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Acceptance and Self-Acceptance

Jump to the following topics:

  1. What is acceptance?
  2. Acceptance is related to self-acceptance.
  3. The benefits from acceptance.
  4. Techniques for developing acceptance.

What is acceptance? It a psychological state which we can explore from various perspectives:

  1. 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.
  2. The mental perspective. Acceptance is a neutral, intellectual acknowledgment of reality. If we do not accept, we have two other options:
    • 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.
  3. 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."
  4. 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 actions:
    • 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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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 acceptance.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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, etc.
  5. 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 emerge.
  6. 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.
  7. 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:
    • 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.
  8. 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.
  9. We are likely to experience better physical health. If we are not accepting, we might encounter:
    • 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.

Techniques for developing acceptance.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 constructive manner.
  4. 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.
  5. 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-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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.


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