No, really. It’s a real question. Who did you leave in charge? By default, we almost all leave in charge of minding the “store” (our minds) a tyrant. Yep, someone may be watching, but it’s not the Observer. That’s the part of us that watches too but with a neutral stance. It’s usually a very critical Judge, evaluating what we or someone else did wrong.

Sarah is sitting at her computer, staring at the computer screen, but not seeing a thing. She is churning over a conversation she had with her brother last night on the phone. Her mind grinds through detail after detail, trying to find the place it went wrong.  She’s sure she said something that made him feel distant. They used to be so close as kids and it really hurts when she doesn’t feel that old closeness. Sarah is brutal in her examination of what she remembers saying and, truly, she feels horrible. “I am a lousy sister,” she groans.

What is the Judge?

Often called the inner critic, the Judge examines our behaviors and words, often times causing us pain. Becoming aware of our reactivity and our habitual patterns, we may become more aware of another part of our inner world. A part that often operates below the surface or just out of conscious awareness, a part that we often assume is there to help us navigate life. It tells us what is right and wrong, whether we’ve been good or bad. Like an unfriendly version of the Santa Claus of childhood, whether you’ve been naughty or nice. Of course this Santa Claus often judges others as well.

What is the Purpose of the Judge?

The Judge began developing in childhood, right along with the stories of Santa Claus. We listened to a lot of stories about the world and watched more unfold around us during those important years. We learned from our parents, our peers and our culture how to be in the world. We also learned what was out of bounds; what was bad. And this has a purpose. It’s called socializing. We had to learn to get along with those in our environment. But when we’re young, it’s hard, if not impossible, to separate our behavior from who we are. And many of us still have difficulty doing this even as adults. Working with the Judge is a key to experiencing ourselves as something more than our thoughts, words and actions, and more than how we evaluate ourselves (and others).

How do I stop judging?

The first step in working with the Judge is to be aware of it as a function of mind. Becoming aware of the Judge, watching it, we begin to loosen the grip it holds on us. We realize that we are aware of the Judge and can make different choices than it may dictate. We can open to different interpretations of events, of conversations and interactions.

Sarah was still staring at her computer, lost in her thinking, when the phone rang. As if by magic, it was her brother, who usually didn’t call her at work. As she listened, she was shocked to hear her brothers’ words. He called to say that he loved her and that their talks were important to him. And that sometimes he felt sad they couldn’t see each other more often and that this sad feeling often left him feeling uncomfortable and wanting to get off the phone.

Sarah was stunned and totally awake in the present moment now. As she hung up the phone, she wondered how she could have so missed the mark with her interpretation of their earlier conversation. She was relieved and confused. “Why am I so hard on myself?” she wonders.

What does this have to do with the Enneagram?

All Enneagram types have some version of the Judge or inner critic. Some types judge themselves more harshly, while other types judge others more harshly. Whatever version predominates in your type, the other side is often just more hidden, more unconscious but still there. We all judge. Actually, the mind left to its’ habitual nature, that is the mind that is left to operate automatically, is a judgment making machine.

But judgment is important!

There is a difference between judgment and discernment from this point of view. Judgment, as used by the Judge, is about condemning. Discernment is about deciding what you believe, how you want to act, and about which way to direct your attention. It doesn’t make you or someone else wrong or bad. It decides in a more neutral way. It allows for differences and helps guide our way.

It’s scary to question my judgments! I need them!
It’s true that we need guidance. And just the thought of questioning the proclamations made by the Judge can bring up fear. And that’s for good reason. When you really begin questioning all the interpretations and conclusions the Judge makes, you may feel shaky. After all, it’s how you’ve organized your world. This fear or shakiness can be seen as evidence that you’re stretching. That you are willing to move out of the world as you know it, the familiar/known world, into a world that may be different. This naturally brings up an alert in the body.

Did you ever notice that fear and excitement can feel very similar in the body? When you are excited about traveling to a new place, there is a sense of adventure and optimism, and you tell yourself a positive story about the feelings you’re having. Then you call those butterflies in your stomach excitement. When you feel anxious about traveling to a new place, there is a sense of foreboding, and you may wonder if the plane is going to crash or the weather will be lousy or”¦. When you watching from the Observer, when you’re consciously aware, you can change your interpretation!

What is the Observer?

In earlier articles, we’ve covered the idea of developing awareness to help diminish our reactivity and suffering. The Observer, often call the Witness or witnessing consciousness, is a more essential part of who we are. It’s the part that watches the whole play of life. It’s the core of who we are, because all the things we learn in life had to come through being aware of what we are learning. We learned about Santa Claus, what it means to feel happy or sad, because we were aware of those things.

The Observer is seen as neutral because everything arises and then recedes in awareness. You feel happy one moment and then you feel sad. These are different experiences in your body that you are aware of and have learned to call either happiness or sadness. Developing the ability to watch yourself from the Observer position, you can consciously decide how to interpret events rather than to react habitually from the stored memories and beliefs that you’ve developed over the course of your life. From the Enneagram perspective, this is how we begin to go free of the dictates of our type and the dictates of the Judge.

For instance, you are reading this article now. That is what you’ve put your attention on for this time. Attention is awareness in action. You decided to read this article and directed your attention to doing that. Now you could decide to put this article down and make yourself a cup of tea. Or you could just notice how your hands feel. In either case, you are employing the Observer, if you do this consciously. You are aware of moving your attention from one thing to another.

Sarah was driving home from work and suddenly she noticed that her mind was quiet. She realized she wasn’t evaluating anything! It felt good just to notice the scenery, the way the light was golden at the end of the day. She noticed that she felt good. It was a simple feeling, that she was okay. Sarah liked this sweet, peaceful feeling and wished she could feel this way more often.

Over twenty years now I became a Big Sister (like Big Brothers this is the organization that pairs an adult with a young person who is often struggling in some way). The point of this role was to be a supportive, non-judgmental and loving ear to my Little Sister. It doesn’t mean I never told her my opinion but mostly my role was to be a compassionate support for her to bounce her thoughts and feelings off of. When I think of the Observer, I think more of watching my thoughts and feelings with this perspective. I can watch what arises with kindness rather than judgment. I can help myself discern what’s appropriate for me and what’s not. I DO NOT need to condemn myself. And neither do you.

When you find yourself judging yourself or another, you can begin by remembering the function of the Judge and how it developed. You can get a little distance on thinking you are the Judge. You are not! You can soften your stance some and come back to noticing that you are aware of the Judge. You can start being curious and questioning your evaluations. You can start to MINDING YOUR MIND WITH KINDNESS AND UNDERSTANDING.