THE THREE LEVELS OF ACCEPTANCE



"God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."

-The Serenity Prayer


When I talk to people about the concept of accepting their lives and everything
in it, the most common argument I hear is that acceptance in some way equals
acquiescence - that to accept what is (say war, famine, disease, etc.) is the
equivalent of giving in to it or worse still, condoning it, offering our tacit
approval by the mere act of not actively opposing it.

But as Carl Jung said:

"We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate,
it oppresses."

In this sense, we can usefully talk about three levels of acceptance:


--------------------------------
Level One - Grudging Acceptance
--------------------------------

'Do not go gentle into that good night;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light!'

-Dylan Thomas

Grudging acceptance is simply a reluctant acknowledgement that what is, is. We
don't want it to be this way, we don't think it should be this way, if we can
we'll make damn sure someone will pay for it being this way - but we do accept
that it is this way, for now. Despite all the qualifications, this is a very
important first step.

For example, in families where someone is dying of a fatal illness, it is not
uncommon for at least some family members to pretend it's not happening, as if
the act of acknowledgement would lend the disease a 'realness' it doesn't already
have.

But as anyone who is not an ostrich has already realized, pretending something
isn't happening doesn't actually make it go away. This is why acknowledging what
is - even grudgingly - is a true act of courage. We don't know if we can do
anything about our situation, but we have found the strength inside our hearts to
face it and find out.


--------------------------------
Level Two - Peaceful Acceptance
--------------------------------

"Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always."

-Rainer Maria Rilke

I will always remember a class I attended with Byron Katie (see the 'Want to
Learn More?' section at the end of this tip to learn more) where a young woman
was talking about her history of childhood abuse that included her having been
locked in a cage by her father for weeks at a time.

In a matter of minutes, Katie's gentle questioning had guided her to a place
where she was able to make her peace with what had happened and how it had
affected her in the intervening years.

What happened next amazed me. In sharp contrast to the relaxed, serene energy
that poured out of the woman who had been abused, several people in the audience
went on the attack, first challenging the validity of what had just happened and
when that proved fruitless, threatening to turn both women in to the authorities
for practicing witchcraft!

Yet all that had happened is the young woman had made the choice to be at peace
instead of continuing to rage against her past. She had literally 'made her
peace', accepting that not only had what happened happened, but that her own
safety and well-being would in no way be enhanced by continuing to keep the
internal battle alive.

This is different to the apathy of learned helplessness, where we no longer fight
because we are sure that we will lose. True peaceful acceptance is always
accompanied by a feeling of genuine peace. If you feel 'dead or dread' when you
think about something, it is more likely that you've given up hope than you've
accepted what is.

Paradoxically, when we make peace by ending the battle, we may still work to
change things - but we can now do so with a clear acceptance of what is within
our control and what is not.

-------------------------------------------
Level Three - Loving (Grateful) Acceptance
-------------------------------------------

"Hating is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."

-Unknown

A few years back, I was hiking in the mountains above the Option Institute with
four men, all of whom had autistic children. I expected the conversation to be a
commiseration of woe, and even mentally prepared some of my own sad stories to
share so that I might 'fit in'. To my amazement, they each in turn expressed
their heartfelt opinion that having an autistic child was the greatest thing that
had ever happened to them.

One man spoke of how dealing with his daughter's illness had led him to
re-evaluate his priorities and leave a job he hated in order to spend more time
with his family. Another told me that he and his wife's shared commitment to
accept and deal with his son's autism had saved his marriage.

The third man shared how his previously rebellious teenage children from an
earlier relationship had come back into his life as they shared in the care and
responsibility for their autistic sister, and the last man said that when his son
finally made eye contact with him after more than a year of working with him, he
rediscovered his faith.

These are the true gifts of acceptance, at any level...

*At level one, we are at war, but at least we are engaged with life.

*At level two, we are not only at peace, we become open to the seemingly
miraculous.

*At level three, we are in love with life, and able to do whatever we know to do
to make things the way we want them. We finally have access, as the serenity
prayer asks for us, to all the courage, wisdom and serenity we could possibly
desire.


-------------------
Today's Experiment:
-------------------

1. Throughout the day today, notice all the little (and not so little) ways in
which you are resisting what is. Pay special attention to the feeling that
certain things 'shouldn't' be the way that they are. If you like, make a list of
some of those 'shouldn't's.

Example:
*My partner shouldn't have left the toilet seat up
*I shouldn't have gotten angry with the kids this morning
*My boss shouldn't have embarrassed me in front of my team
*The government shouldn't be meddling in _______________.


2. For each item on the list, see what you can do to take it to the next level of
acceptance.

Here are some idea starters:

a. To take something from denial to grudging acceptance, simply acknowledge that
it is how it is, for now.

b. To take something from grudging to peaceful acceptance, simply add the phrase,
acknowledge your preference for something different to have happened and add the
phrase "...and I choose to be at peace" to each 'shouldn't' on your list.

Examples:

*I would prefer I hadn't lost my temper with the kids, and I choose to be at
peace.

*I would prefer that the government wasn't meddling in _____________, and I
choose to be at peace.


c. To take something from peaceful to loving acceptance, begin the sentence with
the phrase "I'm glad..." and then add something to make the sentence true.

Examples:

*I'm glad my partner left the toilet seat up, because it reminded me I have
someone wonderful to share my life with.

*I'm glad my boss embarrassed me in front of my team, because it made me aware
that I wasn't being true to my highest values in the way I've been doing my job.

Don't be afraid to have fun with this - what may seem ridiculous when you begin
may feel completely real (and wonderful!) by the time you are done.

Have fun, learn heaps, and love what is!

Until next time,
michael

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