Sounds, well radical...
And it is.
Ok, what the hell am I talking about?
One of the ways to get underneath shame and dislodge it from its vice like grip over your life, is to practice radical acceptance.
“Radical acceptance isn’t suppressing that you want something, it is accepting that you really want something that you aren’t getting and it isn’t a catastrophe.” Marsha A. Linehan.
I am not sure about any of you but this statement almost knocked me off my chair!
I always thought that I was supposed to stop wanting something. Suppress it. Deny it. Pretend that I don’t want it. Pretend that I am getting it when I know I really am not getting it. Delusion. Denial. For me, the usual suspects.
So this statement that I am not supposed to suppress wanting something that I am not receiving is a pretty revolutionary thought. I can just want whatever it is that I want and am not getting...brilliant!
Then the next step is to accept that I am not getting it. That requires that I stop deluding myself, pretending something else is going on. Sometimes I think that I need to just fucking stop talking to people...that is where I lie to myself. In my need to convince you that my life is ok as it is. Or in my attempt to create a loving connection. I bridge over the gaps in my life to show you what? That I am worthwhile? That I am ok? That I am supposed to be, feel, exist like this?
Sometimes I think that I live a ridiculously defensive life. All of my existence is set up to project this person that I want you to see. Sometimes she really is there and sometimes she is just a figment of my imagination. A spirit that I conjure to make myself and you feel better. But that is really more of a topic for another day...
Today I can see that my work exists in this place where I must accept that there are things that I need that I am not receiving. There are things that I want that I am not getting. And accepting that is hard.
What is it to accept something anyway?
Let’s start first with what it isn’t...
Acceptance is not:
Acceptance is simple...it is really not fighting reality. Let me provide an example...
I had plans this week to go on vacation. My children were supposed to go see their dad. I was going to take off and go on a 9 day road trip in my RV. I was, at first, going alone. Then I invited someone else to come. That was my plan. That was what I wanted.
This is what happened instead...
My children did not go see their dad due to COVID.
I decided that taking off across the country with the virus surge was not a good idea.
The person I asked to go with me provided me an answer by not providing me an answer.
The cat got attacked by dogs and is awaiting surgery.
One of the goats is sick and needs to see a vet today.
I feel emotionally unbalanced and out of sorts
Work is looming, threatening to intrude even as I write this.
The above is my reality. I do not really like any of it. And to be honest, I have been resisting many of the things that have happened above by refusing to deal with them in a straight forward manner. I have allowed the events to overwhelm me and take over - analysis paralysis has been my lot the past two days.
I have been deploying all of my usual coping strategies that all operate to do one thing: deny reality. So I have suffered. The relief comes when I start accepting it all as being what it is. A complete breakdown of all my plans and ideas. It isn’t going the way that I wanted at all. I can be pissed about it, hurt by it, scared over it and financially insecure about it all. And all of that is fine. All of that is ok. Feel my feelings. But what I have been avoiding doing, which has exponentially increased my suffering, is to refuse to accept it. I have been playing an emotional kick the can game with myself. Deluding myself into believing that somehow it will all be righted and I will be able to get what I want.
It is all going to hell because for some unknown reason I am not supposed to be going to New Mexico. My kids are not supposed to be going to Texas. My friend is not supposed to be going away with me. The animals are supposed to need vet care. I am not happy about any of the above. But I have suffered mostly because of my stubborn refusal to accept it. And then to add more suffering, I have pretended to be ok with it all while denying how I felt about it.
Let me clear that up now...I hate it all. All of the stuff. I am not happy about not going on my trip. I am not happy about the kids not going to Texas. I am not happy that my friend couldn’t give me an answer and that the answer I got I didn’t want or like. I am not happy that my animals are in pain and needing vet care. I am not happy about any of it.
But I have suffered because of my refusal to accept reality. Reality always wins. So my decision is really how long do I want to suffer? This week the answer is apparently a week.
So radical acceptance comes to the rescue and allows me all of my shitty feelings about all of the above. And helps me by showing me that even though I am not getting what I want, and I am not suppressing that I want something different than what I am getting, it isn’t a catastrophe...even if it feels like it is.
There is really nothing wrong except I am not getting my way.
I can take a trip at another time.
My kids will go see their dad at Christmas and I will get a break that I really, really need.
My friend will work through his own stuff and be ok - and I will see that it was really me that caused the current crisis - I knew the truth but pretended that something else was happening to both our detriments.
The animals will get the care they need.
Resolution is mine as soon as I stop thinking that something else should be happening. There are no real catastrophes going on. I am just not getting my way. The end.
There are three main reasons why I fail to accept:
1. I lack the skills to accept.
2. I believe that accepting means approving.
3. Emotions get in the way.
In my case, it is #3 that is kicking my ass this week. I have the skills to accept and I know that I do not have to like something to accept it. That acceptance is not approval!
For me, it is simple old emotions that have been kicking my ass and causing me to be stuck. And guess what? I am not in charge of how my emotions come, how long they stay and when they give way for other emotions to take center stage.
Perhaps naming them might help...
I feel sad, disappointed, derailed, let down and scared.
I feel sad that this beautiful time I thought I was going to have isn’t going to happen.
I feel disappointed for the same reason.
I feel derailed because I just can’t seem to get things going.
I feel let down because I really wanted and needed a break...a getaway.
I feel scared because for the most part I have been telling myself a story about how unworthy I am and that is why this is all happening...
Ok, thanks for sharing. I believe that somehow just by sharing them I am granted the ability to be done with them...and that is simply not true.
I didn’t even mention that a good friend was killed on Friday and I am still reeling from that...unable to really talk about it yet because the pain too great and fresh. I will talk about him, but I need a few more days of perspective before I do.
All of the above, including my friend’s death is not a catastrophe...for me. They are all losses. But the catastrophe of my friend’s untimely and traffic death belongs to his widow. She is having the catastrophe. Not me. None of my plans not working out have been catastrophic, I just feel like they are. Which makes me a bit childish, immature and overly dramatic.
I think what the quote that I started with is telling me is how to be present now with the hard feelings that I am not getting what I want...to remember that it is all happening for me, not to me. That my feelings feel catastrophic but that does not mean that they are. They are just feelings.
In summary, I have wanted things this week that I haven’t gotten. I have tried to suppress those feelings which has only resulted in me feeling like things are worse than they are. I have been rejecting reality which has only led to more suffering. Accepting things as they, not as I would have them is the door to freedom. And even though I know this, I find myself in a place where I am just not willing or able to unlock the door.
So that is where I am today. I accept it and hate it at the same time. And that is not a catastrophe. Which helps me see that it is all unfolding and the sooner I get on the beam and allow reality to be reality, to accept that I have inconvenient feelings about reality and finally that none of what is happening is a catastrophe, the sooner I can get on with living my life one minute at at time.