Ahh acceptance. It sounds so simple yet it is so complex. Some of us spend our whole lives trying to accept situations, people, and even ourselves. I personally have struggled to accept all aspects of my life for many different reasons, but the common denominator of them all was the fact that I couldn't accept situations that were out of my control and that lead into how I viewed the others in my life and how I viewed myself.
I go into more detail on control in this post here, but for today, let's talk about some of the reasons why we may have trouble with acceptance and how to allow it into our lives.
We attempt to avoid accepting reality because it is not what we want.
Denial; the classic defense mechanism. I did this for years with my dad's cancer diagnosis, I've done it in relationships with others, and I've even fooled myself a couple times. It happens when we completely reject reality, or a truth that is too painful to accept that we just pretend it is not happening. Although all defense mechanisms serve a purpose to protect, refusing to accept can keep us stuck, unhappy, and feeling physically unwell too. We can only move forward towards resolution when we become aware of when we are in denial, this is actually the first step to acceptance.
"The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance."
Once we are aware we have a situation that we are struggling to accept in our lives, we typically go right to avoidance. Often we have a silent freak out moment when we realize something sucks and once again in order to protect ourselves from the pain, we avoid. This is the classic example of hearing a thought or having an image in our minds of something and we immediately go no, not going there! Go away! This can be categorized as thought stopping and although helpful, unless the underlying emotions are dealt with, the thought or image that is being avoided will continue to creep into consciousness. I used to be terrified of my thoughts, I remember years of my life being spent battling my own self-defeating thoughts and the emotional responses they would bring. For me, it typically brought on anxiety and ocd like thoughts and behaviors. I have found in my own personal and professional work with clients that the thoughts and images in our minds are information. They want to be acknowledged, they have something to share. Even if we think we are coping through avoidance, our bodies and minds hold onto the memories, thoughts, beliefs, etc., until they are dealt with.
"Our feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and memories from the past that resurface are information. When we attempt to understand what the information is trying to tell us and move through the uncomfortableness, we have a better idea of what we need to do to move forward towards resolution."
3. Dismissing or Invalidating Experiences
Have you ever heard someone say "It could be worse?" This is a classical example of invalidating one's experience. I used to say this all the time and I had no idea that I was totally dismissing my own emotional experiences. Now, I want to make something very clear. I 100% believe in taking responsibility for our actions, words, and experiences but the reality is when it comes to acceptance, awareness, acknowledging and allow ourselves to express emotions, these are topics that are not typically taught at all. As a matter of fact, these topics were actually avoided for many years. Think of your grandparents or parents, ever heard of "being seen and not heard" or has anyone ever told you as a child to "stop crying" and that "you're fine" and need to "toughen up?" Personally, my whole upbringing was me attempting to "be strong" for the fam. In hindsight, I realized when I was working with a coach how messed up that was. I didn't realize at the time that not only was I in denial and avoiding, but I was dismissing my own emotions as weakness. The reality is that we deny, dismiss, avoid, situations and emotions that we learned were unacceptable. We wanted someone to acknowledge us, to accept us, and by being told to "stop crying" for example, created a belief that we could not accept that real vulnerable part of us. Emotions are a normal part of being human and when we avoiding allowing ourselves to express them, we look for other ways to get relief. This is often when addiction or addictive behaviours occur. Check out my book list for more about the emotional root of addictive behaviours here.
Sometimes when we deny and avoid for so long, we need help re-connecting to ourselves and the emotions we have suppressed and that's what counsellors, coaches, therapists are here for. Once we connect and allow ourselves to feel, that's how we get out of being "stuck" and into "resolution." I believe that we all deserve emotional education because let's get real, times have changed and we are changing. I wanted to take my healing journey into my own hands, I wanted to be an active participant in my learning and transformation and I know you do too.
Interested in learning how we can work together? Book your free connection call with me here.