The Judge Within

My new job with Met allowed me to go on a tour of Delta levees yesterday.  After a quick orientation at the Old Sugar Mill we boarded the bus to leave.  And as we all settled in I saw someone dashing from a car in the parking lot and scrambling onto the bus and then I recognized him--Erik Vink.  I have not seen Erik is over a year.   At the first stop I approach him and he gives me a big hug and says, “I thought you were in New Zealand!”  Over the course of the day, in the gaps between levee presentations, we caught up. I have known Erik since my days at the UC Agricultural Issues Center.  Looking it up on my resume, that is since 1988 or ’89.  We have never been very close.  He is better friends with my friends Cher and Anita; however, we know each other well enough that he remembered to ask about Tevis and Sarah and I asked about his Dad.  We also have Ag Leadership in common (he was in the class before me).

He asked good questions about why I went to New Zealand and if I might go back.  He spent 2 months riding his bike all over New Zealand in the 1980s so he has a better idea than some about the place.   Since shockingly few people express any interest in why I went to New Zealand, it was pleasant to share the internal journey that led me to move, then come back, and possibly to move there again.  It was the Readers’ Digest version, yet a helpful reminder to myself about the distance I have travelled both literally and figuratively.

This morning my journey was brought back to me again full stop.  I am reading Soul Without Shame by Byron Brown.  This is a book I bought over a year ago with my executive coach Marj Plumb’s recommendation and found when I was going through boxes marked “books for New Zealand, second priority.”  (Now that I know how expensive it is to ship books everything takes on a different priority.)

I am finding the book very helpful.  It might have been more helpful if I read it when she recommended it to me.  Somehow, with her help and the CTI Leadership program, I figured out how to quiet my inner judge.  Essentially, the way I understand it, we (all?) have an inner judge that works to protect us and to maintain the status quo or emotional equilibrium. While, the judge is part of us, and wants to protect us, he/she doesn’t always speak the truth or advocate for our best interest.   My inner judge was having a crippling effect on me and it came to a head in the third retreat of the CTI Leadership program.

The inner judge plays a major role when I am triggered.  Someone might say something seemingly innocuous to me, like my Board president observing a fact, “This year’s budget depends on securing $250,000 of grants that we do not yet have committed.”  And my inner judge(s) can start speaking up.  “She doesn’t believe you can raise that money. You are not sure you can either.  You have a sketchy track record with money.  You are irresponsible with money.  This may result in you getting fired.” And so on.  (Actually, my inner judge doesn’t even have to say all of those things—just the first couple--because I am so conditioned I know all of the rest is implied.)

The judge has power because I believe some “truths” about myself that are rich with emotional associations.  A comment can send me underwater into that emotion and I am no longer reacting to my board president’s statement but to all of the emotion.  I can become defensive or say something equally inappropriate, and my poor board president is wondering what she said.  After all, she stated a fact.

I have been on both sides of this exchange—both triggering others and being triggered.  It has been a huge gift to become aware of how this process works in myself and others.  It has quieted many of the judges, because like the Ridiculous Charm in Harry Potter, once you see the Judge in the cool light of day it is somewhat laughable and it loses its persuasive power.  Quelling my judges has also made possible to make some big changes in my life:  selling everything and moving across the world, moving back to Sacramento and living in the “waiting room” until…?

In my job I am also using these skills to listen with some detachment and avoid getting triggered by others, and seeing their triggers. I still have a way to go.  It was lovely yesterday to review and mull over my journey and feel some sense of satisfaction that I am on my path and growing in the right direction.