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Acceptance - A Tricky Mindset
by Art Ramsay, Ph.D.

Over the years, I have found that acceptance is a big issue with people. By 'acceptance' I mean your ability to accept someone or something at face value. Let me explain. People are the way they are for a variety of reasons each person with his or her own story. But we are the way we are. Period. We can accept people as they are, or not. We can accept a situation as it is, or not. Let me be clear -by accepting, I do not mean to condone a behavior or situation.

 Before you decide to accept, or not accept, something, you have to make a judgment about it. Do I like it, or not? Does it offend me? Is it less than, more than, or okay? Get the picture? We can't accept something, or someone, outright. We have to run it by our internal judge and critique it first. Suppose you could accept something, or someone, as they are, without needing to judge?

 Take any acquaintance - family member, friend, co-worker and think about whether you accept that person as she/he is. What trait do you like or dislike? Is it okay for the person to have that trait even if you don't like it? How would you relate to that person if he/she didn't have this trait? What other aspects of this person can you identify that you actually like?

 We live in a world of separation, meaning that we tend to see all our differences rather that our sameness. If we would but take a moment and look for the sameness, the things we like about someone or something, we would feel closer and more connected. There have been a number of songs written about connection rather than separation over the years. One that I have always liked is John Lennon's 'Imagine'. "Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do, nothing to kill or die for . . ."

 We are segmented into villages, counties, cities, states, principalities, and so forth geographically. We are divided into ethnic cultures, the color of our skin, family orientation, religious beliefs, background, and on and on it goes. Is it any wonder that we find it difficult to accept people?  When we begin to recognize that everyone "breathes the same air, drinks the same water, walks the same earth" as another recent song states, might feel a tinge of sameness.

 We have within us the same longings, and going down to the very basic level, the same will to survive. We further divide ourselves into our careers, jobs, vocations, or creative expression of what we bring to the world. But these aspects of our lives are not who we are; they do not identify us at our core level. Your job or vocation may be a carpenter or a writer, but that is not who you are; it is what you do for a livelihood or to express yourself.

 The foregoing gives us a myriad of ways to not accept someone. People have said to me, "but we are not the same, look your body is different than mine." How true. But we are not our bodies. Oops, that statement probably brought up a whole bunch of objections, because we indentify with our bodies. Are we our cars? Many identify with their cars, true, but your car is a vehicle for your body to get where you want it to go. Similarly, your body is a vehicle to take you where you want to go. Anyway, this is a whole subject of its own. I just wanted to point out the main source of perceived separation.

 Getting back to acceptance, it is only when you can look beyond appearances, what your perception tells you about someone or something, that acceptance is possible. The truth is everyone is our mirror; what we see in someone else is a reflection of our own consciousness, our own beliefs. Again I see eyes rolling and remarks like, "yeah, right." You could prove it to yourself by being aware of some of your own traits and seeing how they are mirrored by other people and situations.

 In my Inner Peace class, I have an exercise we do usually in the second class. We gather in a circle. Then someone goes into the middle. Then each one of us say the person's name and "I accept you just the way you are." The person in the center gets to hear that as many times as there are people in the circle. Then someone else enters the middle and he/she hears how accepted she/he is by the rest of us. You might want to try it sometime, maybe at a family or work gathering.

 One step toward acceptance might be to separate the act or trait from the person. You might not like what a person does, but what someone does is not the person. Now I know I could get into discussions about "well he wouldn't do that if he wasn't that way" sort of belief, but this isn't relevant to acceptance. Even if he was that way, you could still accept that is the way he is and be done with it.

 Acceptance of things as they occur in our lives could be a first step with accepting situations and people. Notice things as they happen during the day, especially those situations you find frustrating and difficult. Stop and bring your awareness to it. Is getting upset with it going to change it? Of course not. But what if you could accept it as it is in the moment, with the idea to change it, if that is what seems necessary, when you can.

 It is through taking baby steps toward an object that we reach the goal. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, is a noted saying. To accept something as it is in the moment is a first step toward acceptance as an aspect of your life. The only things that stand in your way is your long-held beliefs. Move them out of your way as you move through life, and your way gets a whole lot easier.

 What step can you make toward acceptance of someone, of some situation? Make it simple and let it happen.

 

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