- Lyrics to Extreme’s ‘Am I ever gonna change‘
Almost every day, something in my work or home life reminds of the role acceptance plays in our lives.
Quite ironically perhaps, acceptance can play a huge role in helping us make changes.
When we feel stuck in a pattern of behavior or way of thinking, we can be frustrated, angry or scared of what we are experiencing.
How did we let ourselves get here, or even worse get back here again?!!
One of the tricky things about change is that sometimes if we really want to move forward, we first have to accept just where we are.
The issues we can all face involving our mental health, such as social anxiety, rumination, panic, feelings of depression, misusing substances or being ‘stressed out’ are wholly unpleasant.
No one welcomes them.
They can make us feel alone, incompetent, useless, numb, exhausted and hopeless.
The more we run from an experience or try to avoid it however, the more it rules us.
The first time I ever came across this idea was a number of years ago when I was involved in a Buddhist meditation training program.
I asked the teacher if I meditated a lot, would I improve my karma, or better yet could I make the world a better place?
Her answer shocked me; meditation was not meant to better anything, it was a practice of understanding and accepting our experiences as just that, an experience. I still remember being baffled when she laughed as she told me that it was unlikely I could affect anyone else with my meditation as I probably had enough to handle with just being with myself.
I was a young social worker interested in feminism, human rights and animal welfare. More than one friend or colleague had joked to me that I was the person they thought most likely to spontaneously combust I had so much energy and drive towards making this world better.
All these years later, I get it. I don’t always want to, but I do. Acceptance is the most power tool I know in bringing about change in our lives.
Think about someone you know who you feel accepts you. How do you feel when you are with them ? Do you want to avoid them at all costs or are they a person you always look forward to spending time with ? How do they make you feel about yourself ?
If no one comes to mind that you feel accepts you, can you think of someone you know and accept ? How do you feel about them ? Imagine if you applied that empathy, that compassion towards yourself and your experiences ?
What brings a person in to counselling are often deeply personal, usually very private thoughts, feelings and experiences. Sometimes we seek help because we feel we need more information about what is happening to us and along the way, we will find new ways of seeing things or learn about new skills that may help us.
What I hear time and again has really been the most helpful however is having someone “ride along”; a person who accepts and understands without judgement., who trusts we will get where we need to go in our own time. The reward of patience with ourselves I have found truly is more patience.
One of the founders of Greenpeace was a woman named Dorothy (Rabinowitz) Stowe. A social worker who worked in mental health, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants to the US, she and her husband applied Quaker ideas about bearing witness to what they considered injustice, to environmental activism.
The idea is that by witnessing someone’s suffering or bearing witness to an injustice that we may not be able to stop, we change something. That also by speaking out about it, a layer of oppression is lifted as the silence is broken.
This notion resonates with me; sometime I still wish I could make changes happen faster, but when walking beside someone who honours me with sharing their struggle, I am reminded of a saying my mom has always told me; ‘a trouble shared is a trouble halved’.
22 Oct 2012