Issue #15 |February 2010


Today’s Topic: The Power of Acceptance

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

-- C. G. Jung

Ready to grow?

Valentine's Day can signal a call for growth -- within ourselves and in our relationships. This special celebration of romance and love may illuminate what seems lacking in our partnerships.

Instead of feeling appreciative, perhaps you've been taking your partner for granted, grumbling about her annoying habits, critical of something he is doing or not doing, wishing he or she were different. Or perhaps you've been railing against being single, not having a relationship, feeling discouraged and disheartened in your search for love.

Whatever your situation, you may feel the pull for growth this Valentine's Day. And if you do, I suggest that the growth you are looking for may start with accepting where you are.

A personal story

Many years ago I was embroiled in a relationship that was rife with problems. No matter which way I turned, I couldn't see a good solution to the situation. For many years I struggled, like a yo-yo, to resolve things. I found leaving and staying were equally intolerable. No amount of trying to "fix" the relationship worked. (And believe me, I threw everything at it that I could think of!) I felt discouraged. I felt embarrassed. I felt angry at myself for creating such a mess. I wanted to be anywhere but in my own skin, facing the reality that I had somehow created.

In the midst of that very difficult time, I learned the power of acceptance. At my lowest point, a very wise friend had the compassion and directness to challenge me to quit railing and flailing, and to simply tell the truth about my situation. She invited me to stop judging, stop regretting and stop blaming -- and to simply accept and tell the truth about what was so. Here and now.

I took her invitation and shared my feelings and thoughts fully. I eventually came to a place of simply accepting where I was, how I felt and the mistakes I felt I'd made. The resolution of my troubled relationship began in that moment -- when I stopped resisting the way it was and all the choices I'd made to that point, which had brought me here. It took some months for the resolution of that relationship to unfold. However the moment I accepted where I was - without judgement or condemnation - I was able to move forward -- and my suffering largely stopped. I experienced the power of acceptance.

Accepting where you are is the first step on the road to where you want to go.

It seems to be one of life's paradoxes that: in order to make a change, we need to begin by accepting what is. Our refusal to do so can cause us unnecessary suffering and short-circuit the process of change.

“How can I accept something that I don’t like?” you might ask. “If I accept something about my partner or myself that I don’t like, won’t I be doomed to experience that forever?” “If I accept the fact that I’m single, won’t that just perpetuate me staying that way?”

It may be helpful to consider what acceptance IS NOT and WHAT IT IS:
  • Acceptance isn't submission. Nor does it imply that you will "lie down and take it".
  • Acceptance isn't giving up or resignation. It is not an attitude of hopelessness or helplessness.
  • Acceptance isn't an excuse to avoid change. It is not an attempt to side-step responsibility or action.

Rather:

  • Acceptance is coming out of denial. It is giving up rationalizations, excuses and negative judgements.
  • Acceptance is looking reality in the eye (no sugar-coating) and acknowledging what is actually so.
  • Acceptance is a willingness to respond to the way that it is - not how you wish it was.
  • Acceptance is the first building block of forgiveness.

    In his book, The New Earth, Eckhart Tolle speaks about acceptance as a "subtle energy vibration", which brings a quality of peace with it - and therefore opens us to new possibilities. "On the surface," says Tolle, "acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it is active and creative because it brings something entirely new into this world."

Here are three ways to practice acceptance of yourself and your relationship:

1) Explore being non-resistant.

Give up railing against the situation - whatever it is. Give up wishing it were otherwise and assuming that this shouldn't be happening. This is especially helpful in relation to past occurrences which you can't change anyway. As the familiar saying goes, "What you resist persists." So stop resisting.

2) Let go of negative judgements.

Much of our suffering comes from our judgements and interpretations. "He shouldn't act that way - it's rude." "She shouldn't talk so much - she's so self-absorbed." "This divorce/marriage is all wrong - it should never have happened." Our negative judgements keep us stuck in our own limited perspective and unreceptive to a more positive or life-giving interpretation of the situation.

3) Practice non-attachment.

It is difficult to accept things as they are when we become attached to a particular outcome. Non-attachment doesn't mean that we have no desires or preferences. However it does mean that we hold those preferences lightly, receptive to the possibility that something else (perhaps something better) could transpire.

In summary

Says Eckhart Tolle, “One thing we do know: Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience that you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment.”

The problems and issues that we face in our relationships are opportunities for us to grow and evolve, emotionally and spiritually. This is the gift and the challenge of intimate relationships. If we can embrace and accept what is -- then we are free to creatively approach our choices for the future.

Invitation to action

Select something about yourself or your relationship that you dislike and want to change. (This exercise does not apply to any behaviour which you experience as abusive). For one week, approach that trait with an attitude of acceptance. Don't resist it, don't judge it and don't get attached to changing or controlling it. At the end of the week, notice how that felt and what transpired.

Shirley’s Update:

I love to support singles in finding the relationship they desire. Contact me about the new and improved Conscious Dating Self-Discovery and Readiness Program. This comprehensive program can help you avoid past mistakes and give you the tools for making pro-active and healthy choices in dating and finding love.

Shirley Vollett BSW PCC is a Life and Relationship Coach, with over 20 years of combined experience in counselling and coaching. She delights in helping pro-active individuals make positive changes in their lives, their work/business and their relationships. Her clients appreciate her ability to listen deeply, her compassionate wisdom and her support in staying focused. Contact Shirley for a complimentary intro phone session. If you are experiencing a challenge or are eager to make some changes, explore how coaching works and how she can help. Click on a link below or visit her website at http://shirley.vollett.com
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