Acceptance and Self-Acceptance
Jump to the following topics:
- What is acceptance?
- Acceptance is related to self-acceptance.
- The benefits from acceptance.
- Techniques for developing acceptance.
- The intuitive perspective. Acceptance is an intuitive perception that, although we might not know the reason for the existence of something, it has:
- 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.
- 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 unpleasant conditions.
- 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 soul.
Acceptance 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.
- 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 objects.
- 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 self-acceptance:
- 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 limited outlook.
- 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 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 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 changed.
- 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.
- 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 unalterable conditions.
- Self-acceptance has no standards or values, and it needs no justification; we can have self-acceptance no matter what we do.
- Self-esteem is based on standards; we justify our self-esteem by affirming that our behavior corresponds to our values.