The shift from being stuck in a problem to creating lasting solutions often means acknowledging, and then accepting, certain things about ourselves. As we begin such a process is often the first time that we give names or even identities to those darker parts of ourselves which have been driving our unwanted behaviours at an almost sub-conscious level. We sometimes become aware of some uncomfortable truths.
Awareness and even understanding are of little value if we do nothing with them to step up to better ways of being. For example, I can ‘understand’ all of my drivers and ‘characters’, I can build ‘root cause’ or ‘family of origin’ stories of where these originated, and then do nothing with them. Or worse, I can use them as excuses for staying stuck where I am.
Too often I have seen people become gloriously self-aware, and then start to use their self-knowledge as an excuse or reason for continuing their anti-social behaviours. They might say something like “I know that it is because what my uncle Bob said to me when I was seven” and continue to express the behaviour as they always have. It gives their behaviour an external source of control, so they are not in a position to do anything about it. If I accept that I have all of these dark characteristics, then they must be ‘who I am’.
Accepting the ‘bad’ can therefore be easy – in fact, too easy.
I want to share with you something even more difficult and important – self acceptance of something else – our shining (positive) self.
Often my clients would admit that they were experts at dismissing anything positive anyone would say about them. At the same time, everything bad that I could imagine that others were thinking about me would be accepted as true without a moment’s thought. They had no problem ‘accepting’ all the negatives (real or ‘imagined’), and dismissing anything that might be nice for them to hear or think about themselves.
Standing back, it is easy to see why this strategy could be valuable. It a deep level, a person could unconsciously think “If I make sure I have heard or imagined all the bad things that I can be, and say even worse things about myself than you could ever come up with, then no matter what anyone says, it could never be as bad as I had already told myself”. They are therefore ‘safe’ from the pain of finding out new bad things about themselves.
I find this is a common theme with my clients – they have no problem accepting their ‘dark sides’ – it is almost their greatest skill.
It is often their good qualities, positive self-thoughts and the ‘shining’, positive version of themselves that they cannot accept.
I will often challenge clients to imagine that this process is wired into them – positive is immediately ignored, negative is immediately amplified – and they can experiment with changing the polarity. If thoughts are just thoughts, and feelings are just feelings, then we get to choose what meaning we give those thoughts and feelings. What if the wires were changed around and they automatically dismissed any negative thought, and accepted without question any positive thought?
This can be an interesting exercise for them to play with, and leads to a realisation of how their thinking is being filtered in a way that is not offering them a realistic view of their experience.
Because as we experiment with the idea of accepting that we have positive aspects, we begin to realise that we can use these good traits and skills to amplify positive experience in our lives.
Practising ‘personal appreciative enquiry’ is powerful. That is, begin to focus on the positive. Realising that we aren’t only a collection of negative things, and working to see how we can accept and amplify our positive characteristics can completely change your life.
With my clients I work towards a ‘parking lot’ concept – each thought has no value until it goes into your parking lot – where you examine it for its real value, see if it is worth anything to you, and then either let it go or do something with it. Accepting that we are complex selves that are neither all good nor all bad, that we have both shining positive qualities as well as the dark characters tucked away, means we get to choose our thoughts and how we apply them. What if we got to work on accepting the positive qualities that we had? What if we stepped up and were more of our shining selves, more often? I wonder how you would experience that?
I will leave you with a quote from Marianne Williamson1 that I will often share with clients to reflect upon regarding this topic:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”
1. 1. A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”, Marianne Williamson. (1992).P. 190.