Acceptance and Self-Acceptance
Jump to the following topics:
- What is acceptance?
is related to self-acceptance.
- The benefits from
for developing acceptance.
What is acceptance? It a
psychological state which we can explore from various perspectives:
- The intuitive perspective. Acceptance is an intuitive
perception that, although we might not know the reason for the
existence of something, it has:
The mental perspective. Acceptance is a neutral, intellectual
acknowledgment of reality. If we do not accept, we have two other
- A right to exist.
- A place in the grand scheme.
- A valid insistence that we come to terms with it.
- A reason for being in our life. For example, perhaps we
need to learn something from it.
- An archetype of spirit. Even if the archetype is expressed
in a repulsive manner, we recognize that it is a part of life
which is exploring itself.
The "life-energy" perspective. Acceptance is a willingness to
allow our natural outflow of vitality toward people, from one soul
to another; we don't "damn" the person by attempting to "dam" this
flow of life-energy. Regardless of our material circumstances with
this human being, he or she is entitled to that soulful
connection; we don't "put the person out of our heart."
The transcendental perspective. This transcendental quality
means that acceptance is a state which can co-exist with
paradoxically contrary states, in both our viewpoint and our
- Denial (i.e., repression). We refuse to perceive things; we
deny that they exist.
- Judgmentalness. We perceive things, but we do not perceive
them from the intuitive perspective -- e.g., intuiting that
they have a right to exist, etc. Judgmentalness is an
intellectual "death sentence"; we condemn the thing, and we
decide that it should be destroyed, because we "don't want to
deal with it." Acceptance means neither criticizing nor
exalting; instead, we have equanimity toward both the object's
imperfections and its merits.
- Our viewpoint. Acceptance is a psychological function which
is separate from other psychological functions; therefore, we
can accept something regardless of our thoughts, images, or
feelings pertaining to it -- our liking or disliking, our
approval or disapproval, etc. Thus, acceptance is similar to
"unconditional positive regard" and "unconditional love."
- Our actions. We can accept something while simultaneously
trying to change it; for example, we can accept the reality of
international aggression while still trying to create the
condition of peace. In fact, we will be more effective in
enacting a change, because our acceptance has allowed us to
view the situation clearly (instead of denying and repressing
our discernment of it); acceptance (in contrast to denial) lets
us look directly at the opponent, to discover weaknesses in its
attack, and to discern the reason for its success in
challenging our defenses. Acceptance is generally considered to
be a passive state, but it is actually an active state:
- We accept our desire to change unpleasant
conditions, while we simultaneously accept the reality that
those conditions exist. We do not passively submit to those
- Instead of passively stagnating with our denials and
hatreds and avoidances, acceptance lets us see the
potentials in whatever is presented to us, and it allows us
to explore those potentials whole-heartedly.
- When we accept all parts of ourselves, we develop
understanding and compassion toward people who are
expressing those same traits. We still protect ourselves;
however, we don't do it with vindictiveness or shadow
projection. Indeed, we can protect ourselves more
effectively now, because we understand unpleasant traits
(having seen them within ourselves) and also because we are
not distracted by the outrage which we would feel.
- Our identity. In self-acceptance, we gain an honest,
balanced view of ourselves, because we discern both the
darkness and light within us, both the shadow and the ego, all
traits and their opposites; thus, we don't create a phony
self-image of ourselves as having any particular permanent
characteristics but instead we might merely observe tendencies
and habits in our behavior along with the frequent exceptions
from the equally valid contrary side of us. Self-acceptance if
easier is we differentiate between ourselves and our actions,
thoughts, energy tones, and imagery; we are not what we do.
There is a connection and a responsibility between ourselves
and those elements -- but, for example, a "bad" action
does not make us a "bad" person. We might dislike certain
things that we do, but we don't dislike (and shame)
ourselves for whatever we do in any given moment. With
this overview, we know that we are capable a large range of
behaviors, so there is ultimately nothing to be claimed or
disclaimed. Instead, we have a sense of selfhood which
transcends our actions; this transcendental part of us is the
is related to self-acceptance. When we accept, we are accepting
archetypal conditions which apply to ourselves, other people,
and material conditions; thus, for example, if we accept the fact
that we are sometimes late for appointments, we are obligated to
accept the fact that other people are sometimes late for
appointments, and the fact that material circumstances (e.g., a
predicted snowfall for a skier) similarly do not always conform to
our schedule. When we accept our lateness, the acceptance is in the
form of thoughts, images, energy tones, and actions; for example, we
might think, "I forgot about the appointment, no one's memory is
perfect." This thought (and the other elements) is registered in the
archetypal field regarding what we might term the "being late"
archetypal situation. Then, in future occasions when lateness occurs
-- our lateness, or the lateness of someone or something else
-- we tend to default to our previous thoughts, images, energy tones,
and habits regarding that archetypal circumstance, to determine "how
do I respond to lateness?"; this is an automatic process which does
not consider whose lateness is occurring. Thus, if the
archetypal field contains elements which characterize acceptance,
those elements are applied to either ourselves, or to someone else,
or to a material condition. However, this natural process can be
influenced by various forces:
- Unique circumstances. Our automatic response is geared for a
stereotyped response to an archetypal situation -- but each
real-life situation is singular, so our response to lateness might
be different if a person is, for example, 5 minutes late for
dinner (with an adequate excuse), or 5 hours late for his or her
own wedding (without an adequate excuse).
- Hypocrisy. We might accept our own lateness, while not
accepting another person's lateness -- even when the circumstances
are identical. Hypocrisy and double standards require repression,
i.e., a denial that we, too, have committed the condemned act.
The benefits from
- We can discern more clearly. We allow ourselves to see things
as they are, instead of denying them into repression (where they
will be projected outward, causing an additional distortion of our
perceptions). Acceptance is neutral and nonjudgmental, so it
allows us to view both the preferred and the not-preferred. This
clarity permits a deeper comprehension of people, situations, and
- Our actions are more appropriate. We are not living in a
fantasy world where we have repressed unpleasant facts, and then
we act as if those facts do not exist; instead, for example, we
accept the reality of crime, and so we buy a better lock for our
front door. When we accept, we can observe life's dynamics as they
actually exist, and so we can respond to those dynamics;
thus, we develop better relationships, more precision in our
communications, additional opportunities for sharing talents and
love, greater adeptness in solving problems, and enhanced success
in all of our other dealings.
- We have more resources, in both acceptance and
We have more freedom. In self-acceptance, we allow ourselves
to express the various aspects of us -- being outgoing or
reserved, responsible or happy-go-lucky, generous or protective,
We improve our relationships. When we accept who we are, we
can "be ourselves," allowing our natural personality and warmth to
emerge. We are creative and fun-loving. Because we are not judging
ourselves, other people know that we are probably not judging
them; as a result, they are comfortable with us and with
themselves, so they permit their own personality and warmth to
We are less sensitive to criticism. When we accept ourselves,
we listen and respond to criticism as mere feedback and we
objectively concur with it or reject it. There is little or no
pain, defensiveness, or embarrassment, because our foundation is
in our self-acceptance, not in whatever acceptance we receive from
other people. In many cases, their criticism is not so much a
statement regarding us as it is a statement regarding their values
for their own life; those values are being imposed on us, and we
might have no obligation to comply with them (particularly if the
criticism is nothing more than an attempt to manipulate us via the
granting or withholding of their approval). In order to function
in society, we do need to conform to social protocol somewhat --
but we can discriminate between the confirmation which we need
from other people and the confirmation that can come only from
ourselves; if we seek all of our validation from other people, we
create the destructive condition of codependency.
We allow emotional stability and pleasure. Acceptance is
associated with the energy tones of contentment and calm. We still
have our feelings of liking and disliking; however:
- Acceptance. When we accept a facet of life, it is now
available for our use and enjoyment. For example, perhaps we
formerly rejected and hated people who had a particular skin
color; however, if we accept their presence in the world, we
can set aside the hatred (which was an attempt to destroy them
and deny them through sheer emotion and magical thinking) and
instead we explore their possible value to us -- as friends,
business contacts, or simply as individuals whose differences
are not threats but instead are interesting "the spices of
life" which combat the blandness which the world would assume
if it bowed to our demand that everyone should fit into the
narrow range of our comfort. Because acceptance affirms the
validity of other people, we also consider the validity of
their viewpoints, so we gain information and
perspectives which we might not otherwise realize from our own
- Self-acceptance. Ideally, every part of us contributes to
our performance; when we accept, understand, and use all parts
of ourselves, those parts cooperate to create our successful
life. For example, our "anger" could be helping us to rightly
defend ourselves. We tend to reject a part of ourselves which
is ineffective, frustrating, or embarrassing, but the part has
those traits only because it is misunderstood, undeveloped, or
ineptly expressed. Instead, we can accept it, and try to
understand and enhance its golden qualities.
We have more energy for our use. We stop consuming energy in
pointless battles against the people and circumstances which
cannot be changed. And we don't waste emotional energy via
hatred and self-hatred.
We are likely to experience better physical health. If we are
not accepting, we might encounter:
- We generally do not experience indignation when the world
does not conform to our preferences. If we do become
indignant, we accept that response; we are not angry at
ourselves for being angry.
- We do not experience gushing support when the world does
conform to our preferences.
- We no longer feel that we are at war with the world. The
world is a system; thus, if we hate any part of it, we hate it
as a whole. Acceptance allows us to relax into reality, with
the faith that it is ultimately good.
- We accept the the emotions themselves. Repression causes
emotional numbness (and other problems which are described in
the chapter regarding repression); in contrast, acceptance
of emotions allows us to use and enjoy them. The extent to
which we repress one emotion is the extent to which we repress
all emotions; for example, when we refuse to feel fear,
we also reduce our capacity to feel happiness.
- Stress, and stress-related illnesses. The excess stress
arises because we are fighting circumstances which we cannot
change; the stress is literally the energy which we cannot
discharge because we are pushing against immovable objects,
i.e., circumstances which are to be accepted rather than
- Abuse of our body. Instead, we can "accept" our body's
reality -- the reality that a human body requires adequate
nutrition, rest, exercise, medical care, etc.
- Archetypal field-work.
Intuition. Intuition can tell us which situations are to be
changed, and which situations are to be accepted as they are. And
then our intuition can tell us how to change things, or
how to accept the things which cannot be change.
We can examine the shadow. The shadow is the assortment of
traits which we do not claim in the ego; for example, if we
believe that we are an honest person, the shadow contains
our capacity for dishonesty. As we discover the traits of the
shadow, we discover traits which we have repressed (i.e., denied).
When we learn to accept the traits in the shadow, we can still
leave them there (so that, for example, we can continue to think
of ourselves as a predominantly honest person), but now we are
aware of the traits, so we can manage them consciously -- to use
their "golden" qualities, or to vent their charge in a
We can accept our past. Some older people say, "If I had to
live my life again, I'd do it the same." This is retrospective
self-acceptance, a realization that their life unfolded in the way
in which it needed to unfold, despite any complaints which they
might have had along the way. If we adopt this perspective now
(rather than waiting for the wisdom of age), we accept our
problems as part of our education and maturation. Problems come to
our attention because they reveal something within us which needs
to be recognized, understood, and then properly administered. To
accept whatever we are at this moment is to trust this process.
We can differentiate self-acceptance from self-esteem.
Self-acceptance and self-esteem are two separate functions; we can
simultaneously accept ourselves while still trying to do better to
meet our values.
- Self-talk. For example: "I accept the challenges of life."
"I accept myself as I am and I want to be even better."
"I find a satisfying place for myself in the world as it is."
"I enjoy the variety of life."
- Directed imagination. For example, we can visualize
ourselves being calm in a situation which usually triggers
excessive stress or judgmentalness.
- Energy toning. We can cultivate the energy tones of
relaxation, contentment, pleasure, etc.
- The "as if" principle. We act as if we are accepting of the
We can explore our projections (and the repressions from which
the projections arise). The traits which we do not accept in other
people are the traits which we do not accept in ourselves; for
example, if we feel anger toward our rowdy neighbors, part of that
anger might be our envy of their wildness if we have not accepted
the "wild streak" in ourselves.
We can explore the concept of humility. We acknowledge that
the world exists as it is, despite our preferences to the
contrary. If we feel that life has purposes and meanings and
values which are greater than those which we can comprehend (and
which are probably all for our ultimate benefit), we trust the
process, and we relinquish the stress-causing notion that we are
somehow responsible for the universe and thus we must have
opinions on everything and then be a judge and executioner in
accordance with those opinions. Humility is not a nihilistic
denial of ourselves; it is simply a truthful evaluation. Half of
humility is knowing what we are not; the other half is
knowing what we are.
- Self-acceptance has no standards or values, and it needs no
justification; we can have self-acceptance no matter what we
- Self-esteem is based on standards; we justify our
self-esteem by affirming that our behavior corresponds to our