ”helpful”, “unhelpful” as opposed to using strong labels like “stupid,” “jerk,” and “total failure”
In other words, it will be helpful to become compassionate towards others and yourself. In this way we see that judging the other person, situation, or an event is like adding fuel to your existing emotions. Being non judgmental will help you have a positive impact on your relationship. When we judge others, we believe that our judgments are true and we remove ourselves from reality. We lose our objectivity and become biased by our own perception of the situation. It is just the matter of becoming more conscious of our judgments, slowly, you will become good at being non judgmental and it will become easier. New habits can be internalized with practice. When emotions are intense, it will be hard to be nonjudgmental. But when you observe your thoughts you will become more aware of your judgments. Have patience with yourself and do not judge yourself when you judge others. Just be aware of your thoughts that are present.
Hypnosis can also help reduce emotional distress by offering powerful and positive suggestions to the subconscious mind in a hypnotic trance.

Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.

Reference: Calming The Emotional Storm by Sheri Van Dijk, MSW


  1. Rhonda Carr said:

    I would just like to say that I love this thought process. I work with special needs children. This way of speaking to them is so important. Instead of saying “you are bad” or even “you are good” it is so important to point out the behavior you liked or didn’t like so that they understand what to do/not do the next time. I really liked this post..

    September 19, 2015
  2. Rekha said:

    Thanks for your comment. I agree with you. Being a teacher, you are probably more aware of what judgements can do to a child. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

    September 24, 2015

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