Part 2 of 2
By Jane Mobille, PCC
Why is it that some people have such strong Judges, and others don’t? The Judge forms in childhood as a survival technique. In my client Anne’s case*, her particular combination of personality and childhood trauma led her to develop a very strong Judge. Motivated by fear, the Judge functions as our brain’s saboteur by creating negative emotion, and as a consequence, the stress hormone cortisol, as it relentlessly judges ourselves, others, and our circumstances.
Anne asked me if I could help her weaken her Judge. I nodded yes. Then I said, “May I lead you through a 2-minute mindfulness exercise?”
She looked surprised, then said, “Sure.”
“OK. Get comfortable in your chair. Take a few deep breaths.” Slight pause. “Now close your eyes. Place your thumb and index finger of one hand on your other hand’s wrist. Feel your wrist bones.” Pause. “Gently move the skin that covers your wrist bones up and down and back and forth. Feel the sensations.” Longer pause. “Now place your index finger on top of your wrist and slowly move it. Feel the texture of your skin.” Pause. …. “When you are ready, open your eyes.”
I opened my own eyes and looked intently at Anne. “How do you feel?”
“I am trying to figure that out. More relaxed, for sure.”
“Well, I have never really thought about my wrist bones.” She smiles.
I laughed. “How has your energy shifted or not, compared to four minutes ago?”
“I feel like… like I was walking with my knapsack on my back, and I stopped to take out a few things. It weighs less now, and I have a new spring in my step.”
Now I smiled. “I agree. I can say the same! Any idea how it is that we both experienced this energy shift?”
“Not really. But it seems that my Judge has disappeared. Interesting.”
I explained to Anne that by focusing on one of her five senses (sight, touch, smell, taste, hearing), she had moved to her pre-frontal lobes, the part of her brain which is home to positive emotion. The trick is to be able to do it in real time. No matter what the situation – we can build our mental fitness so that we are more likely to choose to respond with positive emotion. Neuroscience and MRIs have brought us to a point where we can say with certainty that we can strengthen or weaken our neural pathways if we use them more or less.
In other words, Anne can build up her brain’s self-command ‘muscle’; so that when she receives an ‘alert’ that something ‘bad’ is occurring, and her Judge shows up with its negative emotion, she can shift to the positive emotion of what Positive Intelligence calls ‘The Sage’.1 Her Sage will discern the situation by having Anne call upon empathy, curiosity, creativity, and/or perspective before choosing to act, or not.
Let’s be clear: building mental fitness is not new. Meditation, yoga, prayer, sport, and mindfulness all produce the ‘happy’ chemicals of positive emotion. Yet I recommended that she try a relatively new phone app from Positive Intelligence. It mixes a daily coaching focus with periodic short mindfulness exercises, to be done throughout the day.
Anne decided she had everything to gain, so she enrolled in Positive Intelligence’s 6-week Program. She has the app on her phone and has been practicing mental fitness daily – in six 2-minute increments – for the past few weeks.
In our most recent coaching session, Anne (who has since found a new job) told me this. “I was angry on Monday. I had too much to do and no resources available to help. Still, I worried what people would think if I didn’t get my work done. My Judge told me that my boss at my old job was right to fire me. Then I thought, ‘Stop it! Enough!’ I did a short mindfulness exercise to calm down. Then I went to my boss with humility and transparency. She listened, and we prioritized together what I should do. I was proud of myself. Two weeks ago, I would have stayed in guilt, fear, and anger all day! And I would not have gone to my boss.”
The more people on a team working in positive emotion, the better the team’s communication, well-being, and performance will be. Yet every team has its ‘Anne’. For companies, organizations, and families that depend on human beings working together optimally for success, the practice of mental fitness – as a way to eliminate in real time the negative energy which sabotages – is most definitely compelling.
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