Examining our judgements of others

In Shadow Work we use a model for authentic communication which requires 4 different aspects to be communicated. These are:

The data (the facts of the situation that we both agree on.)
Our judgements (the thoughts, beliefs, ideas and judgements we have about this data.)
Our feelings
What we want

It might be helpful to look at the previous three Communication posts in conjunction with this one:




In this post we are introducing you to a final voluntary part of the communication model, which has the potential to really deepen our connection with the other person if we are willing to engage in it. It can also lead us to a deeper understanding of ourself.


This final part asks a question of the person who is communicating, the one who has presented the data, and expressed their judgements, feelings, and wants. This question is:

Which of the judgements that you have made of the ‘other’ can you own for yourself?

As Robert Bly has pointed out, we all go around with a little projector in our head which takes aspects of ourselves and projects them out on others. We sometimes therefore see our own shadows in other people instead of recognising them in ourself.

Here’s an example. Imagine I met a good friend for lunch, and found that they talked all the way through our meeting. There was no opportunity for me to talk. No space for me. I might find myself getting quite upset afterwards about the way the meeting went. So next time we meet I could then use the Shadow Work communication model as follows:

Data: We met for lunch and you ( my friend ) talked a lot.

Judgements: There was no space for me to talk, you didn’t seem to care about me. You were selfish. You only met me for yourself, so you could vent on me. I had a sense of despair and I wanted to escape from you! (NB when sharing our Judgements we always make an effort to let the other person know that these are our responses to the situation, they may not be true, they are our reactions and may not reflect in any way on the other person.)

Feelings: I feel sad.

My want: I want our meetings to be more even handed, so that you give me an equal opportunity to talk.

Now, looking at the judgements section, what judgements did I make of my friend that I can own for myself? I judged my friend as being selfish, just meeting me to vent, and not being interested in me. If I honestly look at myself, do I ever exhibit these characteristics that I am judging in her? Looking carefully at my past behaviour, I could admit that I have sometimes approached conversations in this way, really wanting to talk about something that’s important to me, venting my feelings and not interested in listening to the other person. Also, I have to admit that in that moment I’m not really caring about the person opposite me since I am not giving space to hear what is going on for them. If I am honest, I can admit to both of us that I am harshly judging my friend for behaving in a way I have sometimes behaved in the past. Sometimes the judgements I make of others may not reflect on me in any way, but in this example they definitely did, so it is always worth exploring this.

It’s worth taking this a bit further by looking at my final two judgements as well. Feeling despair and wanting to escape are quite strong reactions. What is going on for me that this reaction is so overwhelming? I may then be able to admit to my friend that I came from a large noisy family, and that the only way I could get any ‘airtime’ was to talk loudly and constantly, and so dominate the little conversation space that was available to me. And maybe I have continued this childhood dynamic in my adult life, fearing that if I did not dominate the conversation I would not get to talk at all. And if that happened I would feel lonely and despairing just as I did as a child when I couldn’t make myself heard, just as I did with my friend who talked a lot that day.

So, here we have turned a difficult conversation into an opportunity for self learning, and into an opportunity for deep connection. I might have decided to run off and never see this friend again. Instead I have used the Shadow Work model to reveal clearly to myself, and to my friend, a way I behave and how that behaviour originated. I have pulled back my projections from my friend. I have owned up to my own behaviour in similar circumstances so now I can take steps to correct it. And my friend has seen deeply within me, right back to my childhood, and can understand me better. This means we have enhanced our connection in a situation which otherwise might have permanently damaged our friendship. It also makes it much more likely that my friend will understand what I am saying and be aware to allow space for me in future in conversations.

Such a level of introspection is only usually possible after all our thoughts and feelings have been expressed and heard by the other person, so this is reserved for later on in our conversation, or even on another day. It may also be something we wish to do alone rather than with someone else. Indeed, we can learn a lot about ourselves in this way. Examining our judgements can often be a first step towards exploring and healing what we have held in Shadow.


Visit http://www.shiatsuandshadowworkbristol.co.uk for further information about Shadow Work.


Communicating our Vulnerability with Dignity.

In our last blog we explore the first two parts of the Shadow Work communication model – facts and judgements. You may want to take a look at this before you read on…


In this blog we are going to explore sections 3 and 5 of our model: ‘Feelings’ and ‘Wants’.

(Please note, now that we’re working with 4 different aspects of the model altogether – facts, judgements, feelings and wants, statements from each different section have been colour coded for clarity. Facts are written in red, judgements in green, feelings in blue and wants in orange.)

These two sections are the two most likely to expose our vulnerability. This sounds pretty scary, and because of that these are the aspects most of us tend to avoid in communication. (This may not be conscious, and even if we THINK we’re being totally honest, you will see these aspects are rarely stated clearly.) The paradox is that it is only in exposing our vulnerability that we really share of ourself with another – is that not what communication is really about? If we really want to be heard then we will need to risk showing our vulnerability and include our feelings and our want in the conversation.


There are many ways we avoid saying what we’re feeling. Some common examples are:

We may give our Judgements, ‘You’re a liar’, ‘You’re cruel’, and assume the other person picks up how we’re feeling from this. We may be shouting. It may be ‘obvious’ that we’re angry. But how often do we actually state that? ‘I feel angry’!

We may give these judgements ‘You don’t love me anymore’, ‘You’re always at work’, and assume the other person knows what we’ll be feeling about that. We may be crying or looking upset when we give these judgements, but how often do we say, ‘I feel really sad’?

Equally we may make judgements that show we feel frightened. ‘You’re going to ask me to leave’. ‘You don’t want me working on this project’. It may seem obvious to us that we find this a scary thought, but how often do we actually say ‘I feel fear about this.’?


In our model we encourage you to say, in one simple statement, the feeling, or feelings you have. We also encourage you to stick to what we see as the four most fundamental feelings:





Below are some examples which include the facts, the judgement and then the feeling. So that the separate sections are clear we’ve coloured the facts brown, the judgements green and the feelings blue.

If the fact is that our partner was in the pub when they had told us they were at work we might say:

Yesterday when you were in the pub when you’d said you were at work I thought that you had lied to me and I felt really angry.’

Or, if the fact is that our boss didn’t return our call.

‘You didn’t return my call yesterday. Because of this I started to think that you don’t want to work with me any more but you don’t know how to tell me. I felt frightened.’

Or if my son wanted to spend Christmas with his dad this year instead of me I might say.

‘When you told me you want to spend Christmas with Dad this year it started me thinking that you might prefer being at his house, and thinking that makes me feel really sad.’

We hope you can see how adding the feeling so clearly deepens the level of communication, and also the level of vulnerability. We may not want to communicate this deeply with everyone, but if we really want to be understood and heard then including our feeling can really help.


So far so good. We’ve said everything now haven’t we? NO! This is the mistake so many of us make so often. We have actually left out the MOST IMPORTANT part of the conversation – what we actually want from the other person.

Usually we are communicating because we want something to be different. Or sometimes it is simply because we want to be heard and understood. Whatever our reason we want SOMETHING from the other person. Yet this is potentially a very vulnerable place to be in. So without really realising it we may slide off actually saying what we want.

For example, if my partner is in the pub when she’s told me she was at work I may be really upset with her, I may tell her all my judgements and feelings – but what do I actually want from her? It may seem to me that she ‘should’ know that, or that it is screamingly obvious what I want – but it is still, we believe, the responsibility of the person communicating to state clearly what they want.

Do I want her to tell me honestly where she is all the time? Or do I want her not to flirt with other men? Or do I want her to come home to me if she’s not at work? Or do I want her to give up drinking?

I may think she knows what I want, but she may really NOT know. So it is important to state our want clearly. It is important to state it as clearly as possible. It’s not necessarily helpful to say ‘I don’t want you to lie to me ever again.’ Or ‘I just want you to be more responsible’. These are too vague, and include hidden judgements of the other person.

Now, of course, if we ask for something we don’t necessarily get it. This is why stating our want makes us so vulnerable. We have to state it knowing we may not actually get it. This can be the reason why many people don’t clearly state their want. It can just be too painful.


So to conclude, let’s look at an example including facts, judgements, feelings and wants. Let’s go back to the example where my partner was in the pub when I thought she was at work. Different people will have very different thoughts, feelings and wants in response to this situation, but one example might be:

‘When you were in the pub the other day and you’d told me you were at work. (Facts. We may want to double check that she agrees with this as a fact before we go on). I thought you had deliberately lied to me. I started to believe you were avoiding being with me and you’re not enjoying my company at the moment. (My thoughts and judgements). I felt angry and also frightened. (My feelings). I’d really like you to tell me honestly how you’re feeling about our relationship and if there’s anything you’re finding difficult at the moment. (My want from her).

This is clear communication and offers many opportunities for my partner to respond, and for communication to flow between us. It may be that she is having difficulties with the relationship, or it may simply be that a colleague invited her for a drink and she fancied going. There are many different possibilities, I can’t know the truth until we begin communicating, and beginning a conversation in this way gives us a good chance of getting to the bottom of things and understanding each other more deeply.

To watch a talk about Shadow Work go to

http://www.shiatsuandshadowworkbristol.co.uk and see the talks on the home page

How can we communicate with authenticity and depth?

There are certain situations in our life that call for us to dig deep and communicate what is really important to us. The higher the stakes are the more important it is that we communicate effectively.  If we are misunderstood at such a time it can cause much pain and confusion. When we wish to build trust in a relationship, or when we want to be sure we are really heard, things go much better if we can communicate what we want to say fully and authentically – yet in reality this is no small thing to achieve. It requires both courage and vulnerability. When we share ourselves fully we are stepping in to the unknown and we cannot predict the consequences. Communication becomes much more about expressing ourselves and what we are thinking and feeling, and less about trying to achieve a particular outcome or hoping to get our needs met by the other person. However, what we stand to gain is increased intimacy and deeper understanding – both of ourselves and the other.

In Shadow Work we find people often communicate only half of what is really going on for them. If we are to truly communicate then we need to share all of who we are, not just selected parts of ourself. The parts that tend to get left out in communication are the things that may make us vulnerable to the other, or cause us some shame or discomfort. Yet these are the very parts of ourself we need to share if we wish the other person to open their heart to us and really hear what we want to say – It is necessary to share these things if we want true communication to flow. We also tend to avoid saying things we fear might compromise our relationship and cause the other person to leave us or judge us. Yet, if we wish to communicate with full authenticity we need to be able to accept that the relationship may change or end, otherwise we will always be compromised to some extent in our communication and there will always be certain thoughts, feelings or ideas that are ‘banned’ in our conversations. In Shadow Work terms we would say that these have been put in to shadow. Paradoxically, once something is hidden away in shadow like this it has the potential to cause way more damage and destruction than if it is acknowledged openly.


Let’s look at authentic communication in more detail.

Some of us find it relatively easy to tell another person what we don’t like about their behaviour, and to let them know the judgements we have of them. For example:

‘You’re ALWAYS late home from work – you’re so THOUGHTLESS.’

What we are leaving out in this however is how we feel in response to their behaviour. Our genuine deep feeling, such as sadness, anger or fear. We are also forgetting to say what we actually want from the person, in place of the behaviour that we don’t like. It might be better to say:

‘I feel frightened when you’re late home. I fear that we’re growing apart. I’d like you to come home earlier so we can spend the evening together.’


However it can take a lot of courage to say what we fear. We may not want to have our fears confirmed. We may have a sense that speaking our fears makes them more likely to come true. Or we may worry that our fears will be seen as childish or silly.

It can also feel very vulnerable to ask for what we want, so without realising it many of us leave this out too. Yet this can leave the other person floundering, they only hear what they have done ‘wrong’ and yet are left with no idea what the ‘right’ thing to do would be. If we want to communicate effectively we need to let go of the hope that someone else will magically know what is right for us, and we need to communicate what we want clearly. We also need to accept that we may not get what we want. However it’s still important to communicate this so that the other person can know us better.


Another difficulty with communication can come in muddling up what has actually happened with our judgements of it. This too can leave the other person feeling confused. For example, if my friend was an hour late to meet me yesterday, and I got very annoyed waiting for her, I might say:

‘You’re so late, you really don’t value our friendship do you? I bet you were with your new boyfriend, you think he’s more important than me. You’re just not a good friend to me anymore and I need a good friend right now that I can trust.’

Now, for my friend to hear this is quite a lot! She may well respond defensively and communication could break down between us.
It would help for me to separate out what actually happened from my judgements of the situation. So, the only fact I know is that she arrived an hour after the time we arranged. The rest are all my judgements, it’s much clearer if I state them as that. Once I’ve had time to think about it I might say this instead:

‘I’d like to talk to you about the time you arrived today if that’s ok. My understanding was that we arranged to meet at 8 and you arrived at 9, am I right about that? While I was waiting for you I began to get the idea that you might be taking some extra time with your new boyfriend rather than getting here on time. I thought that maybe you don’t value our friendship so much now, and I actually thought – you’re not being a good friend to me at the moment!’

It can also be helpful is to tell the other person that we know our judgements are not necessarily true. They’re just our guesses. They’re the sense we’re making of what has happened. Below I go on to say this and state my feeling (angry), my boundary (what I wasn’t ok with) and what I would like from her in future.

‘I know none of that is necessarily true, It’s just what started going round in my head while I was waiting, but the result of this was that I started to feel really angry. It wasn’t ok with me that you arrived so late. I’d really like it if you turn up on time when we meet as that would help me to believe you value our friendship – and right now I’d really like to feel secure in our friendship.’


All of this may still be hard to hear, but my friend can at least have some understanding of where I am coming from. I am sharing my vulnerability around our friendship and I’ve said clearly what I want from her and why. She is much more likely to be able to hear me and to enter in to a constructive dialogue with me. She is quite likely to share what is really going on for her (which may bear no relationship to what I was imagining!). This then paves the way to further genuine communication between us.


So in Shadow Work we try to break our communication down in to:


1) What Actually Happened.

2) Our Judgements/opinions/thoughts/ideas around what happened.

3) Our Feeling about what happened.

4) Our Boundary – what wasn’t/isn’t ok with us.

5) What we Want from the other person.



It takes a lot of practice to communicate effectively in this new way. We’ll teach more about this model in future blogs..