Acceptance - what is it? how do you learn it? can you lose it?
It's such an easy word to say but sometimes so difficult to do.
As a therapist I spend a lot of time working with clients on how to accept that their problems won't magically disappear or they'll develop such a high level of tolerance that they won't feel affected by them anymore. This can be achieved by disputing the demands we put on ourselves and those we feel others put on us, but many clients don't want to dispute them. They like having these demands as it means they're "present and in control" of their life. If I am met with this response we often look at Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) meaning clients accept themselves totally for who they are and acknowledge that they have flaws. They then act in accordance with their values being aware they're fallible human beings. Sometimes this isn't the way they want to go either! So where do we go from here?
In order to start the process of change we have to accept where we are as fallible human beings. If we don't do this we don't get to the root cause of the clients disturbance, meaning it can reoccur, and it often does. I also say to clients in their first session that I don't possess a magic cure or wand in order to make their problems disappear. They have to be patient with themselves and trust in the process. It's much harder to do this compared to the quick fix but trust me it's so much better in the long term.
Acceptance can also be tricky as many of us (myself included) don't like to admit we have flaws. Why would we want to expose our failings and talk about them to a stranger on a weekly basis? But by accepting yourself for who you are means you can let go of some of your self-deprecating thoughts and just be able to be you.
Here's a great exercise I do with clients who are struggling with self-acceptance: you'll need a pen, a piece of paper and a phone with a camera or a mirror.
Think of someone you really love and care about
Imagine that person saying something to you that was negative about themselves
Write down up to 10 things you'd say to that person which would be encouraging, loving and demonstrates how much you care such as:
I love you
We can get through this together
You're not alone
When you've written down those 10 things read them again to yourself and really take in the words you've written down.
Now take out your mirror or phone - if using your phone switch on the camera and put it into selfie mode so you can see yourself.
Read the 10 things you wrote down back to yourself whilst looking at yourself. Really connect with the words and think about what they mean to you when you read them back to yourself.
How do you feel? This can be a really thought provoking exercise for clients as it seems much easier to say these things to someone else than to yourself but why do they deserve it more than you?
We're all worthwhile human beings so there's no logical reason as to why a friend or loved one is more deserving of hearing those things than you are.
Acceptance can be difficult to gain and even more so to keep but if you allow yourself to accept yourself for who you are then change is not only possible but easier too. CBT/REBT & ACT are great complimentary therapies to use together and my clients love how they can feel differently about themselves in order to create lasting emotional change.
Please get in touch with me to find out more, till next month.