Sometimes, when I tell a new client that my approach is based strongly in acceptance, and I explain that I believe we must accept all of our Selves in order to change, they give me a look that roughly translates to, “You’ve got to be kidding me” or “are you an alien?”. I think there are 2 parts to their incredulity.
Part I: They have bought in to the myth that acceptance means to give up and give in.
Part II: They cannot imagine and do not to want to consider accepting the parts of themselves that they don’t like.
I get it.
For many years, hearing the line, “acceptance is the answer to all my problems today” from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, would bring about an eye roll of dramatic proportions. My critical resistance was based on a conflation between acceptance and surrender AND a sense that there were way too many bits of me that were too disgusting and terrible to take into account. I believed that if I just kept ramming my head against the proverbial walls of my existence and kept my eyes closed with regard to some of my less appealing thoughts, feelings and behaviors, I’d be just fine.
I was actually very far from fine.
It took me a long time to understand acceptance as an active choice, and it took an even longer time to choose to practice acceptance on myself.
I promise two things: First, I am imperfect in this acceptance practice. I hit roadblocks and experience my resistance and denial all the time. Second, I wouldn’t ask my clients to take this leap into the abyss if I hadn’t already done it and experienced the treasure chest of possibility that results from jumping.
Here’s what I’ve come to know:
Acceptance is the key piece that allows Change. I’ll be honest. I hear lots of people say that they’re practicing “owning their own shit,” but what I experience as truth is that they don’t mind talking about their own stuff, but no real change is taking place. I don’t think this is because people are terrible. I wouldn’t do the work that I do in the world if I believed that. I do think that we can talk about our own baggage and junk and still be resisting its reality. This is particularly true, I think, when shame is playing a…