During the past three days, attending a group psychotherapy conference, I witnessed people doing their best to let go of old patterns of judgment that get in the way of love — love of self and love of others.
But isn’t love ALSO a kind of judgment? Isn’t love just an extreme form of … like?
When we say, “I like this” and “I don’t like this” … isn’t that the essence of judgment? For example, when I’ve done mindfulness exercises with people, I’ve asked people to observe their likes and dislikes — of a piece of music, a painting, a shell, etc. — to let go of those likes and dislikes as much as possible, and just be present with the object.
But it’s our nature to judge, isn’t it?
I know it’s my nature, for sure, no matter what the title of this blog.
For example, I really liked this sock that Suzanne — another conference attendee — showed me yesterday:
When I told, Suzanne, yesterday, that I wanted to include that sock she’s knitting in this blog, she immediately put it on, with pride.
Which reminds me of one of the most helpful moments of the three-day weekend — this exchange between me and a group leader:
Me: I know that a typical pattern for me, in a group, is to engage quickly (opening my arms wide — in a Ta-Da! gesture) and then, at some point, to withdraw (drawing myself in, and looking down).
Group Leader: Why not try pride, instead of shame?
But in order to have pride (or love) — for ourselves and others — don’t we need to make some judgment about worth? And by making a judgment, can’t we easily flip into the other side of that: judging ourselves and others negatively?
I don’t know if I’m going to figure this all out today, before I leave for work, but I would like to tell you about some other highlights, from the conference:
- Standing in a crowded room, alone, observing others interacting socially, and truly believing it was okay for me to just stand there, without having anybody by my side to talk to.
- Dancing with an old friend, in a hallway, as his cell phone was playing “Dance with Me,” and not caring what other people might think.
- Meeting somebody new, and learning from her that it was okay (and even beautiful) to take up space, even if you might feel stigmatized for your difference and your status within the group.
- Being reminded you don’t have to see and hear everything, in order to learn.
- Realizing, again, that it’s okay to be messy:
Thanks to Suzanne, Joe, and all the other teachers and learners at the NSGP annual conference; to Orleans (not the Little River Band) for “Dance With Me”; to people who do their best to let go of old and unhelpful patterns; to those who experience love, pride, and other human emotions; and to you — of course! — for visiting today.