The first foundation of mental health:
The single biggest thing that’s prevents us from dealing with the painful circumstances in our lives, and growing from them, and healing from them, is a lack of acceptance.
This lack of acceptance impacts us in two main ways:
- We can’t accept the reality of our relationships with others, including how they really make us feel about ourselves.
- We can’t accept ourselves, including acknowledging how difficult some of our experiences actually were and are.
These two things are intertwined. It’s only by accepting the first thing, namely that not all our relationships are good, healthy or nourishing, that we can progress to the much more difficult work of truly accepting ourselves.
For as long as we keep buying in to the ideas that our parents are ‘perfect’, or that our family life was ‘wonderful’, or that we somehow ‘deserved’ all the slaps, insults, manipulation and emotional neglect that were doled out in our childhood, that keeps us away from accepting ourselves, our true selves, that has an alternative view of things.
Inside each of us, there’s a small child that still can’t understand what they did that was so wrong that they had to go through whatever they had to go through. Young children idolize their parents as a defence mechanism, but when the parent is the source of pain instead of the source of comfort, denial of what’s really going on, and what was really experienced, becomes the adult child’s biggest emotional obstacle to living a happy, healthy life.
This is for two reasons:
- For as long as you have to keep going along with the ‘fantasy world’ version of your relationship with an abusive person, you are trapped in denial, and probably still being treated in the same emotionally-abusive ways you were as a child.
- A person can’t be on two ‘sides’ at once. Either, you’re on the side of the people who gave you the message that you ‘deserved’ all the bad treatment, and that they haven’t done anything wrong, or you’re on your own side, who knows that’s a bunch of baloney.
Every child deserves love. Cuddles. Affection. Understanding. Patience. Kindness. Support. Encouragement. Support.
It’s also true that parents can’t always supply what’s required. Accepting the limitations of parents, many of whom are also still trapped in the ‘fantasy world’ view of what they actually experienced as children, is also a big part of acceptance.
But the one doesn’t cancel out the other: Kids deserve all those things, and parents are frequently unable to provide them. Accepting both parts of this equation leads to true inner peace and healing, (especially for us parents.)
There’s another, deeper, degree of acceptance too, and that’s accepting that whatever horrible things occurred, whatever bad experiences we had, it was all part of God’s plan for our life. When this spiritual acceptance is absent, people can get sucked into a vortex of bitterness and anger that can be very difficult to exit. Spiritual acceptance teaches that whatever is broken can be fixed. Whatever is lacking can be filled – but only if God is in the picture.
Without this spiritual acceptance, it can also be very difficult to accept ourselves, especially when we hit our own faults and flaws. When a person can’t accept and acknowledge their own flaws and issues, that’s when they expect others to ‘overlook’ the problem and act as though everything is fine.
And we’re back into that pattern of not accepting reality again, except this time we’re the one asking others to put our need to see ourselves as ‘perfect’ ahead of their own need to recognize the very flawed reality they’re experiencing.
Acceptance of reality is the key to getting everything to change. And that’s only truly possible when God is in the picture.
This post first appeared on www.spiritualselfhelp.org.