Acceptance as a Form of Empowerment

IMG_0543Is much of your day taken up by preoccupations of some sort?  It can be helpful to distinguish between a preoccupation that results in productive or creative thinking that helps you to move through something as opposed to a preoccupation with something or someone that you are unhappy with and unable to change.  How much of life is passing you by  while you are consumed with the latter kinds of rumination?  How many sunsets or sunrises have been missed, lost in thought?  If you would like to turn this around, see if you can catch yourself throughout the day when you are ruminating in a non-productive way on a particular topic, a person or situation that is irritating you.  Once you notice this, follow these steps:

  • Ask yourself, “Do you have any power to change the situation in this moment?”
  •  If not, then shift your awareness out of your head and into your body.  How does your body feel on the inside?  Is it tense?  What sensations are there?  How are you carrying this problem or dilemma in your body?
  •  Can you acknowledge that this is so, just for right now.  Take your time with this and allow it to register fully in your head and in your body.  See if you can yield to this.  Let go of the future and the past, you only need to acknowledge that this is so, in this moment.
  • Now see if you can accept that this is so right now.  (If this is too hard, then see if you can be gentle with this place inside that is having such a hard time accepting.)
  •  Breathe into this place with compassion.  (Remember, you only need to accept that you are powerless right now.)  See if you can stay in this place of acceptance for several minutes.
  •  Remind yourself that the future hasn’t happened, you have no control over the past, all you have control over is how you are in this moment.  Allow yourself to deepen into this realization.
  •  Take a few deep breaths and look around, take in your surroundings, notice what is in this moment.  See if you can enter fully into the wonder of the Now.

If you can do this several times/day, you can begin to change the way your brain operates.  It takes a lot of psychic energy to battle something you are powerless over.  In this way, you are tying up valuable resources that can be used to enjoy sunsets, sunrises, and all the other precious moments that are passing you by.  Accepting what is (in this moment) frees up inner space and resources to approach situations with creativity and flexibility.  You are now moving with the Tao.  Great power lies here.

Taking Things Personally

Silhouette on mtnCan you recount a time when you’ve been preoccupied by feeling slighted, put down, or dismissed in some way?  Have you ever ruminated over something someone said to you; feeling as though it was said against you?  Maybe it has resulted in your feeling hurt, resentful or even outraged?   How big of a space is it occupying in your mind?  How does it feel in your body while ruminating on this topic?  Is this a pleasant feeling?

Do you find yourself entering into an inner monologue in your head; putting down the person who slighted you?  Are you beginning to make a case for why you are right and the other person is wrong?  If so, do you feel slightly energized by these thoughts, or perhaps pumped up by them?  Does it make you feel better, or more “right,” by putting this person down in your head, or even out loud to others?

This kind of anger or righteous response can serve 2 purposes.  When we feel our sense of self is fractured or hurt, anger can hold us together psychologically.  It can also lead to us feeling superior, which is usually preferable to feeling put down or inferior.  Anger can hold us together (in a perverse kind of way); it can shore up our fragile sense of self.

The difficulty with the above strategy is we need to put down others to feel good.  This is a cycle that has no end.  You are engaging in a talion response: “you make me feel bad, then I put you down”…and so it goes.  Additionally, we are stuck with inflammatory thoughts running amok in our heads, afflicting our bodies with tension and negative feelings.  This not only occupies space that we could be using for more creative, productive pursuits, but it is essentially polluting our inner landscape.

One of the reasons this kind of negative thinking takes root, is that there were likely many instances at younger ages where there was no-one to turn to for comfort when you felt slighted, no one who showed they care.  When this happens repeatedly, over a long period, hurt feelings can harden into resentments and anger.  The biological brain actually creates a superhighway that bypasses vulnerability and goes straight to anger.  If we can’t  be held or supported when we’ve felt slighted, at least our anger and righteousness can nurse our wound.

Is there another way?  How do we change this inner landscape to one that is more friendly, generous and life-giving?

The next time you find yourself telling someone off in an inner dialogue or putting someone else down because you’ve been put down – Stop – look for the hurting place inside.  Attend to this place, acknowledge it, find some solace that is healthy and life-affirming.  Remember times in the past when you might have slighted someone else, or perhaps put someone down.  Entertain the possibility that this person who put you down might be talking out of his/her own place of hurting and fragility that has hardened over into anger.  Can you see this behavior as having more to do with their hurting place than with you personally?  Efforts in this direction can free up real estate inside your brain for much more productive, creative, healthy and self-affirming ways of being and thinking.

Decide whether you want to spend time nursing your wounds with angry responses or would it be more helpful to offer support to that hurting place inside so you can move out of this destructive cycle into a place that gets you in touch with your real self-worth.