Saturday, November 30, 2013
Don't know if this will be helpful to anyone, but for those of you who have asked I am happy to share my own journey with 'acceptance'.
There are lots of quotes and articles about 'acceptance' and how important it is - but actually how to experience it is another matter - so perhaps it is a process we have to go through in our own way with the help of whatever Higher Power we believe in.
I am an alcoholic, so my first experience with the attitude of acceptance occurred when I realised it was essential that I did not pick up the first drink if I wanted to stay sober, became imperative. I did not actually believe at the time that I was an alcoholic, but my emotional life was a disaster and I was in sufficient pain to try anything to get free because booze had stopped working.
Fortunately I had a sponsor in AA who suggested that "I act as if I thought I was an alcoholic" and begin to follow the 12 step principles in the AA programme exactly as if I believed I was.
My life was pretty much a disaster zone at that time - not physically I still had my home, business, family and two cars in the garage - but emotionally so I tried what was suggested. Over time I became aware of what happens to those who are unable to accept their condition, and knew that beyond a shadow of doubt whether or not I was an alcoholic, I did not want to give it another go in order to find out.
After some time the reality of my condition hit me and I realised I actually was a real alcoholic with all that meant in my life and was hit with the worst bout of depression I have ever experienced and I became suicidal.
Thanks be to my Higher Power that I was given the people and strength to not take my own life and after many months that bout with depression began to lessen. During that period I was forced to live my life one day at a time - there was no alternative once I had made the decision not to take my life. The reason for that was that deep inside me was the conviction that this life is not the end. And that I was on some kind of journey and would have to deal with this situation either now or in some subsequent life form.
So I guess in one way 'acceptance' was forced upon me because the alternative was so much worse. Having found however that it did work, I then began to apply it to other areas in my life. My sponsor in AA used to say Surrender to alcohol and surrender to life. Quit fighting! His words used to be the exact opposite of how I lived my life. Since childhood I had struggled to survive what life threw at me and constantly fighting it. It was then I realised that Acceptance and Defeat are not the same thing at all. Acceptance opened the way to finding a way of living with the condition I had. Defeat would have been killing myself.
Both options were open at the same time.
Acceptance or Defeat.
I do not know whether everyone has to go through suffering to reach a place of being able to accept 'acceptance'. Many years later the Kubler Ross words on the stages of accepting the death of a loved one seem to indicate that this might be true.
There is one quote on acceptance by Paul Tournier which I have found to be true. It is not a case of lying down and surrendering to what seems to be unacceptable. It is a case of accepting the WHAT IS (in the what is - is and what ain't - ain't) scenario. Once I can accept that a situation is real, no matter what I feel about, or whose fault it is - then comes the clarity and choice 'so this is what is' what am I going to do about it?
"Acceptance of one's life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle. On the contrary, it means accepting it as it comes, with all the handicaps of heredity, of suffering, of psychological complexes and injustices.
I used to suffer very badly with depression for as long as I can remember, I never knew any difference as a child - but I used to get up and struggle with the feelings on a daily basis, fighting them and pretending to the world they did not exist and feeling guilty about living a double life. My life was an act - I put it on each morning just to survive the day and pretend to everyone including myself, I was fine. Alcohol, when I discovered it, allowed me to actually 'feel' like a normal person. I thought it was the elixir of life in those days. It allowed me to be who I had always wanted to be. Social, happy and just be like other people.
Maybe a couple of years after getting sober I began to realise there were emotional/mental issues in my life that needed to be dealt with. And this was a long journey of learning to accept one thing after another. Somehow with each new revelation 'the truth of the situation' hit me and I could not deny it and real acceptance seemed to follow on from that place of realising the truth. It was an inner realization - not a mental one.
Then came physical disability - I had all the symptoms for MS and several other auto immune issues which started after I had glandular fever. At that time, some thirty years ago there was much less known than there is today and definitive tests did not always show positive for many of these health issues. That may have changed now although I understand many people still experience the years of inconclusive tests I went through. Regardless, as there was no cure for any of them, it made very little difference which particular name it was called and in the end I stopped all the tests, trying all the 'new' products that promised miraculous cures and began to adjust to the new lifestyle.
I had been a very active person and did not find this period easy. But once acceptance came my life took on a new direction and new meaning. We can believe something in our minds long before we accept it in our hearts or gut, or wherever that deeper level of knowing occurs.
Once this happens it is a different kind of 'knowing'. It is a 'knowing' that brings peace with it. The fighting stops of itself and acceptance takes its place. It is no longer necessary to look for a way of pretending or hoping things are different, or cures that may or may not exist. Once acceptance occurs the whole perspective changes. I no longer looked back and thought of all the things I used to do, or might never do again and life opened up to living in the day and gratitude for the opportunities that were presenting themselves and ways in which I could contribute and feel useful with the limitations I had.
Each new situation in my life has had to be accepted and has been fought tooth and nail until acceptance of the truth began to take over. This is a journey I think we all must take. Growing older, losing loved ones and change of one kind or another is inevitable for us all. How we adjust and move with this flow of life seems to be what defines us in the end.
Through Oprah I discovered the daily practice of writing down 5 things I was grateful for every day. At first I found this an impossible task Gratitude was not an emotion I had ever felt and the only thing I could scrape together for a while was that I was thankful to be sober. So I just kept repeating that until I was able to add a second and over time came up with 5 different things each day. The initial practice was to do this for 1 year. By the end of the year I was so full of the feeling of gratitude for things that I had never even noticed before let alone feeling thankful for them. Something I am grateful for on a daily basis these days is being able to experience the feeling of gratitude itself. I had thought I was incapable of it, along with many other good emotions. Somehow gratitude seems to be tied up with acceptance.
These days I give thanks for everything seemingly good or seemingly bad because I have come to realise that every single thing in my life has brought me to a kinder, more loving, accepting and compassionate place.