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Self-professed spirit junkie Gabrielle Bernstein has one goal: to help people become the happiest person they know. Her new book, Judgment Detox: Release the Beliefs That Hold You Back from Living a Better Life, outlines a six-step process to help people banish the resentment and fear that is rooted in judgment.

“The miracle is not that I’ve rid myself of all judgmental thoughts,” says the motivational speaker and best-selling author. It’s that “I no longer believe in them.”

We caught up with her recently to chat about her book.

Experience Life | Why do so many of us judge? You have a passage early on in your book about how you are not immune to judgment and how you “struggle with judgment every day.”

Gabrielle Bernstein For years I tried to justify or rationalize or dismiss what seemed like fairly innocent enough judgment. When we judge others, we get a quick hit of self-righteousness. Judgment is a reliable little crutch when we feel hurt, insecure, or vulnerable. When we judge others we feel better than them in some way — smarter, savvier, more enlightened, healthier, wealthier, or just more with-it when it comes to keeping up the pace of the line.

Inevitably, though, this feeling fades. When I judge I feel my energy weaken and my thoughts darken. Time and time again, judgment left me feeling deeply uncomfortable, isolated, and out of alignment with the woman I want to be.

EL | Is the goal of a “judgment detox” to never judge — or is it to look deeper into the root cause of judgment?

GB The goal isn’t to get rid of the judgment altogether. The goal is to heal the root-cause spiritual condition that lives beneath the pattern. This six-step practice offers many promises. Petty resentments will disappear, compassion will replace attack, the energy of resistance will transform into freedom, and you’ll feel more peace and happiness than you’ve ever known. I can testify to these results because I’ve lived them. I’ve never felt more freedom and joy than I have when writing and practicing these steps.

EL | What are the negative health effects of being judgy?

GB When you’re stuck in the judgment cycle you can feel physically and mentally drained. Judgment causes inner turmoil, feelings of guilt, and stress. Judgment may give you a high at first — but the hangover really sucks. Judgment lowers our energy and weakens us physically and mentally. It makes us feel alone and cut off from inspiration and love.

EL | Is judgment ever healthy — can it ever clue us into something important?

GB There’s a difference between judgment and discernment. Of course we must discern what feels safe, moral, and appropriate for us. But judgment is different because it’s based on separation and attack.

EL | You define judgment as a “separation of love.” What does that mean?

GB When we feel attacked by someone our response is to attack back. We feel justified in fighting back and defending ourselves from a perceived attack. Of course, this only creates more separation and compounds the problem. Unfortunately, the internet can exacerbate things. We now see people of all ages cyberbullying others via social media with devastating consequences. There are many serious examples of high school and college students committing suicide over negative posts and harassment, and even more cases of otherwise happy people finding themselves depressed after comparing their lives with the curated galleries on photo-sharing apps. 

EL | Why is judgment, as you write, really about our own self-judgment?

GB We repeat a self-judgmental story on loop all day long. I’m not good enough. Why did I make that mistake? I’m ugly. I’m not smart enough. And so on. All these self-inflicted behaviors are just another form of addiction. We unconsciously choose to judge rather than feel the pain beneath our wounds.

EL | In your book, you write that “being the nonjudgmental witness of your judgment is the first step in this detox” and that “the practice of witnessing our darkness is a brave and sacred act of love.” Why is this important?

GB In Step 1 you’ll get intimate with your judgment, identify the triggers underneath it, and get honest about how it makes you feel. You’ll be guided to uncover the stories from your past that spark your judgmental behavior, and you’ll come to understand how all judgment is a disowned part of your own shadow. This authentic audit of your behavior is a necessary first step. Without it, you can’t move on to the next phase of healing. The spiritual path to clearing judgment begins with your honest inventory.

EL | Can you talk about why EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) or tapping is such a key part of the Judgment Detox?

GB The practice of EFT asks that you tap on specific energy meridians on your body. When these meridians are stimulated, they tell the amygdala (the part of our brain essential to feeling fear) to calm down. When the amygdala gets the message that it’s safe to relax, a major shift can occur in your emotional state. I have 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. This practice will help you heal the triggers, wounds, and traumas that live underneath your judgments. This process alone can have a huge healing effect on your life. I teach EFT in the second step of the Judgment Detox so you can feel significant relief from the get-go.

EL | So, what do you do when you are surrounded by friends who are being judgy and gossiping?

GB When you live the Judgment Detox practice you’ll feel less and less comfortable when you gossip or say anything negative about someone. The reality is that you will slip up, your ego will get the best of you, and you’ll want to justify your anger at times. Accept that this will happen, but have a plan for how you’ll clean it up. It’s fine to fall back into old behavior, but try to be aware of it.

EL | You end the book by suggesting folks find a “spiritual running buddy” — can you describe what that is and how it helps to ensure a successful Judgment Detox?

GB A spiritual running buddy can be someone you meet in a yoga class, a person you know through social media, a lifelong friend, or even a spouse. All that’s required from this person is their willingness to support you and receive support as you both venture down your spiritual paths. When you practice these principles with your spiritual running buddies, you bring momentum to your practice. When one or more gather in the name of love, miracles arise. The collective consciousness of love elevates your practice and supports your commitment. Maybe you set up a local Judgment Detox book club or even host one online through a Google Hangout. If you have friends and family who are on a spiritual path and want to heal their judgment, invite them along for the ride!

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