My ex-husband and I were together for 18 years. He’d always said he wanted to have one child someday; I’d always said I didn’t. Though most couples wouldn’t marry with such an uncompromisable issue between them, we forged ahead. I think we both thought the other would eventually budge.

During our many years together, we had countless discussions about the topic. I harbored a deep fear that my unwillingness to parent could result in my losing him and the safe, peaceful life we’d built together. When the topic of parenting reared its ahead, rather than reveal the depths of my fear — the gut-wrenching pain I knew I’d experience if I were to lose him — I often judged his desire to have a child, telling him it was ridiculous. I’d outline in great detail all the ways he wasn’t thinking it through. I’d say he was underestimating the toll parenting would take on our finances, our relationship, our freedom, and our stress levels. I’d remind him that he’d never been a good juggler, that he wasn’t financially responsible enough, and that he didn’t have any patience for a less-than-spotless home. I’d cut his long-held dream right down to size. It was easier to judge his dream as silly than to sink into the terror of losing my very best friend, which I eventually did.

I might be unusual for not wanting to parent, but my use of judgment to avoid deep-rooted pain is pretty common, according to #1 New York Times best-selling author, Gabrielle Bernstein, whose latest book, Judgment Detox, helps you “release the beliefs that hold you back from living a better life.”

“We use judgment to insulate ourselves from the pain of feeling inadequate, insecure, or unworthy,” she remarks. “It’s a reliable little crutch when we feel hurt or vulnerable. When we judge, we feel better than others in some way — smarter, savvier, more enlightened, healthier, wealthier, or just more with-it. It’s easier to make fun of, write off, or judge someone for a perceived weakness of theirs than it is to examine our own sense of lack.”

While judgment of self and others is surely ages old, Gabrielle says we’re particularly prone to it these days. “Our divided political views are at an all-time high,” she notes, “and the separation is felt throughout the world. Many people have retreated into their corners and are constantly defending against attacks and attacking back. We’ve forgotten our commonality. We focus on what separates us.”

The preponderance of social media isn’t helping matters. “Every time we turn to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, the judgment cycle begins,” she continues. “Social media makes us judge others and judge ourselves. We scroll through images and posts and immediately begin comparing ourselves to others and judging their views and choices. The opportunity to judge is constantly at our fingertips.”

Gabrielle insists we don’t realize how much energy and effort it takes to engage in judgment, comparisons, attacks, and put-downs. “These things drain us,” she says. They weaken our immune systems, block our compassion, limit or ruin our relationships, and leave us feeling sad and alone.”

Old habits, however, can be hard to break. The more we repeat judgment patterns, the more we believe in them. Breaking the habit of judgment requires changing our core beliefs. “Our aim is find our way back home,” Gabrielle notes, “to find our way back to love.”

Her prescription is a Judgment Detox, a six-step interactive practice she created that incorporates spiritual principles from A Course in Miracles, Kundalini Yoga, meditation, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), and metaphysical teachings.

Witnessing our judgment without judgment is where she suggests everyone begin. “Start by getting intimate with your judgment,” she notes. “Identify the triggers underneath it and get honest about how it makes you feel.” Gabrielle guides “Judgment Detoxers” to uncover incidents in their pasts that sparked their judgmental behavior in an effort to understand how all judgment is ultimately born from a disowned part of their shadow selves. “This authentic audit of your behavior is a necessary first step,” she says. “Without it, you can’t move onto the next phase of healing. The spiritual path to clearing judgment begins with your honest inventory.”

Another practice that can supposedly quell judgment is EFT, or the practice of manually tapping on specific energy meridians that run throughout the body. In so doing, the amygdala (the almond-shaped structure in the brain that controls autonomic responses associated with fear, arousal, and emotional stimulation) calms down. “When the amygdala gets the message that it’s safe to relax,” Gabrielle explains, “a major shift can occur in your emotional state. I’ve created specific scripts to address many of our most common trigger issues. As you tap on the specific meridians, you’ll be guided to address certain emotions that come up around your stress, which will help you heal the triggers, wounds, and traumas that live underneath your judgments.”

Gabrielle says one simple thing we can do right away to detox from judgment is change the subject as soon as we realize we’re sitting in judgment of ourselves or another. “Recognize that your judgment doesn’t serve you or the world,” she says, “and ask yourself what the compassionate response would be instead. Or be silent in the midst of other people’s judgment and gossip. Your silence is extremely powerful, and it begins the process of the Judgment Detox journey.”

The goal of a Judgment Detox isn’t to get rid of judgment altogether; rather, it’s to heal its root cause. Gabrielle promises that committing to her six-step process begins to dissolve judgment, pain, and suffering. “Petty resentments disappear,” she says. “Compassion replaces attack. We reconnect with our loving nature and feel an incredible sense of peace and freedom. We recognize our oneness with others.”

Bolstered by a sense of oneness, we can then begin to release our resistance to love. “When you’re in harmony with love, you receive more of what you want,” Gabrielle concludes. “Your energy attracts its likeness. When you shift your energy from defensive judgment to free-flowing love, your life gets awesome. You’ll attract exactly what you need. Your relationships will heal. Your health will improve, and you’ll feel safer and more secure. One loving thought at a time creates a miracle.”

Originally published by Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health