Speaking about acceptance is a difficult task. And I’m sure that many more perspectives are going to open to me in the future, as the acceptance process is often a long one. Keep in mind this aspect.
Accepting oneself is, apparently, simple; you become aware of your traits and accept that they are part of yourself. This is a very simple way of seeing things. In fact, awareness and accepting things are radically different. And they imply 2 different functions/abilities of the human being: reason and faith.
You are using reason when you are making a decision using what you know. You get out, you see the Sun and say “It must be morning!” You know there is day outside because you have used your senses (the sight). You are now aware of the day. Same goes for self-discovery in psychotherapy and reading books about psy or spiritual issues; you are aware of what goes on, you even develop your ability of self-observation and, after some practice, you are aware of what you’re doing, how you’re doing and you are often aware of why you’re doing it. And from here sometimes comes the pain, because you see yourself doing certain things, you know they are stupid, but you keep doing them.
You are using faith when you know without actually perceiving anything. You are using your intuition, you “feel” that some things are or aren’t, based on absolutely nothing. The handiest example is the belief in God: you’ve never seen God, yet you believe in his/her existence. Same goes for the belief in your spiritual nature and the afterlife. You know deep inside yourself that God, the Spirit and the afterlife exist, without any proof. This example is valid only for those who believe in the spiritual realm, but I could probably find different examples for the atheists, as the ability to believe is common to everyone; it’s mostly a question of relying on it or not that makes the difference between people.
Similarly, accepting something appeals to our ability to believe, to this soft skill that doesn’t come from “to know” but from “to love”. I’ll explain this.
Let’s say someone does something nasty to you. You may choose from rejection, abandonment, humiliation, neglect, treason, abuse, etc. And let’s say that the person who did this to you is someone you love or have loved when you were a child. Choose from mother, father, grandparents, teachers, brother, sister, friends, other relatives, other caretakers, etc. And finally, let’s set the last rule of this exercise: your life depends on that person, your very survival. The stage is set for the experience of non-acceptance.
At the first encounter with this experience, the person (often the child) has a choice: reject the loved one (punish) or “eat her words”, suppress the anger in herself. Given the fact that her life depends on being looked after by the bully, the person hides the anger inside. This is done repeatedly and finally becomes a pattern of behavior. Later in the adult life we don’t remember the experience. This means that the experience is not accessible to our reasoning, to our knowledge. Bad news is that we never forget, emotionally, a wrong thing that has been done to us; the experience haunts us emotionally or is expressed by our body in subtle ways. We never accept the experience, we just forget it rationally. And we often have to live with the bully for many years, the bully often being part of the family…
When (and if) you have the chance to develop yourself spiritually or psychologically, you re-encounter at some point this experience. Given our ability of self-healing, we will have to face the lesson of acceptance.
Let’s do an exercise: take a piece of paper and make a list of the things you hate in the others. I recently made a similar list for the things I hate in my country, in the people around me. But you could make a list of the things you hate in your partner. Make the list as long as possible, adding everything that crosses you mind, stupid or not. Stop reading this article until you finish the list, because if you postpone this, you will be tempted to hide some aspects from yourself due to your tendency to see yourself in a good light.
I asked for a list of bad things because it’s more difficult to accept nasty things about ourselves. If everyone would be angels, acceptance would have no purpose.
Now I want to remind you that this world and this life… is. It exists. It is neither good, nor bad. Remember the article about Gestalt? It is you who colors the world in nuances of good and bad, based on your past experience.
Have a look at your list of negative traits now! Do you share some of them? Can you find some of those traits in your own personality? If yes, you may remove them from your list. If you cut them all, congratulation, you finally UNDERSTAND the situation! If there is something that you hate in the other/others and can’t find in yourself, go inside you, in your soul, and search for a situation when you were just like that, but in other realm.
If you think, for instance, that the other is X in the professional realm, search if you’re not X in your own personal realm! If the other treats you like Y, watch your life and search for moments when you treat the other or the others like Y. Also search the X or the Y in your own attitude versus yourself.
As a practical example, if you think that the other is an idiot (X) in his profession, see if you’re not a great idiot in your personal life, in your couple or with your kids. If the other is treating you with a lot of hypocrisy (Y), observe your life to see if you’re not a hypocrite in your professional realm, couple or worse, if you’re not hypocrite with yourself.
The process of becoming AWARE of the fact that everything you hate in the outer world is also in yourself may take time. It’s a necessary step; you can’t go to the next step until you’re not done with this step. You should be able to say that: “I am one with the world and everything that I hate in myself is projected outside on the others. There isn’t a single nasty thing in myself that I can’t find outside me, and everything that is nasty around me is also in me, often in different areas of my inner life, but they are truly there”.
Acceptance begins from here.
Understanding (being aware) doesn’t imply acceptance. Acceptance is loving without the necessity of understanding. Acceptance has 2 steps: accepting the situation and accepting yourself while in that situation and while being what you hate most.
My father was a hypocrite. He used to say that he loves me, but left me and my mother and married another woman. He is now dead.
Really? Is he dead?
One of the things I hate in the others (beginning with the politicians) is that they say one thing and do the opposite. After 25 years of capitalism, my country is even worse than in communism because everyone in charge promised things but never did anything. The population electing the same leaders entered in the same group and now I hate every single Romanian up to the point that I find it hard to work in the psy field and heal the hypocrite people that do the same thing my father did to me. I feel the same hate for everyone living within the borders of this country, and deem them not worthy of my love. There are some exceptions (close friends) but I see in them the same hypocrisy from time to time, when they speak about their lives.
Training in psychotherapy helped me understand the conflict with my father and the projection mechanism. I understood that the hate comes from me and not from the hypocrisy of the others. Every time I hate the others, I say to myself: “in fact, I hate my father, not them”. But the hate does not diminish, because I’m only in Awareness, not in Acceptance. Complete Awareness came when I discovered I am, myself, a hypocrite in my relationship with myself: I say I love myself, yet I’m not doing anything for myself. And even worse, I say I love some people in my close circle while in fact it isn’t so. It was hellish to find out that I’m no better than my father, that I am, myself, hypocrite with myself and the loved ones. This is a dramatic experience, in which you can resent the same hypocrisy you resented when you were a child: doing what has been done to you, turning the karma at 180 degrees and being the bully you always hated, being “in the shoes of the bully”.
Acceptance of Experience means to give to the bully the permission to be the bully. In my example, accepting the experience means to allow my father to say one thing and do the opposite. It doesn’t necessarily come from understanding his reasons, but it helps. It can also come from the fact that I can recognize the human in him (that can do mistakes) which is similar to the human in me. Acceptance comes from mysterious sources and it cannot be described. It’s the inner spirit that guides this. Other helpful thoughts are the awareness that perhaps his behavior was inherited from his own family (he himself had the same wound of carelessness) so he did, unconsciously, what has been done to him. The more I ponder on this, the more I come to the conclusion that it has something to do with the human nature (or human condition) – vulnerability, imperfection, limitation.
Acceptance of Ourselves is the most difficult part. The first step is allowing yourself to hate the loved one for what he/she did to you. It is venting the initial hate from your childhood. This is compulsory and this will harm the loved one. It is nasty when the other is dead and you can’t say to him/her what you wanted to say. But you must say it out loud because you need to hear yourself saying it. You’re saying it for yourself, not for the one that injured you. The second step is to forgive the bully, since you understand his/her motives. The third step is to forgive ourselves for the harm that we must have done to the bully while blaming him/her. All the steps are done in a specific order and you can’t skip them.
The end of the road of self-acceptance is when you allow yourself to bully another person, knowing this time that you are a bully, and not blaming yourself for being a bully. You know you’re doing it right when the bullied person is not rejecting you but understands that you’re allowing yourself to be a bully, this time on a conscious level. In the example given, me being a hypocrite, knowing that I am so and doing this relaxed, without guilt and self-blame, noticing the suffering I cause to the others and being accepted and understood by the others for doing this – all this signifies the last chapter in the lesson of acceptance. To put it simple, self-acceptance means, in the example given, to be comfortable with my status of being a bully myself.
The Acceptance is a brutal life-lesson. It is not learned by most people. It implies working with your Shadow (in Jungian terms) and accepting your Shadow. It’s a very dark emotional experience of eradicating some of your main complexes. Acceptance is followed by choosing the aspects that you want to keep in light and those you keep in you shadow, knowing that they are there, in the shadows, and are available to be used if needed be.
For example, being a hypocrite is one of my aspects. After accepting it as part of myself, I might choose to keep it in my shadow (not to use it on a daily basis), but in stressful situations or nasty moments, if I ever encounter hypocrisy, I wouldn’t be scared, but recognize this personal aspect. Using hypocrisy (in the light) or suppressing it (in my shadow) would then be my free choice.