Why It’s OK to Blame, Judge, & Envy Others – Name It to Tame It

 In Better Life, Negative emotions

What’s my instant reaction when I can’t find my car keys? — Who took my keys?!

Now I actually laugh at this voice in my head because, of course, I know that no one took them. I just misplaced them. But my instincts quickly kick in, wanting to blame someone. Have you ever had an immediate reaction to accuse someone of doing something and in the next instant realized there was no one to blame but yourself? 

How about feeling envious? Maybe your friend just bought a new phone— the one you’ve been wanting. You want to feel happy for them, but you also notice some envy creeping in. I want their phone!

And then there’s judging. How often do we make instant judgments about people based on their clothes, car, the way they look or walk. That person looks weird, lazy, stuck-up, or whatever impression we have.

It wasn’t until recently that I’ve learned that these are all normal reactions. Some of us have them more than others, but they are part of how we’re wired, our instincts, and our training. If we pretend we don’t feel these emotions because we think it makes us a bad person, then we actually lose some of our control over them. We may still unconsciously do or say something because of how we’re feeling.

But if we acknowledge envy, judgment, blame, etc. and name our emotions, they lose their power more quickly. “Name it to tame it” is a tool that can help us get information from our emotions instead of letting them control us. This term was first coined by author and psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel.  

When we use words to describe our emotions, it helps activate the reasoning part of our brain and calms down our emotional limbic brain. Now we have the opportunity to choose – is it a good idea to voice or act on our envy, blame, or judgment? Is there information in this reaction or should we shift away from this thought?

Some approaches that have worked for me include thinking,

How funny that my reaction is to blame someone for this, or

There goes my brain again, judging others, or

How interesting that I’m feeling envious.

Give it a try! See if you can catch yourself feeling envy, judgment, blame or another negative emotion towards someone. Try the “Name it to tame it” approach and see how it works for you.

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