Dialectical Behavioral Therapy/Core Mindfulness Skills/Non-Judgmentally

Nonjudgmentally and Cognitive Therapy

• See, but don’t evaluate. Take a nonjudgmental stance. Just the facts. Focus on the “what,” not the “good” or “bad,” the “terrible” or “wonderful,” the “should” or “should not.”

• Unglue your opinions from the facts, from the “who, what, when, and where.”

• Accept each moment, each event as a blanket spread out on the lawn accepts both the rain and the sun, each leaf that falls upon it.

• Acknowledge the helpful, the wholesome, but don’t judge it. Acknowledge the harmful, the unwholesome, but don’t judge it.

• When you find yourself judging, don’t judge your judging. Linehan, pg.113

"Men are disturbed not by things that happen but by their opinions of the things that happen." Epictetus, A.D. 55-135

The ancient wisdom of Epictetus anticipated cognitive therapy by about 2000 years. Epictetus suggests you are disturbed by your judgments about things, not the things themselves. He suggests that the way we think about things affects how we feel about them. Likewise, cognitive therapy and the skill non-judgmentally suggest alternative ways to think about things to change your mood. There are three fundamentals of cognitive therapy.

• First, the viewpoint you “choose” is vital to your mood. If you can “choose” the way you view things you can change your mind.

• Second, mood and thought are linked. If you change one you change the other.

• Third, the methods of cognitive therapy work on your thoughts and beliefs to change your mood. The challenge of cognitive therapy: “Is there another way to see things?”

Feelings and thoughts are so well blended that we rarely think that the association matters. It does. Feelings influence how you think, and thoughts affect how you feel.

To illustrate how thoughts generate feelings consider:

• If you opine that someone is disrespecting you, angry feelings arise.

• If you judge yourself a failure, sadness or disappointment follow.

• Comparing yourself to people which are richer, prettier, or smarter prompt feelings of envy.

• Gratitude follows thoughts about those who are less fortunate, hungry, or homeless.

All-or-Nothing Thinking.

All-or-nothing thinking distorts your worldview into polarized extremes. Some polarities are quite familiar: good & bad, right & wrong, black & white, beautiful & ugly, should & should not, in & out, either-or, win & lose, life or death, off & on, and on and on. This sort of splitting the world encourages idealization on one side and devaluation on the other. The problem with split thinking is that reality is not polarized. Reality is a unified whole with all the parts inter-related. You cannot appreciate the unity of reality if you have a fixed (polarized) perspective because it prejudices your point of view.

A big red nose… You might believe that a small fault makes it impossible for a person to be “good” inside. Such a rigid style of thinking limits your ability to engage ideas of future change and growth. Polarized thinking tends to magnify errors and decrease your ability to adjust to circumstances. All-or-nothing thinking is exacerbated when you are in emotion mind.

When you are under the influence of emotion mind, you may feel there is only one way to think about a situation. If depressed, you feel as if there are no options – it’s hopeless. If angry, you are RIGHT and he is WRONG. If anxious, it is safe in here and dangerous out there. There is always more than one way of thinking about things. In reasonable mind, you can explore some of these options. Wise Mind integrates the emotional problems with reasonable solutions.


Good & bad, terrible & wonderful, and right & wrong are just opinions. You may feel there is no other way to think about things, but your belief may be a trap. Once you label something, your mind is trapped by that identification. Consider Bad Mountain, how is it “bad”? When you judge, you label (or evaluate) something as one way or another. Judging is an opinion or belief. Practicing taking a non-judgmental stance helps you escape the trap of your judgments. Labeling is not a problem with a rotten tomato, it will always be bad. But things once defined, tend to remain fixed in the mind (the importance of first impressions). For example, labeling someone sloppy may quickly lead to dismissing this person entirely.

How would you label losing your job? Emotion Mind would come up with words like “unfair”, “bad”, and “disastrous.” Reasonable Mind might be able to describe the lost job as a crisis and an opportunity.

In Wise Mind, a job loss is stressful, a challenge to start something new, and a chance to re-evaluate your career. Thus, the loss is more bearable. You will gain a better perspective of your situation when you step back, observe & describe the experience, gather more facts, and let go of your opinions. Seeing a job loss as an opportunity is an example of flexibility of thinking. Your mood will change as you notice the alternatives and shift your perspective. When difficulties arise, you will have more options if you can spend more time with the questions words (who, what, when, where) and less time with an emotion-based point of view.

Mental Filtering.

Mental filtering screens out facts or opinions that don’t fit with your current belief. Do you see a part or the whole? Strive to be like the blanket spread on the lawn – there is no filter, it accepts the rain and the sun. Look at the big picture.


The basis of this cognitive distortion is that you take an isolated case and apply it to all others. Rather than looking at each case individually, you make decisions based upon your feelings. “I never say the right thing.” “We always do things your way.” As you become more self-aware you will notice the words “always” and “never” as a signal to step back and look for the facts.

Discounting the Positive.

This cognitive distortion rejects affirmations, positives, and compliments as if they didn’t count. Too often people fall into the habit of disqualifying the positive comments directed toward them. Accept compliments graciously. When somebody says something nice to you say “thank you.”

Jumping to Conclusions or Mind Reading.

You may believe you know what a person is thinking. You don’t. Jumping to conclusions comes from faulty, incomplete, or distorted assumptions about others. If a friend is late or forgets to call you, she could be tied up in traffic or she may be stuck in an urgent situation, why jump to the conclusion she is commenting on your worth as a person? If you see the world through your insecurities, then your insecurities distort incoming information. Remember the adage about what happens when you assume! U could make an ass out of u and me.


Take a difficult event. Now, exaggerate the importance of this event and make the meaning of it momentous. “This is terrible, it means I’m ruined, I’ll never be able to recover.” This magnification makes a bad situation worse. Oppose emotional magnification with reasonable assessment. From a detached point of view you can ask, “How important is this really?” Will I remember it in 3 years, 3 months, 3 days, or even 3 hours?

The problem with magnification is that intense thoughts generate equally intense emotions. Focusing on the facts without evaluation or judging will have a calming effect, improve your mood and help you choose the wisest course of action. Emotional Reasoning.

• I don’t like this; therefore it is bad.

• I like him; therefore he is a good guy.

• I’m scared about this test; therefore I will flunk.

When emotions rule, feelings are mistaken for facts. “Emotion mind” takes over. Emotional reasoning makes stress worse, depression deeper, anxiety higher, and anger hotter. The antidote is an activated Wise Mind which clarifies what the situation is and considers from where the emotions are coming. When you say you can’t stand it, do you really mean you don’t like it? Ask yourself, “Am I over-reacting and making this situation worse?” “Could I stand it a little bit longer?” “Should” and “Shouldn’t” Statements.

Albert Ellis dubbed the unrealistic use of “shoulds” musterbation. Such as:

• People should not be rude.

• Drivers should not cut you off in traffic.

• Life should be fair.

Other words that put unnecessary pressure on you are “must”, “ought”, and “have to.”

Reality is as it is and as it should be. Reality follows the laws of the universe as it should. An opinion that reality should be different than it IS is not reality-based. Try to be a blanket and accept reality as it is.

Some “shoulds” are really a demand in disguise. If you rigidly hold to unrealistic expectations, you will often be angered because people will not behave the way you feel they must. Your ability to be flexible and accept is healthy. Change unrealistic demands to healthy preferences.

A thought, “he should help me” is really a demand, “I want you to help me”. The belief he should help me prompts feelings of anger. The demand I want you to help me is more respectful.


The goal of non-judgmentally is to see things from non-polarized perspectives. Flexibility of thinking is characterized by the ability to entertain other points of view. Consider too how you would think about something if you were feeling better. Strive to be factual and unglue your opinions from the facts, you could try to see things from some else’s point of view. Instead of polarized extremes, activate your Wise Mind to find balance, unity, and acceptance.

Reality does not come labeled, magnified, polarized, filtered, or discounted. You distort reality in those ways. Embrace reality by stepping back a bit and non-judgmentally looking at the bigger picture.

Who, what, when, and where questions reveal facts which are not as disturbing as opinions. Assumptions, like opinions, close the mind to facts. An open mind allows for possibilities, options and surprises. Too often, people tend to judge themselves and others in either excessively positive terms (idealization or “what I like”) or excessively negative terms (devaluation or “what I don’t like”). The goal is not to be more balanced in your judgments, but rather to drop judging in most situations.