When I say acceptance, I’m referring to accepting ourselves and our experiences as they are with compassion and an open heart. This means no attributing labels, positive or otherwise, no judgements, no blame, no shame making, no finger pointing etc. Simply, accepting what has happened and what we feel and think, as it is.
Depending on our circumstances and our relationship with ourselves this may not be so easy as it might sound. There are gradients of understanding and in turn levels of acceptance. Like or dislike has nothing to do with this. This is acceptance of what is not our evaluation of it.
Why is Acceptance Important?
Acceptance involves feeling all the emotions that arise including anger, rage, love, shame etc. etc. not avoiding them! Accepting our emotions and thoughts as they are, without judgement etc. releases us to experience and process the emotion(s) so we move forwards. In my experience, the moment I accepted what I was experiencing, the swifter the experience was processed.
Being human is difficult. If we can learn to accept ourselves the way we are and accept others the way we find them, this takes a lot of unnecessary pressure off ourselves and our relationships.
There is no such thing as perfection. We can aspire to it absolutely, strive towards the perfect version of us and/or our work etc. just remember, it is an aspiration. In reality, all any of us can do, is the best we can at the time. This does not mean we do not try or make an effort, just that we are fallible human beings. Accept this. Live from a place of authenticity through this acceptance.
How Learning Acceptance has aided me in my life.
Acceptance as I have been describing it, has aided my ability to cope with intensely difficult and distressing emotions and memories, which intruded into my life and to a degree still do. In order to heal, I need to experience the emotions and memories, know them as they are and come to understand them as best I can. Accepting them as they are is crucial for the healing process to work. Or at least, that’s what I have found. I learnt this the hard way. I had no guidance as to how to help myself. I gravitated towards Buddhism, Mindfulness and Compassion.
Whilst it is quite natural to respond to unpleasant intrusive thoughts by pushing them away and/or questioning ourselves, as to why on earth we are thinking such things, this actually makes it more difficult. Resisting emotions, pushing away knowledge and raging in a circular manner, either inwardly or outwardly (by this I mean the emotion is not actually met it just goes on and on and on….unresolved) does not aid processing of emotions, if anything it can get in the way of our doing so, as we are spending so much time and energy on resistance, pushing away or raging……etc. which is tiring at the end of the day and just clutters up our mind so we have no space to see or think anything else.
It was through learning to accept what I was experiencing, whether I liked it or not and so, not evaluating the experience, that I regained my strength and ability to cope and the emotions and memories could be processed and eventually calmed down.
From my point of view, learning acceptance, based on compassion, aids our emotional and psychological welfare. If an individual responds to things by being upset or angry, blaming themselves or others for whatever has arisen, their relationship with themselves and with others will suffer. Being blamed by someone is never nice, especially when it isn’t true. Even when it may be true, pointing fingers and blaming gets in a persons way of dealing with what has happened and learning from the experience, as well as being able to move on in a constructive and productive manner. This is true if we are blaming ourselves or others. Blaming others is likely to turn people off you. I know it had this effect on me when I was blamed for someone else’s experiences, which were totally out of my control and so, not of my doing.
I remember when I was younger, when I used to blame myself for things – including situations which had nothing to do with me – this drained my energy and filled my head so much there was no room for anything else. It also made a huge dent in my self-esteem and damaged my self-perception which became quite unrealistic. This type of communicating with ourselves is going to compound the situation we are in, rather than support us to deal with the situation. Labels confine and inhibit us. At times of need, stress etc. we require psychological and emotional room to explore.
There is a great deal of difference between blame and responsibility. Or at least there is to me. Blame, for me, is associated to the way I used to relate to myself when I was younger and held myself responsible for everything that took place. I blamed myself for my failings and told myself how I ought to have known better and done better. Responsibility on the other hand, is clear of blame, it is accepting, compassionate and respectful. This has an entirely different energy space and enables me to continue to communicate and function, as I have a clear mind and the energy to do so. Perhaps this is the way I have come to use these words given my life experience and blame and responsibility do not mean the same to you, as I have described here. As I mentioned in another of my blogs, words have their meaning as defined in a dictionary, as well as the meanings we attribute to them through our life experiences.
For me, through acceptance, I can take responsibility more easily. Please don’t misunderstand me, I have taken responsibility for myself in my life, although before learning to accept things the way they are, it used to be quite a painful experience to do so. Through acceptance, I retain self-respect, my self-esteem is enhanced rather than dented, I have sufficient energy available to deal with the situation as I am not getting caught up in a cycle of negativity or rumination, nor do I feel inadequate or unable to cope. Acceptance aids my ability to not personalise things too.
The potential of Acceptance
I want to contribute to building a society, that comprises of individuals, who want mutual respect and are capable of giving and receiving it. Acceptance with compassion is a way to achieve this. We all have our preferences in life. What I prefer may well not be what you prefer. I do not tell people what they do is wrong and to stop doing it because I do not like it. I would appreciate it if others afforded me the same courtesy. (I am referring to life and living in general terms here and within the realms of basic manners and non-violence!)
When we are not spending our time labelling, blaming, analysing, inferring, guilt tripping, finger pointing etc., we can focus our time and energy on the physical world we all share. We will be able to see ourselves more fully and the world around us. We will be able to respond rather than react. We’ll be living in the moment too. From this space, we can look for patterns and reasons as to why something happened and do so from a place of understanding and learning. The potential of acceptance is our evolving and moving forwards in a way that is healthy and harmonious for all.