Two Types of Acceptance

Two Types of Acceptance

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!

— JamieQ

S.P.O.A.

“It’s easy to let up on the spiritual program of action… We are headed for trouble if we do…” Alcoholics Anonymous p.85

What exactly is a Spiritual Program of Action? I honestly never knew until, one day after a fight my wife said “Maybe you should start working a program!”. With a look of utter disbelief and shock I said “Me? I’m 20 years sober! I work a damn good program!” But when she asked me what my program I work on a daily basis is, I had trouble giving her an answer.

That was the beginning of my search for a Spiritual Program of Action. I searched 12 Step literature and the web. I interviewed old timers that spoke of things like morning rituals and golden hours. I was determined to find the best Spiritual Program of Action in the world, and work it rigorously in order that she could never again say those words to me.

Today, when asked about it, she’ll tell others that her plan worked. She wanted me to get better, nicer and more compassionate. To focus on gratitude and not judge, blame, belittle or demean others. To stop with the righteousness and know-it-all-ism, as well as the need to control and have it my way. To just be more loving. To listen.

These are the same things I want. Working my Spiritual Program of Action gives me those things. It encourages me to move out of darkness and into light. But, as they often say at the end of some of our meetings, it only works if I work it. And like the reading at the top of this post points out, as soon as I let up on my Spiritual Program of Action, my old icky thinking and behaviors come rushing back into practice.

That’s usually about when my wife says “how is your Spiritual Program of Action going?” Ouch!

One Little Note
Now you know it is possible to go 20 years in recovery without having and working a Spiritual Program of Action. However, I suggest you spare yourself (and others) the misery. If you don’t have or work one yet, here are a couple suggestions:

• Start small. Carve out 10 minutes a day.

• Choose 1-2 books. Read a paragraph or page at most from each.

• Get a journal. Write a little daily. Be honest, but don’t write anything in it that could hurt you or others if found. Always end with a list of gratitudes.

• Be consistent. Try not to miss a day.

My experience is, that when I make my Spiritual Program of Action a priority every day (and did it in the morning before most of my daily interactions with others) it grows little by little. I, and others around me, notice the change in attitude. And best of all, I get to love my life! – James