My Mom spent the last part of her career as a Patient Care Supervisor for her local Hospice.
If you are not familiar with Hospice, it helps patients and families through the last stage of terminal illness, including the process of death itself.
People would often ask my Mom: “Isn’t it depressing to work around death and dying all the time?”
She would explain that although it was difficult to get to know patients and then watch them pass away, it was also uplifting to work with a group of people who made a profound difference on entire family systems on a daily basis with one of the most powerful rites of passage in the human experience.
When I spent time at my Mom’s office, I would watch nurses and support staff giggling together. My Mom told me that in staff meetings it was not uncommon to have tears balanced with hysterical laughter at morbid humor.
For people on the front lines of death and dying, it was critical to have a judgment-free zone.
A judgment-free zone is a place where you can express exactly what you are feeling without censor.
In a judgment-free zone, you can:
- Talk about how terrified you are to change a long-time behavior
- Share how you are sure everyone thinks you are an imposter and a loser
- Babble incoherently without apology
- Forget how you should appear since have a law degree from Harvard and just be who you are
- Share how fricking hard it is to be a parent sometimes
- Share how lonely it can be to be single sometimes
- Share how your relatives drive you crazy sometimes
- Dance around the room and celebrate your accomplishments
- Say with joy and reckless abandon (to real and imagined critics) “Do you know who I AM?!?”
- Use really big words
- Use slang that would make your teenager cringe with embarrassment
Get the gist?
For obvious reasons, it is not easy to find a safe judgment-free zone.
I often meet people who are well-known and respected in their field of work. They worry that if people knew they questioned their ability to write a new book, or feel shame at spending so much time away from their family, or are at war with the shape of their body, they may be judged harshly.
I think they are right.
People do judge. That is in our basic human nature.
No Share Zones
In the age of over-sharing, there needs to be a place where you can express your feelings in a healthy manner so you can work through them and get back to doing epic things in your life and career.
Judgment free zones are enhanced by clear agreements. When you are with people in this way, you should all agree to keep confidence.
Or as my 6-year old son Josh is saying to me more and more frequently:
“Mom, DON’T put that on Facebook!” (and he can’t even read yet).
I will go out on a limb now and say:
If you are not doing something right now that scares the crap out of you, you aren’t fully living.
Truth feels scary.
Acting on the power that you have inside of you feels scary.
Standing up to injustice feels scary.
Working on a broken part of your life feels scary.
Creating something epic feels scary.
Being a parent feels scary.
Creating something beautiful feels scary.
Helping and healing the world feels scary.
If you have no one to trust with your fear, you are making things more difficult for yourself than they need to be.
So start by finding one person that you feel really comfortable with. Create a time, place or forum where each of you can have a no-holds-barred judgment-free zone.
Go crazy. Enjoy it.
And watch your power grow.