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.
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
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.
I write a lot about this in my new book, The. Best. Relationship. Ever. Pick it up at Amazon
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
As a thank-you, we'll send you a link to our pdf booklet, Exercises in Consciousness.
What could be better than that??