Have you ever felt harshly judged by an inner critic, a friend or a family member? Or have you hoped a person close to you would care more about you, show interest in what makes you tick, or simply trust you more for who you are? We can look for love in vain and lose our joy because of blame and labels. Or we can love ourselves and care for others without blame and enjoy wellbeing beyond our dreams! We choose daily between grace with loving-kindness that wages peace, and judgements with cruel labels that wage war!
It starts with a question whenever we feel judged. What practical lesson can I take from this accusation in order to grow and improve through loving-kindness? To address this question, we refuse blame. We don’t judge ourselves or others. We separate our inner worth from lessons we choose to learn and skills we continue to hone. We exchange inner critic to create inner caregiver! Self worth and inner value comes from growth we engage actively when hard times hit, and we grow grit and access grace in the process.
Not that it’s easy, and it’s rarely instant. We all feel judgement’s stings most when we feel blamed for something we didn’t do, we apologized for sincerely, or we no longer feel guilty about because we genuinely tried to reconcile. We also all judge others and blame ourselves unfairly at times. When difficult times teach us to separate out what we can change and at the same time, see ourselves as alive with possibility and worthy of wonder, we grow beyond our inner critic’s reach.
The fact is that judging one another and labeling ourselves harshly is a learned behavior and our brain alone is not always a help to stop the misery. How so? It turns out that each time we give into blame’s wizardry, we lay down new neural connections in our chemical and electrical circuitry for more accusations and more self-righteousness. Ouch!
Oh, and sadly it can get worse. Along with our stored fault finding experiences we stockpile in our brain’s basal ganglia, we also file labels and lived experiences of judgment there. That includes blame, guilt, fault-finding, blameworthy rants, liability, denunciation of others and so on. Not that our basal ganglia storehouse is stacked with sheer misery. When we practice self-worth, we store laughter, forgiveness, risk-taking, deep friendships that last, and feelings of happiness, hope and healing.
It’s both brainpower for mastery of ethical practices at times and yet it’s also sadly our slave master to cynical opposites. Unless we understand our brain’s equipment at work, we can easily fall into our basal ganglia’s propensity for ruts and miss any zest for rejuvenation, grace and wellbeing. How so?
Our brain’s basal ganglia opens wonderful windows of solidarity and kindness toward others without judgement, every time we side-step judgement in favor of unconditional care for all humanity and for ourselves. Over time, it’s the reason some people tend to love humanity in spite of wrinkles, wrongs or weaknesses we all bring. Think of the basal ganglia as a built-in memory system that nudges us to act in previously stored ways.
When we reach for an object without much effort or step up stairs without having to think about each step, we can thank our basal ganglia’s built-in memory for movement. The opposite is also true, when we criticize others, for instance, we can also blame our basal ganglia’s stubborn resistance to remove that cynic’s trait we stored in our mental toolkit, through repeated criticism about ourselves or others.
While we still have much to learn, science is shedding light on how a basal ganglia can work for more mind-bending performances such as care and kindness:
In contrast, choices to empathize and show compassion that we act on will mean we store remarkable memories rather than horrific past judgements.
Consider these opposites for joy or judgements alive within our basal ganglia toolkit:
— It provides us with stored facts to succeed one day and locks us into rigid ruts the next.
— It holds invaluable traditions with one move and shuts out rejuvenation with the next.
— Its routines that add reliability today, often prevent peak performance possibilities tomorrow.
— It helps us to override fear with old habits, but then creates fear from standstill stagnation.
— It can collaborate with working memory in the long run, yet compete with memory in the short.
— It leaves us solid and predictable one day, and seemingly unable to improve our mercy the next.
— It offers us lifetime friendships on one hand, yet prevents new relationships on the other.
— It gives us enjoyment of music with one stroke, while locking out new genres with the next.
— It leaves us as faithful colleague on one day, yet can render us inflexible soon after.
— It maintains our mastery in care giving skills, and prevents us from learning other skills needed.
While it offers us a level of comfort from the ease of familiarity, the brain’s basal ganglia is also a great hindrance to growth people crave and grace that inner peace or joy requires. Remove it and we’ll likely take off for work naked, if we remember how to get there at all. Fall prey to it’s lack of change, and stored judgements, and we may find ourselves locked into dangerous racism, sexism and other one-sided views or practices picked up over time, and without much reflection.
Check out this video for another look at our basal ganglia. Where are we today, in relation to our brain’s basil ganglia? Quick to forgive ourselves and slow to judge others?
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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset