October 22, 2016
I found myself without a clear theme this week. I had a couple emerging topics but nothing was overwhelmingly powerful from this week’s work. So, I took my own advice from my previous blog “Ask for what you want, how you want it” and I asked the universe to send me a sign on Friday about what the blog topic should be. I helped the universe out by giving a couple options, then released the request off of my shoulders, feeling confident that I would be provided for.
In a text conversation with a friend on Friday, one of my possible writing topics came up, and with a big smile and an out loud “A-ha!,” the topic was decided. This week’s theme is about “Acceptance.” And, just because the universe is so amazing, it gave me a little extra confirmation. After the conversation with my friend completed, I clicked over to Facebook and the first thing that popped onto my screen was this “message”:
Don’t you love how that works?!?
Acceptance is a topic that is more than just a theme of the week, it is one of the Pillars of my work with my clients. As you continue to read my writings you will start to hear more about my Pillars. The Pillars are the fundamental concepts that I am here to help people with via my therapy work and now my writings. These Pillars started as themes of the week but became so constant and consistent, that they are now “my therapy themes,” and “acceptance” is one of them.
I find myself bringing in the concept of acceptance when I feel my client is stuck… stuck fighting against him or herself, or fighting against others… I am not talking about an argument or verbal disagreement. I am certainly not talking about a physical fight. I am referring to an energy fight.. fighting against the energy of something that is. It’s not a short fight either, it’s often a long standing fight. This energy fight looks to me like someone readily walking into a brick wall over and over again. Think of that old Sandra Bullock movie, 28 Days. Sandra’s character struggles with alcohol and enters into alcohol rehab program. Her therapist takes her outside to where a horse is tied up and asks Sandra’s character to pick up the horse’s back hoof. Sandra tries to no avail. So, she tries again, and again, and again. Still no progress. The therapist cooly states, “Folks, the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior over and over again, expecting different results.” Yes, one response would be to look at different approaches to produce a different outcome (and that sounds like a topic of a future post!), however today, I want to talk about another option: Acceptance.
Pretty much any time I bring up “acceptance” as an option to a client’s energetic fight, the response back to me sounds something like: “Acceptance?? No! I don’t want to accept this, that would give it permission, that would condone it! I want to change this, not to accept it!”
No, dear client. I am not talking about giving up or giving in. Acceptance is not condoning. Acceptance is not permitting. Acceptance is not giving up. Acceptance is not a life sentence that will keep you caged in the particular circumstance you find yourself in. Let me explain…
When we bring acceptance into our lives mindfully, it becomes a tool of empowerment. It’s similar to that old Buddhist offering of “do something by doing nothing” or taking action by taking the route of inaction. The most amazing things can happen when we take the action of inaction… namely, change can happen! How paradoxical! You have been trying to change something by trying to force the change, only to find out that accepting it is the very thing that allows it to change!
Acceptance is an acknowledgement of what is… as in, what is present in this current moment in time. Acknowledging it and accepting it… exactly the way it shows up, right here, right now. Acceptance is saying to yourself, “Ok, this is what it is right now.” Accepting this moment in time allows for a release. A release of the fight and force that so many use to try make what actually is, something other than, what it is. Many of you have probably already become savvy to the fact that change doesn’t come easily when you try to force it. Acceptance is a mindfulness practice of noticing what is right here, and allowing space for it to be just that.
Now that your head is spinning, let me ground you with some examples.
Let’s say, you are frustrated with your mom (a very common topic in my sessions – frustration with parents!). Your mom has a problem, and you want her to change it-mostly because she is always complaining about it. You talk to her about the problem. You give her solutions. You see she does nothing. You continue to grow more and more frustrated as she continues to complain about it, and seemingly does not take your advice. You bring her books, you make appointments for her, you do all the work she needs to do in order to for her to start to fix the problem ……and she? Does nothing. You’re now fighting a battle with yourself; your mom isn’t even part of this equation! You are embodying all the fight energy meanwhile, your mom continues to do the same thing she has done for a long time.
It’s time for acceptance: I accept that my mom complains about problem X. I accept that she is not doing anything about it, at least right now. People complain. People complain about things they can change. People complain about things they cannot change. People complain and think they can’t change things, but they really can. I accept that my mom complains about something that I see has a solution. I accept that she is not moving towards a solution, and that is her choice. I accept her choice, because she is an adult and she has free will. I accept that engaging in her complaint only drives me batty and really does not do anyone any good! In this case, you let go of the energetic fight which is trying to get her to change something that she seemingly is not planning on changing right now.
Here is another example. Wife is annoyed at husband because husband is not self-motivated to further his career. Wife brings it up. And brings it up… and just to be sure… brings it up again. Husband gets mad that she keeps bringing it up. Husband feels unsupported and pressured. Wife feels unsupported and unheard. Wife continues to get mad that he is not doing anything. Husband continues to get mad that she is getting mad. And now… everyone is mad!
Time for acceptance: Wife accepts that husband may not be driven by his career, at least not at this point in his life. Wife accepts husband as who he is right now, just how he shows up, which includes his skills, his limitations, his strengths, and his struggles. He may not be career oriented, at least for now, and he has a lot of great things about him that she loves. Wife finds acceptance for their life together as it is right now, she finds acceptance for all that he is right now. A space of acceptance is now created around this issue of career. In that space of acceptance the most amazing things are possible! Maybe now that there is space, husband starts to think about, discuss and maybe even start to make changes. He makes changes because he wants to do it for himself. He no longer feels he is having to dig his heels in because his wife is pushing him. His wife’s acceptance created a space where change could happen, versus the space that her anger and force created, one that invited him to meet her with anger and force in the opposite direction. Letting go of the energetic fight for him to be something different in his career allowed space for him to decide for himself what is going to work best for him and the family.
So many spouses come in to session saying “How do I get my spouse to change?” My first question, always, is “Does your spouse want to change?” Funny how few people had asked the question to their spouse prior to coming in to ask me about it. For those who said “No, my spouse doesn’t want to change” the answer is simple: He is telling you what he is capable of. Accept that as his truth. Now, time to ask yourself whether that is something you can accept for yourself in this relationship or not. (Oh boy, I sense a whole lot of blog posts coming about relationships!) For now, I will say, acceptance is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself and your partner in a relationship.
Ok, one last example because this one is an important one: Acceptance of the things you struggle with. Acceptance of having anxiety. Acceptance of not being perfect. Acceptance of having an addiction. Acceptance of struggling with negative thoughts. When we are able to accept that we have struggles, we give up the internal fight against having the problem in the first place.
Many spend their energy trying not to have the problem rather than spending their energy working with the problem. Do you hear the difference? It’s “why can’t I be like everyone else and not have this issue?” versus “I struggle with anxiety in social situations, and I know one thing that helps me is positive self talk before I go out.” The first statement is an energetic fight against the presence of anxiety, the second statement is one of acceptance.
Once we accept that we (or anyone else in our lives) have struggles, then we can move forward with a more thoughtful approach to working with the struggle. If we don’t accept that we have struggles, we end up fighting what is…over and over again! We fight the struggle each time hoping to find that this time, we no longer have the struggle. That’s Sandra’s definition of insanity. Let’s not be insane, let’s be sane! Let’s use acceptance as a mindful empowerment tool that allows space for all possibilities to happen. It’s compassionate and loving… and sane!
What do you think?
Let me know about your views on this use of acceptance!
I love to hear your comments below!