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How to Get Your Life Together – 4 – Accepting Yourself — learn­ing to accept and work with all of you is key to living a fulfill­ing life


In This Moment

Just a few days before we leave for our 2 months in Costa Rica. We’ve found a lovely little casita outside the town of Sarchi, in the Central Valley.


accepting yourself

Number 4 — Accepting Yourself

We think we have to reject elements of our shadow side, and only acknowl­edge the "good stuff." Unfortunately, who we are is "all of us." Here are some ways to work with this.

Letters, we get letters!:

"Who Am I"?

I seem to have diffi­culty with this ques­tion. I can describe myself in my vari­ous roles: a male, a father, an ex-husband, a friend, a char­tered accoun­tant, some­one who likes to do differ­ent things, e.g.. dance, work-out at the gym, walk, bike etc., etc.

I can describe all my likes, and dislikes, my history, my hopes for the future, my emotional and reac­tive patterns, all the things about myself of which I am currently aware. But who am I really? Do all of these things describe me? How would you describe your­self? How might I describe "me"?

Well, there’s an interesting question, if I do say so.

To work back­ward, I might quickly say, "I am the sum total of all of me – my body, my mind. I am the sum total of my expe­ri­ences and my under­stand­ings. I am the sum total of my inter­nal theatre — the stories I tell myself — who I remem­ber being, who I wish I was. That said, as engage with the real world, I am only that which I choose to accept, inte­grate, and express."

Acceptance is the beginning

I spend a lot of time help­ing clients develop tools to discover who they are. Mostly, there’s a war going on. "I’m this, not that!" And yet, "that" is what they do. I work toward help­ing them to see that they are no more than who they enact.

The stuff they want to change is typi­cally hard-wired. Most want the "bad stuff" to go away. It doesn’t. Our flaws and foibles are ours. So the initial accep­tance is just that. I am all of me — what I think, my "shadow side," and what I do.

Integration is about rigourous implementation

The easi­est thing in the world is to keep doing what doesn’t work. We hit upon some­thing, and repeat it despite never getting the results we say we want. Rather than keep doing it, the key is find­ing some­thing else to do, and iden­ti­fy­ing that as "my new approach."

Expression means actually doing it

It goes like this: I accept who I am, includ­ing the parts I’m work­ing on chang­ing. Then, I work at find­ing alter­na­tives to what isn’t work­ing, iden­tify that as the "active" part of me… and then I do it. If the results are in keep­ing with my goals, I do more. If not, back to the draw­ing board.

Things that get in the way of this simple process

seeing self in mirror

Most of us have a limited range of "self," and this is based upon denial and repres­sion. Our upbring­ing — our social­iza­tion — led us to learn to block those aspects of our selves that others consid­ered to be unac­cept­able. As chil­dren with­out built-in "prin­ci­ples," this is a vital parent­ing func­tion.

Socialization is necessary, AND it also needs to end. Say at age 16-18. At that point, we need to learn to examine what we have been taught for utility.

Clients offer resis­tance to this letting go, in vari­ous ways. Mostly, they’ll tell me how hard it is to change, or how they first need to get approval, then they’ll change. Or, they remind me how enti­tled to special treat­ment they are — the rules do not apply to them.

And their lives spin out of control, as they cling on for dear life.

It takes great courage to dig into our beliefs — often, the stuff is hidden beneath layers of "stories." We fear this repressed mate­r­ial, and fear unearthing those parts of our person­al­i­ties that others have helped us to repress.

The goal is not simply iden­ti­fi­ca­tion – it’s the will­ing­ness to admit to who we are, to what we are doing, and owning what we are resist­ing / repress­ing. Then, it’s choos­ing to enact ourselves as adults — select­ing behav­iours that fly in the face of how we’ve been in the past.

Take anger.

I write a lot about this in my new book, The. Best. Relationship. Ever. Pick it up at Amazon

being angry

Anger is present in every­one. Anger is a secondary emotion, often mask­ing a hurt. Our way of express­ing, deal­ing with or stuff­ing anger is learned behav­iour. Our parents taught us what was comfort­able for them.

In Bodywork, we learn that the repres­sion of emotion is a lead­ing cause of illness and blocked life energy. The expres­sion of emotions, then, leads to better health, and a shar­ing of this aspect of our selves. On the other hand, the mind­less, undis­ci­plined expres­sion of anger has another name – violence.

Many have learned to deny their anger, and thereby go through life stuff­ing it. Others choose indi­rect anger (manip­u­la­tion, guilt­ing, etc.) Some have become "enti­tled," and from this side of the equa­tion, figure they have the right to dump their anger when­ever and wher­ever they choose.

Being an adult is this: Once we recog­nize that all of our emotions are a part of us, and that all that goes on inside of us is "who we really are," we choose not to settle for anything less than full expres­sion of who we know ourselves to be today.

HOWEVER, and here is the kicker, this expression (again, using anger as an example) needs to be in one of two ways:

  1. I have the right to express my anger in private – i.e. by myself, punch­ing a heavy bag, hitting a mattress with a tennis racquet.
  2. I have the oppor­tu­nity to request time and space to release my anger, under controlled condi­tions, in the pres­ence of others.

Notice that last one. I do not have the right to impose my anger (or any other of my emotions or games) on others. If I do, if I storm around, scream­ing at some­one, yelling, blam­ing, what­ever, I am commit­ting violence.

I just finished a Bodywork session with a new client. She was very quiet through­out. When we talked after, she said, "I know I repress myself. I hope you’ll be patient with me as I explore letting more of this stuff out." This is how adults nego­ti­ate the expres­sion of "inter­nal theatre."

Therefore, one mark of matu­rity is the abil­ity to ask for permis­sion. It is a letting go of child­ish enti­tle­ment. I learn that I am quite capa­ble of choos­ing how I will express who I am, and with whom. I do this to dig into my own depth.

As I own my anger, for exam­ple, I move from denial to accep­tance. As I own my bratty, enti­tled 6-year-old, I also choose to express his needs directly, instead of through whin­ing and misdi­rec­tion. And, emphat­i­cally, as I own my deep desire to do some­thing stupid — some­thing that I know will damage me and my rela­tion­ships, I can, in that moment, and the next, make better choices.

Being present is about being available.

acceptance of what is
The fear and joy of reve­la­tion

Availability can also be described as "open, honest vulner­a­bil­ity." It’s letting those we choose to be inti­mate with in on who we are — not the hollow, sani­tized version, but the "whole enchi­lada." It’s taking the risk to be your­self.

It’s not about giving up on your iden­tity, although, as you do this work, the "social mask" will fall away. It’s about truly deal­ing with all aspects of your­self. You discover that you are not content — all there is is a repeat of past behav­iours and under­stand­ings. You real­ize that you are locked into a famil­iar place, and you fear leav­ing it. Yet, to be whole, leave it you must.

You leave it by entering into the fear and anxiety of being whole.

You thor­oughly disen­gage your energy and support from every­thing that does not lead you in a direc­tion you wish to go. You find people to be completely open and honest with. You do away with living in the past or fear­ing the future, and choose to embrace today.

Learning to know your­self is not done through brain­power. It is done through count­less acts of self-revelation with a person or persons you trust. You are blind to what is happen­ing, as we all are, left to our own devices. So, you make a pact with your prin­ci­pal part­ner, a few close friends, a ther­a­pist, a Bodyworker.

For each of us, the path to self-knowledge is a circle. We go inside and review what we are about, what we "know" and what we are enact­ing. We look for blocks, fears, terrors. We then make a pact to reveal our thoughts, feel­ings, fears, joys.

We let down the walls and let out the repressed mate­r­ial. We commit to the discov­ery of other ways of enact­ing our being. We don’t just keep stuff­ing our stupidi­ties down other people’s throats. Again, and again, and again.


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