A guest post by Shelly Lefkoe

As most of you know my beloved husband Morty has been through quite a journey. He was diagnosed with lymphoma some time ago and a few months ago became very, very ill. At that time our daughter Blake flew in from Hawaii for an indefinite stay to help care for him (she stayed three weeks); my other daughter Brittany came in from San Francisco where she now lives to spend a few days with us; my best friend of 50 years came from Nashville to stay with us for a week.

During the week I noticed that my daughters kept telling me what I was doing wrong. They pointed out that rather than saying to Morty, “Honey, are you thirsty; would you like something to drink?”, (in what I thought was a very loving voice) I would say, “Honey I know you’re sick but you have to drink more liquids (or walk more often, etc.)”) and on and on click site. Blake told me that whenever she or her sister ever tried to tell me about something they thought I was doing that didn’t work I got very defensive.

I sat down with my daughters and my friend

After Morty fell asleep one evening, the four of us sat down in the living room to talk. I proceeded to tell our girls that I felt judged and made wrong by them and that, although I knew it was very scary for them that their dad was sick, they needed to treat me with compassion too. They both apologized profusely and we agreed to be kind and loving to each other during this very tough time. We agreed to be “team Morty” and band together to love him back to health.

A few weeks later when Morty was feeling much better, Morty and I went to a concert with some dear friends of ours. It was his first outing in months! At dinner before the concert the wife (we were with a couple) was sharing how her husband Gary (not his real name) would never bash his ex wife to his kids–even though she had spent a lifetime bashing both him and his current wife to his kids. I asked him why he never criticized his former wife when she had spoken badly about him so many times. He replied, “I have tried very hard to be as conscious as I can. Speaking ill of others is not conscious.”

The importance of being conscious
before speaking or acting

I began to think about that. I realized that although I prided myself on having worked on being conscious for a very long time, I was far more conscious after I did or said something than I was before I acted. Reflecting on what Gary had said I realized his comment was very valuable and I committed to becoming more conscious before I spoke or took action.

I had another realization: It suddenly became very apparent to me that I always grow when I’m around Gary. I always feel very safe to look inside and be honest with myself about what’s not working. I shared that with Gary and when I did I realized why.

I never feel judged by him. I feel totally accepted and loved no matter how I’m being or what I’m saying or doing. That doesn’t mean he might not express disagreement about something I say or do (and that only rarely), but it is always a clean communication and never comes from judgment.   I never get defensive around him and so I questioned, why did I usually get defensive around my girls whom I love with all my heart and soul.

My defensiveness came from my feeling judged

I realized that I felt judged by them. I felt not okay. I felt made wrong. And I suddenly realized that in the space of “no judgment” people have the space to look at themselves and grow. It was a very powerful distinction. When you feel you are being judged, you usually get defensive in an attempt to prove you didn’t do anything wrong.

I have become incredibly present to getting rid of my judgments and the best ways I know to do that is to get rid of beliefs that cause us to judge and to stop giving meaning to events.

For instance, the meaning my girls were giving my behavior was that I was not being kind to their dad. An alternative would have been not giving my behavior meaning and then making a suggestion that I do things differently, which I would have been totally open to.

We can make a bigger contribution when we stop judging

When we judge others, the meaning we’re usually giving their behavior is that their behavior is wrong and that they are wrong for acting that way, which almost always diminishes the other person. It keeps us from making the contribution we really to want to make to others.

For instance, if our child or spouse doesn’t do what we want them to do or doesn’t do things the way we want them to do it, most of us will usually get annoyed. The meaning we have given their behavior is, “They could have done what I wanted, or “They could have done it better” or “They don’t care about me or what I want.” Any of these meanings would lead to us feeling annoyed.

Here’s an example of how I used to act and the new way I am trying to act now. After my evening with Gary my younger daughter Brittany came to visit Morty. I was in a session when she arrived. When I had a break between sessions I walked out of my office to say hi and give her a kiss. I noticed that the lunch dishes were still on the table and there were dishes in the sink. I got annoyed and my first instinct was to say, “Brittany, I’m working and taking care of dad; couldn’t you at least have put the dishes in the dishwasher for me? “ The meaning I gave it was, she doesn’t care about me.

I dissolved that meaning, which enabled me to say instead, “Sweetie, I know you have a lot on your plate, but if you have time before you leave I would so appreciate it if you would put the dishes in the dishwasher.” She said, “Sure mom.” I went back to work and at the end of the day I walked in to a clean kitchen (and a better relationship with my precious daughter.)


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Copyright © 2015 Morty Lefkoe


  1. Laurie September 22, 2015 at 8:20 am - Reply

    Hi Shelly,

    Thanks for the reminder that even experts sometimes fall prey to their fears and other lesser emotions- especially when under high levels of stress. I appreciate your generous spirit and fearless nature which makes such honesty possible.
    Much Love to you all!

  2. Academic Writing September 21, 2015 at 1:23 am - Reply

    You have very technical stuff and it gives me information. Thank you

  3. Attila Beres September 18, 2015 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Dear Shelly,

    Thank you so much for sharing your problems and breakthroughs and for the chance I`ve got now to contribute to maybe having more fulfillment in your life.

    You said to Morty, “Honey I know you’re sick but you have to drink more liquids (or walk more often, etc.)”, because it was very scary for you that your husband was sick, you were afraid of losing him and wanted to meet your need for certainty by trying to gain control over the situation. With Morty you`ve been meeting some of your basic needs (for love, certainty, appreciation, growth etc.) at a very high level and this is the result of many years` hard work on constantly deepening your relationship with him. You didn`t want all this to disappear with his death and you asked what you asked of him in the way you asked to meet your need for certainty that all of this will not be lost.

    We can try to encourage others to help meet our needs by making requests or by making demands. A request helps to meet the other person`s needs for respect and autonomy, while a demand doesn`t. Unmet needs lead to negative emotions (NOT our meanings or beliefs we give to, or have about events, unless there is a relevant unmet need currently active too in the given context).

    Your daughters` way of asking Morty about drinking was in the form of a request, helping him to meet his above mentioned needs. Yours was made in the form of a demand with the possibility of contributing to negative, painful emotions. This was what your daughters objected to as it was, like it was for yourself, also “very scary for them that their dad (your husband in your case) was sick”, as you pointed it out in the article. They wanted to avoid seeing Morty in any sort of pain as their way of controlling the situation where losing Morty and everything else involved was a possibility. Their way of letting you know this didn`t help you meet your needs for compassion and acceptance.

    I am saying “didn`t help you” instead of “didn`t meet your needs” so that it remains your responsibility to meet those needs regardless of outside circumstances and without the option of possibly blaming others or giving away your power to create your desired emotional states. This is both a more accurate model of reality and a more empowering way of handling things than the other way around and because I myself have been empowered by it, I`d like to share this understanding with everyone here so that all can benefit from it.

    I appreciate you for being able to maintain the level of your love and communications skills even during these tough times and I also appreciate that they may be challenged and weakened by the overwhelm and fear of loss you are facing. So I`d like to offer some points for you to consider when communicating with your beloved ones that may provide to you your most desired results.

    Here`s what you told us you said to your girls: “I proceeded to tell our girls that I felt judged and made wrong by them and that, although I knew it was very scary for them that their dad was sick, they needed to treat me with compassion too.”

    “Judged” and “made wrong by Them” are what we Think how others are evaluating our behaviour instead of them being our actual Feelings. When we interpret the behavior of others by saying that they are “judging” or “making us wrong”, we are not meeting our needs for acceptance and/or compassion and consequently can feel annoyed, sad, angry etc., depending on the underlying belief that makes us believe that we are both dependant on the other person about meeting these needs and that named beliefs cannot be met while the other person is behaving in that way. While in reality no person can be in control of meeting our needs and having negative emotions except for ourselves, unless we give our power away, usually because we have limiting self-esteem beliefs. This article is reinforcing my view that even when one thinks he or she has eradicated these beliefs permanenly, in the proper (usually a family) context those beliefs will still have their full effects unless we take full responsibility for meeting our own needs. Despite all the selfless help we get from our relatives who are willing to even shed their own blood for us. And very eager to push our buttons occasionally as well so that we are not so comfortable in that protective environment and are forced to grow according to our soul`s purpose.

    So instead of expressing what we think how others are evaluating what we do, we can promote trust and honesty by talking about our true emotions without evaluating the behaviour of others, for example like this:

    “When you are telling me that what I am saying to Morty is wrong and that I should do it differently, I feel anger and sadness because I need acceptance and compassion. I`d like you to appreciate what I am saying to Morty as a genuine expression of my care and concern towards him without finding a fault in it and I`d also like to ask you to show me empathy because I am feeling so overwhelmed that I find it hard to give empathy to myself fully at the moment and would be grateful if I could receive it from you.”

    Please notice I didn`t write, quote: “they needed to treat me with compassion too”; that would`ve been counterproductive in attempting to gain compliance that is not driven by fear, resentment, guilt or shame. This is what this wording would usually lead to unless the person who is listening to us is already very motivated to give us love and compassion.

    In the case of washing up the dishes, a request made the following way I believe could be helpful with hving clear communication:

    “Brittany, when I see you leaving the dirty dishes in the sink I am feeling annoyed because I need order and cleanliness in my house and respect for the effort I put into doing my own share of the work here. I am also feeling tired and overwhelmed by both working and being Dad`s main carer and frustrated too because washing up those dishes is your responsibility and I have a need for fairness in our sharing the housework too. Could you please wash your own dirty plates up before you leave and then every time you are here as well, Sweetie?”

    And, in case that despite our sincere efforts the response is negative and our request is refused, instead of starting to withdraw or blame (behaviours driven by beliefs like “I never get what I want”, “I`m not good enough” “I`m not worthy” etc.), we can instead make a sincere attempt to thoroughly understand the needs and emotions that are preventing the other person from fulfilling our request to help us meet our needs. If empathizing with the other fails, can we begin influencing them, if our aim is to create trust and compassion in our relationships. And by the way we are not even going to give ongoing negative meanings to events unless there is a pre-existing limiting core belief that fuels our moment-to-moment attributions of meanings to events. These are surface indicators of something huge moving deep underneath.

    My final words are about being conscious. There is no intrinsic value in being conscious. We are consciousness that can`t help being conscious. If there is a desire for being more conscious then it comes from the need for certainty and the beliefs “Mistakes and failure are bad”, “Disappointing people is bad”, “What makes me good enough is being conscious/spiritual/in control” etc. This is about mindfulness and self-reflection, the intuitive dimension of Jungian personality typing. On the other hand, wanting to expand one`s consciousness and experience various states of consciousness is mainly fuelled by the needs for variety, growth and significance and survival strategy beliefs can be driving it in this case too.

    I hope you`ll find applying some of this information to your specific situation helpful in creating more compassion, understanding and trust in your relationships, and growth and consciousness in your life.

    More free information, like this one is coming in just a few weeks` time on my upcoming website, http://www.attilaberes.com. I`d be honoured if I could further help you all there. God bless.

  4. Ben September 18, 2015 at 7:05 am - Reply

    Debbie ; No matter the words we use to name our communication styles : “manipulation, influencing, convincing, sharing, teaching,..” , they all have their own emotional intonation. It doesn’t matter what we call it. what’s important is to not have the illusion of communication ( saying something that sounded different to the ears and the mind of the other person) but to really communicate effectively what we really want to say and make sure that the other person understands the message clearly. I can honestly say something that can be perceived as manipulation. this is very frequent when parents speak to their children.
    I am glad you spoke of it.

    Shelly: what if the people you want to communicate with avoid ” sitting down ” for better communication ?
    I know I am pushing it a little bit more but I am curious about how you would handle the worse objection to communicating. Is there a moment when you just stop communicating or speaking about a specific ”demand” while allowing time for healing?


  5. Gracie September 18, 2015 at 1:14 am - Reply

    <3 so much love to you and Morty <3

    Many years ago, in massage school, we had to make an agreement to take responsibility for ourselves, beginning with our speech. We agreed to let the instructors gently remind us when we forgot. "you know how when you have a pain in your belly?" "um, no, *I* don't" That was my first step into creating that space. Learning that I didn't have that agreement with people not in my class, to point that out, was helpful in allowing them their space.

    And of course, the amazing Lefkoe Method has quieted so much internal dialogue that I now have room to actually listen to people, instead of just running my own agenda.

    Such a sweet, sweet, read from you, dear Shelly!

  6. Ingrid September 17, 2015 at 9:15 am - Reply

    The timing of this article couldn’t be better. This resonates with me. For years, people have told me I talk down to them, now I see how my words are bring about that feeling. thank you

  7. Joss September 17, 2015 at 7:59 am - Reply

    Thank you for the excellent post. It’s nice to “hear” your voice too! It helps me to be reminded about judgment constantly. your example of clearing your judgment and asking your daighter’s help is a great paradigm. I find it easier not to make judgment on people outside my closest circle and much more difficult to do it with family and close friends. Your story helps…

  8. Debbie September 17, 2015 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Hi Shelly. Great article. Thanks for giving opportunities to explore judgement and communication of feelings.
    I think “owning” and expressing your genuine feelings are more true and authentic. In the example of the messy kitchen, perhaps the honesty of expressing : “I’m feeling so overwhelmed with trying to keep up with caring for my clients and your Dad these days. Would you mind taking care of the kitchen before you go?

    When you said “I know you have a lot on your plate etc., but if you have time” … It sounded to me like a projection of your own overwhelment…and manipulation by acknowledging her defense or excuse before she could use it.

    If she hadn’t cleaned up, because she didn’t have time, how would you have reacted then?

    The answer will tell you whether you were expressing honestly or trying to unconsciously manipulate her.

    I admire your strength, honesty and commitment Shelly. Give yourself a break and allow yourself to feel however you feel. The feelings dissolve themselves if you let them be..

    • Gracie September 18, 2015 at 1:19 am - Reply

      That’s fascinating to me, because as I read your first example, it seemed to me to be manipulative. ! But I have a history of being raised by folks who needed me to take care of their feelings. Lefkoe Method and dissolving meanings goes a long way to healing that. I’m glad I kept reading.

  9. Ben September 17, 2015 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Thank you for the post and sharing your story,

    I am curious about how you would consider following up in being neutral and without judgment if
    your daughter forgets to put the dishes in the machine and keeps acting in the way you do not expect it despite your efforts in being conscious about your approaches.

    Is there a moment when your real expectations ( toward her ) get expressed without ” diplomacy” ?.

    How would you handle not getting what you want from the people you love despite your efforts ?

    I would appreciate your feed back.


    • Micki September 17, 2015 at 11:56 am - Reply

      I’d also like to know how to follow up if the request was ignored or dismissed. It’s more difficult when dealing with loved ones than strangers with whom you aren’t emotionally involved.

    • Shelly September 17, 2015 at 11:19 pm - Reply

      If Brittany had not cleaned the kitchen I probably wouldn’t have said anything until another opportunity and then I would have asked her to please do it for me if that’s what I wanted. I have no problem asking her to do something but she does have a very full and busy life. She has her own apartment, a job, and a full life.

      I always opt for honest communication. I can easily say to my family “I am tired and I would appreciate some support. Here’s what I need. If I don’t get it we sit down and get to the source of the problem. It’s what I teach in my parenting course. Ask “What is it about helping me, or doing the dishes, or whatever it is, that you find so hard to do?”

      Hope this helps.

  10. Darlene September 17, 2015 at 6:50 am - Reply

    Great post! Words are powerful. What we say and how we say it makes a difference to a child or an adult. I didn’t use to think about the meaning people digested from what I said, but rather I tried to present a truth — my truth — not necessarily their truth. When I said positive things, people would smile or express appreciation. When I said negative things, sometimes without thinking, people would frown or argue. The meaning they derived from what I said was seldom spoken. I’ve learned to give kinder, reframed responses with my truth. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Fred September 17, 2015 at 6:25 am - Reply


    Excellent food for thought!

    Thanks for your generosity in sharing this :-)

    Fred Ray

  12. Michael September 17, 2015 at 5:51 am - Reply

    Great article. I am working on eliminating my judgement of others in order to create closer relationships. This article helped.

  13. Lona September 17, 2015 at 3:55 am - Reply

    This was extremely helpful to me today-THANK YOU! This spoke volumes to me as I have one foot out of the door of my family. To me they are so self-centered and rely on my to do everything-I am feeling so overwhelmed and used that I have even contemplated death from sheer exhaustion. This blog just may have saved my family-THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN!

    • Shelly September 17, 2015 at 11:11 pm - Reply


      I am moved to tears by what you wrote. Hang in there. Speak your truth. Let them know what you need. Say it with love and kindness.

      Warmly, Shelly

  14. Bill C September 17, 2015 at 2:23 am - Reply

    I welcome other peoples judgement and when ever I am disturbed there is something wromg with me,

  15. thierry September 17, 2015 at 1:27 am - Reply

    I really love your article Shelly! It resonnates in me.
    I feel like you in your consciousness journey and will remember your post to be stay conscious more often.

    Could I republish this article as a guest post in the HuffingtonPost part of my On the Road to Honesty campaign?
    And I would really apreciate if you could click on my honesty buzz campaign (it’s free & quick to do)

    Best thoughts & energy to Morty as usual.
    Kindest regards,

    • Shelly September 17, 2015 at 11:09 pm - Reply

      Hi Thierry,

      Yes you can reprint this article. That would be fine.

      Thanks for your wonderful comments. I’ll click on your link.

      Warmly, Shelly

  16. Joseph September 17, 2015 at 1:19 am - Reply

    Nice article Shelly :)

    But you being a Lefkoe method practitioner for so many years, I’d rather expect you to stop feeling judged. After all, you felt judged because of a certain meaning you had given to your daughters’ actions. Had you dissolved the meaning, you’d never even feel judged.. and so you won’t get defensive as well.

    Any thoughts on this?

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