Knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not, when we should practice it and when we shouldn’t, isn’t always easy.
We’ve all heard of Dr. Paul’s “Acceptance is the Answer” in the book Alcoholics Anonymous (aka The Big Book). In fact, it’s one of my very favorites, and something I’ve arrived to live by in my life. But does it always apply? Even when someone’s behavior, or some thing, is unacceptable?
In my attempt to gain useful understanding around the idea of acceptance, I sought out, and found, a couple of explanations that provided clarity to my question:
Acceptance in human psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation.
Acceptance, as defined in a dictionary, is the willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation.
Based upon those two disparate meanings, I came to the conclusion that there are two forms of acceptance, one that’s helpful to practice in every situation, and one that may not be helpful to practice, depending upon the situation.
I apply the first type of acceptance to everything, provided I’m spiritually fit enough to do so. And when I’m not, I usually pay the price by fighting reality. After all, let’s face it: what is, is, regardless of whether I accept it or not. Being angry or hurt or frustrated by it does no good at all. In fact, it usually prevents us from moving past it, meaning we stay in it, even when it’s unhealthy to do so.
But by accepting the situation for what it is, we are now able to ask ourselves “Am I ok with this, as is, on a continuing basis?” If, the answer is no, then we can now move out of the problem, and into the solution. And here’s how I do it…
1. INVENTORY I write about the situation, identifying what’s happening, honestly looking at my part, how I’ve contributed to the problem, as well as theirs, or how the situation is affecting me if it’s not a person.
2. GUIDANCE I ask for some time with my my trusted advisor (sponsor).
3. RESPONSIBILITY I read to them what I’ve written and discuss it, asking for help to dig deeper in finding my part, adding any new awareness to what I’ve already written. I then lightly cross out everything I’ve written except my part, in order to get to step 4 below.
4. DETERMINATION With my advisor, we determine if I should stay in, or detach from, the person and/or situation. We do this by asking the following questions:
(A) If I continue accepting this situation is there a good chance it may be dangerous to me or others? If so, then it’s time to detach.
(B) Have I discovered that I really have no part in this (for example, a young child being physically abused by a parent). If we honestly have no part, again, it’s time to detach. If neither of these apply, we move to (C).
(C) Is there a possibility that my actions, or inactions, have contributed to this unacceptable situation. If the answer is yes, then with the help of my advisor I create and write out a plan of action that includes changes I can make in my behavior, that may effect a change for the better in my relationship or situation.
5. ACTION I then practice my plan of action for a period of one month, keeping a daily checklist in my journal to see if I’m actually practicing my plan of action. For example (A) Send a loving text to my parter each day – Yes [X] No [ ].
6. FOLLOWUP After the month is over, with my advisor, I review my checklist to see how well I’ve followed through with my plan of action, if things are now acceptable, (or moving towards acceptable), and what, if any, changes in my plan of action should be taken.
In the past when I struggled with acceptance, I would blame myself or someone else, and either fight my way through it, causing more destruction, or run the other way out of fear, even when there was no danger.
Today, instead of struggling to accept situations that are uncomfortable, I embrace them, applying concrete actions aimed at solution. In this way I invite awareness, growth, love and abundance into my problems, turning them into opportunities for growth. And when I do that, not only do I build more respect and love for myself, but as an added bonus… ILML!