“As the soft yield of water cleaves obstinate stone / So to yield with life solves the insoluble.” ~ Lao Tsu
He was gone and I couldn’t accept it.
He hadn’t even broken up with me but I knew he was gone and he was not coming back. No matter how many tears I shed, no matter how wonderful or beautiful I was, he was gone.
I was resisting his absence, this ending.
And it was tearing me apart.
Remembering a spiritual-ish friend who had introduced me to the concept of acceptance and resistance, and the book she’d given me, I thought “I just need to accept this and move on.”
But I couldn’t make sense of it. How do you just accept something so painful and heart-wrenching and crushing…and any other number of superlatives. Susan Page does an excellent job of illuminating what it means to move into acceptance in her book Why Talking Is Not Enough.
Why is acceptance so hard and what does it really mean to accept something?
Accepting something we don’t like or want is difficult because our ego tells us we have to be right, that we know what is best and if we’re wrong then maybe we’re flawed in irreparable ways.
As Susan Page says “accepting something doesn’t mean you have to like it; it means you stop fighting it. It means you let go of wanting a different outcome.”
She goes on to explain that how acceptance is so wonderful for us as individuals…that essentially it is us learning about our own ability to love via new levels of awareness.
Acceptance frees us from the weight of perceiving people, situations, feelings or ourselves as problems to solve.
Acceptance changes our response to whatever it is we are resisting. Every relationship we have (even with ourselves) is a system of parts, each affecting the other.
Acceptance changes the dynamics between all the parts, and this is the starting point for real change.
How does this work?
How do we accept something that has caused heartache and pain or is merely irritating and frustrating? How do we accept something that feels like a roadblock in our lives?
Susan Page offers four techniques:
1. Pretend the unwanted trait or situation is a ‘scar.’
If an accident resulted in a scar for you or someone you loved you wouldn’t be critical and demand a change. We all have baggage and difficult experiences that can become personality traits. These are somewhat like scars in our personalities.
2. Fake it till you make it.
Acceptance is not easy. The idea of acting ‘As If” means that you pretend you are already accepting the trait or situation. This allows you to experience how it feels to accept it.
This is like taking a breath before responding to input. You might find that while acting or pretending to accept, you actually are – accepting, that is.
Acting ‘As If’ isn’t being inauthentic—it is more about trying a new way of responding, a new way of handing a situation. It is learning about ourselves and how we feel.
3. Realize that your problem is not really that—it is a mere fact of life.
Ouch. But this removes a lot of responsibility from you to fix anything. Since it is a fact, all you have to do is work with it, to find a way to adapt. Or in other words, “accept it.”
4. Remember that it probably has a lot less to do with you than you think.
This one is for relationships and situations with other people. Other people’s behavior is not a reflection of you—it is their choice and their responsibility.
“Only when you accept what ‘is’ will change ever occur. What you resist will persist because it is invested in its own survival (Page, Page p. 161).”
When there is no longer urgency, no more fighting for survival, there can be relaxation and room for change.
The crowning glory in all of this is when you reach self-acceptance—really when you are at your most accepting of yourself, you become more approachable and lovable.
Loving and accepting the good parts of ourselves is easy—the less nice parts, not so much.
Loving all of us is hard, not just because there are things we don’t like about ourselves, but because so often they are hidden from us and hard to get to know. It takes work to get to know ourselves completely and even more.
There I was crying over this ‘guy’ while getting ready to go out on a Friday night. A song came on and reduced me to tears. Again. And of course I had to listen to it three or four times to make sure my little heart was completely shredded. For absolutely certain sure.
But then I started thinking about the idea of resistance and acceptance and tried to apply it to my situation. Finally I said out loud “ I accept that I’m in resistance to acceptance!” and that was it. I started laughing at myself. I pulled myself together, went dancing and had a great night. And even though I still loved him and missed him I had begun accepting the situation and it wasn’t long before change came and I was over him.
Now my work is finding and accepting things about myself that I don’t like so that I can affect real and lasting change in my life.
Nothing in the article should be construed to mean we should accept and stay in situations that are abusive and/or truly toxic. It is, however, about knowing that we are powerful and intelligent enough to decide when traits and behaviors are deal breakers.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: stallio at flickr