take a breath

No! I do not accept that! (Or…The Power of Acceptance…)

Last Updated: Jun 8, 2022 | Executive Coaching

By Mandeep Singh, PCC

So, I was working with my Coach and once again the topic of a difficult, close relationship came up. You know.

My body constricts. My brow furrows. My breathing is shallower, my mood has shifted down a couple of notches. The entire, familiar frustration of “stuck”-ness manifests itself, inhabits my body. And then it suddenly struck me: She wasn’t even THERE!

I’m stopped dead in my tracks. It bears repeating: She wasn’t THERE. She wasn’t present. It was only my Coach and me.

And my thoughts. And the sensations in my body, the energy knotted up in various parts of it; my mood; my preoccupation. My shallow breathing.

Lightbulb moment: this thing lives in ME. This is not her at all – it never HAS been – it is an IMAGE of her, and it lives in ME. SHE is not the problem. I am.

Exhale.

A few minutes pass – and then another long, slow breath out.

Wow.

So NOW what do I do?

Nothing. I sit with it.

And slowly some thoughts arise. First one: “This goes deep, so we’re going to need patience. This isn’t going to solve itself in a day.” Whew, good – that’s a relief. Second: “Well if this is not who she is, let’s find out WHO she actually IS.”

So, the next time we are together, I try. Any guesses as to what happens? You got it – a minute, and I’m hijacked again! No surprise – she has an image of ME living in her too, and while I may be trying to talk to this potentially brand-new person, SHE is still interacting with this person she has known forever, all contained within this teeny-tiny box, and Boy! Does that get my dander up! 62 seconds is all it takes for me to be talking to MY image of HER again!

Fun stuff this.

I’m a Coach. I’m much better than this, right? Turns out the picture of ME that lives in me – this, wonderful, great sense of humor, patient Coach thang – has its own little buttons labelled “Caution: Do Not Push”. And SHE knows where they are, and whenever things are moving outside the comfortable rhythms of the Known, she knows what to do. “Oh, look! Pretty red buttons! I wonder what they do?”

Well, give or take an hour or two, Thought One suddenly arises again – this isn’t going to solve itself in a day …

Blah, blah, blah.

Fortunately, I learned a trick some time ago, a powerful one, and that alone is worth the price of admission – the price of your having read all this … stuff … thus far. (For which, dear reader, I thank you: the Coach Image that lives in me is pleased, has gone all fat-headed, and once again believes He’s God’s Gift to Mankind. He’s good-hearted so I don’t mind. We’ll let him have this one, okay? He’s had a rough day.)

So here’s the trick, and let’s practice this with a thought that YOU pick. Think of a time you were mildly annoyed. Better still, pick a current unresolved issue still buzzing around somewhere in the background. Perhaps your six-year-old son left his toys scattered all over the living room – for the second time this month. Or, the guy at McDonalds forgot to hold the pickles, even though you’d been very clear about it. Or, here’s a third car which has cut in front of you in the last ten minutes.

Picked one of your own?

Okay, now mentally scan your body and see where all the tension has accumulated. Done?

Now ask yourself the question: “Can I accept this?” (For example, “Can I accept that my son has left all his toys scattered about yet again?”) Be completely truthful with yourself. Can you accept this – one hundred percent? Not 90%, not 98% … One hundred percent.

If the answer is “Yes”, notice how all that unpleasant energy in your body has dissolved.  If the unpleasant energy is still there, the answer was really “No” – perhaps the issue was so tiny, you knew you should accept it – surely, every reasonable person would – and yet, a core, often over-ridden part of you hasn’t accepted it. However, no harm done: you’re ready for the second part of this exercise! You don’t have to find a second situation as outlined below; you already have it.

Okay, now pick a situation which really gets your goat. Something that makes you fume. Reliably. For example, you came up with this brilliant way to engage a really important woman in your life differently – what an Insight it was! – you tried it out, and … disaster!

Pop the question: “Can I accept this?” Heck, NO!

Three deep breaths.

Second question: “Can I accept that I can’t accept this?” (In my example: “Can I accept that I can’t accept that my lovely, brilliant insight didn’t work?”)

Exhale. Phew. Yes. A reluctant yes, but nevertheless “Yes”. And notice now how that unpleasant energy in your body dissolves …

Nine times out of ten. There is one more arrow left in our quiver, but more about that later.

Well, slowly – very slowly – our relationship is improving. It is so slow that sometimes I wonder why I do it … I guess I’m just stubborn that way, and I should probably engage a therapist too. Sigh.

But, back to You, dear reader. I’m not suggesting that you follow my lead – Heavens, no! – that would be just plain nuts.   You are a perfectly whole person, in your perfectly unique way, with your own perfect set of idiosyncrasies. All I’m offering you is two nuggets:

  1. The Power of Acceptance. Do whatever you do. In addition, when warranted, use the “Can I accept this?” trick. Instead of being stuck in Reverse, so to speak, it gets you back into neutral really quickly. And then you can engage whatever requires your attention with all your faculties available to you. Including the issue you just worked on accepting. Accepting simply reveals the truth of where you stand in relation to an issue. It emphatically does not mean that you give up on doing something about it.
  2. The insight that Images of others, and in fact of Ourselves, live inside us, and often we don’t even see any changes in the Other, or in Myself, that have occurred over time. This limits what is possible for us to Create in the world.

Okay. Here’s the last arrow: sometimes the two questions I shared with you above are not sufficient to unhook you from your angst. So:

Can I accept that my kid just won’t listen to me and keeps making a mess?” Frustrating as heck, and No, I can’t accept it. Even though I know he’s six. Just being truthful here.

Can I accept that I can’t accept this?” Unfortunately, no. What kind of a dad am I that I can’t even accept that my six-year old boy – such a sweet child, for God’s sake – is just doing what boys do, and leaving a mess for me to clear up? I know he’ll grow out of it.

Can I accept that I can’t accept that I can’t accept my son leaving me another mess to clean up?” So either you’ve rolled your eyes at this point and smashed your iPad against the wall, and formed an Image of Me as a Wonk, who is never, ever to be listened to again … or, convoluted as that is, it strangely made it past your filters and actually dissolved that remaining pent-up energy. Yes, I can accept that I’d love to be a great dad, and at this moment I’m not being able to live up to my own internal Image of Perfect Dad.

Well, that was interesting. Anyone for some ice cream?


For more tips and support about acceptance, talk with Mandeep.

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