Here's a question from a reader about acceptance:
I'm confused about acceptance. If something happens to me that I don't like, why would I want to accept it, and let it happen or continue happening, and on top of that -- believe it's good for me?! This seems apathetic and crazy, and I don't accept it! How do you work with acceptance in your life and with your clients?
This is an excellent question. I've been observing widespread confusion about acceptance, so I'm pleased to share my insights.
Acceptance stems from the verb accept, which has its roots in the word receive. Acceptance is receiving information about a situation and acknowledging that the situation is truly happening. It's a neutral intake or observation of what is.
How many of us get derailed into suffering or resistance with this is when we see acceptance as the final step or the only action available to us in the situation, and it's simply not true! Acceptance is the witnessing of what is, not the end result. We have far more power and movement in the steps that follow acceptance than most of us have formerly realized!
Acceptance as Resignation: The Old Way
I experience or witness an event.
2) Acceptance (as resignation)
Acceptance as resignation means I must try to like it or resign to it, search for the meaning or the lesson in it, figure out what's wrong with me for not wanting to accept it, and agree there's nothing I can do about it.
If I like what happened, then all is good. However, if I don't like what happened, I might feel confused, frustrated or resistant, because I believe I must agree to a reality that doesn't jive with mine, without questioning or speaking my own truth. And my 'negative' emotions are telling me that something is out of whack and out of alignment with my core nature, which knows that life is interaction, an exchange, a shared conversation.
Acceptance: The New Way!
This is how I recommend working with acceptance.
Experience or witness an event.
2) Acceptance of What Is
Accept that the event is truly happening.
3) Response (Inner Choice)
Notice/decide how you feel in response to the event. Good, bad, neutral, etc. This is your 'inner' choice.
4) Action (Outer Choice)
Decide what, if any, action you wish to take in response to the event. This is your 'outer' choice.
The 4-Step Acceptance Process: An Example
A client was dating someone for several months, and started feeling like she was falling in love with this fellow, but didn't tell him. His stated position was that he wanted to see her and other women and not be tied down.
Following the old way of acceptance, she felt she must accept this, and resigned herself to his position. As a result, she felt increasingly sad and disappointed, was slowly withdrawing from him, and found herself in a confused search for clarity, struggling to discover what was wrong with her by examining old relationship patterns, etc.
I suggested she try the new way of acceptance, and this is what she did:
She described to me how he expressed not wanting to be monogamous, and how he felt they should keep their relationship open.
2) Acceptance of What Is
She accepted that this is what he truly said.
Because her feelings were getting stronger for him and she desired to date him exclusively, her inner response to 'what is' was sadness. However, she realized that caring for herself meant that she must respond to his position and speak her truth with him, and stop wasting her energy in non-productive confusion trying to figure out what was wrong with her.
She met with him in person, and calmly expressed her truth to him about her growing love and desire for exclusivity, and let him know that his position was not what she wanted for herself.
They had an honest exchange, and came to a mutual decision to complete (end) their relationship. She felt sadness about this loss, but a greater sense of relief and genuine empowerment because she had given herself the dignity of responding and taking action that aligned with her truth. Her confusion has been replaced with a fresh sense of clarity of what she'd like to share with a man, and she's not wasting any more time in the futile act of figuring out what's wrong with her. She realizes that the only thing wrong before was in her not responding to him and not being in conversation with him about her own truth and position. When we respectfully speak our truth with others, we spend much less time in the fruitless cycle of confused, hopeless, and self-belittling thought!
Acceptance, Self Respect and Responsibility
Can you think of a situation in your own life where you could follow this 4-step acceptance process? Try it and see if you experience relief, clarity and a healthy sense of self empowerment.
I don't mean to oversimplify the complexity and impact of life's dramas, but I firmly believe we can experience deep fulfillment in our lives when we exercise our birthright of conversing, responding and self-respecting action. In responsibly doing so, we serve our highest good and the highest good of all concerned.
As you dance with this new acceptance process, there's a good chance you will learn more about yourself, and how to be more self respecting, loving and forgiving with yourself, as well as with others. Acceptance begins with the self.
Your Life Coach, Maddisen
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Copyright 2010 Maddisen K. Krown