Dear White Rabbit,
I have a really hard time with acceptance of my life situation and also acceptance of myself – yes, I am like a petulant child lying on the floor, kicking. (Just writing this down has caused my throat to close up!).
Have you got any ideas on how I can “facilitate” the process of acceptance?
This question seems to continue the theme from last month. As you said acceptance is a process and yes it does need to be facilitated. Our model “Assisted Self Discovery” is based on 4 concepts – Awareness, Owning, Acceptance and Action. The first 3 concepts deal with shifting one’s perception about something. Once this has happened we then have a conscious choice as to how we can action this new shift.
At the foundation of all this shifting of perceptions is a process of enquiry that searches for the “blind spot” (something that is hidden from us or that we have denied or buried deep down inside us, something we have not yet considered and something we have yet to discover).
In the process of self-enquiry we begin by telling our story. We then get asked to do things like notice our physical sensations and where they are located in our bodies, our feelings, our thoughts and our behaviours in certain situations. We also go through a process that examines our beliefs, values and attitudes and we ask ourselves how this informs our current thoughts, feelings and behaviours. These beliefs, values and attitudes can be very subtle and are often not questioned until they become problematic to our personal growth, such as – “we must always sacrifice ourselves or our needs for the greater good of the family, the partner, the community or the nation”.
We might be asked to journal all of these aspects. This journaling helps us to map our psyche; it is about looking at our psychological patterns and recognising the role we have played such as rescuer, victim or persecutor in our relationship with others. It may even bring us to our original wound/pain when we remember for the first time what happened, what we felt about it, what “story/message” we gave ourselves or received from others, how this distorted our perception and what we did in order to protect ourselves and stabilise our world.
We then have to own what we did and are continuing to do to ourselves. This is not an easy task, particularly if we have conditioned ourselves that it might be someone else’s fault that we don’t speak up or it is an impossible situation that forces us to remain silent. Owning something is a process of examining our vulnerability. It is about looking at our fears and limitations. It is also about acknowledging/admitting how we have perpetuated certain thoughts and behaviours in order to protect ourselves with no blame or justification attached.
Finally we arrive at acceptance. I have been speaking about these first three concepts as if they stand alone and as if people move from one to the other; this is not so. The process is more like three threads that become interwoven into a strand and this strand represents an aspect of how we respond to a particular defense mechanism/coping strategy. The weaving of these threads into a strand is like twisting or plaiting. Each thread – awareness, owning and acceptance – although they can stand alone, is often shifted together in a back and forward motion.
So what is acceptance? Please bear with me while I have a little rave about what the meaning of this concept is for me. Acceptance is the opposite of rejection and it is not about giving up. It is the final thread of shifting perception you need before you can action something new. It is about being able to receive knowledge through a process of self-enquiry about yourself, the way you are as well as the way you have been. It is about coming to terms with the fact that we are human, that we have fears and limitations and that this is OK. It is about being able to sufficiently tolerate/stand with/bear our vulnerability without trying to protect ourselves in a manner that no longer serves us. It is about forgiving ourselves and others for the way we have interpreted the need to protect ourselves from our original pain.
It is also about coming to terms with our “inner critic” who has being telling our “inner child” “Be quiet – don’t speak – shut-up” and making a conscious choice that we are going to change our “inner critic’s voice” into a voice that acknowledges our fears and limitations, that affirms who we intrinsically are (lovable and worthwhile) and that encourages us to speak our truth in a manner that is empowering and safe. So part of facilitating the process of acceptance is to get to know what Eric Berne calls the “Ego States” (Parent, Adult, Child) and how they interact with each other.
Another aspect is to understand and come to terms with what a “healthy boundary” means. Acknowledging that we have a boundary, where we end and someone else begins, that we are not enmeshed, nor are we completely isolated. Boundaries need to be accepted so that you not only feel safe and comfortable but that the outcome of a chosen new action is also experienced satisfactorily as a “win/win” situation for all. For “healthy boundaries” to be put into action you have to also be prepared/willing to learn some nourishing life skills such as time management, communication, assertiveness and negotiation skills.
What has been described above addresses the physical, emotional and cognitive aspects of our journey towards healing and recovery of self. What is often missing in our process of acceptance is that it brings us into the presence of love. When we can accept who we are, warts and all, without judgement, we often find ourselves experiencing a sense of awe and wonder about ourselves, our relationship with others and the world around us. This sense of “Something greater than ourselves” is an essential component we need to acquire as we delve deeper into ourselves.
In the AA 12-Step Programme this acceptance of “Something greater than ourselves” is the 2nd and 3rd step in the process of recovery. In “Process-Oriented Psychology” it is the final stage and is often described as “experiencing the magic”. At Change Matters we believe that without an acceptance of “Something greater than yourself” the work you can achieve is possible if you only want to scratch the surface of your psyche but it is limited if you wish to get to the depth of your being. So we introduce this concept quite early on in our sessions.
We say that often the work you are doing on yourself initially brings up strong memories and feelings such as isolation, helplessness and fear. There is a need during these times to let these memories and feelings surface so that you can examine them instead of pushing them back down again. The notion of a “Loving Presence” that can be called upon who will stand next to you during this time, gives us the courage to face these memories and feelings. Accepting this notion is also an act of humility. The word “humility” can be linked to the word “humus” meaning “soil/earth”. It is about the metaphorical as well as the physical act of being able to touch one’s forehead on the ground; an act of surrender or a willingness to let go that acknowledges our humanness, our frailties and our limitations and hands them over to a “Loving Presence”. In a sense it is about declaring “I can’t do this anymore by myself, but together we can”.
A lot of clients baulk at this notion because they are either not religious or they don’t know how to connect to a “Loving Presence”. We say, well then design something that has the qualities you need that will help you through this process, something that you feel can be there for you, something that you can talk to without feeling overwhelmed or self-conscious and will immediately know what it is you require. This something represents an “entity/force/energy” and it can be called by many names – G*d, The Universe, Higher Power, The Healer, Spirit, the Cosmos, Loving Presence or whatever names you wish to attach to it. The name is not important. What is important is that you are able to form a relationship with this “Loving Presence”. This relationship is actually like a partnership whereby you form a commitment to do the “ground-work” (the process of enquiry based on the three concepts – awareness, owning and acceptance) and the actioning of new behaviour while remaining connected to this “Loving Presence” who, in turn, provides the guidance, support and dare I say a few miracles, so as to ensure your actioning can become well-grounded in the fertile soil of “integration and wholeness” where you can continue to grow and flourish.
With best wishes
The White Rabbit