What part of my life is unacceptable? Is my whole life unacceptable? Am I unacceptable? How might I welcome more acceptance into my life? The human experience is painful. It’s painful to love and it’s heartbreaking to walk away. Childhood serves as the introduction to the ways of human suffering. Growing is uncomfortable. Mental illness is bewildering. Cancer is devastating; aging is distressing. Feeling our emotions is sometimes agonizing. And yet, it is our capacity to feel pain and pleasure that creates a fuller life. Why do I say this? If I don’t experience disappointment, frustration, and roadblocks, how will I know when I’m contented, satisfied, and prepared for possibility? If I never love and walk away, how will I appreciate the one who stays? If I never lost my health, how will I learn to nurture and value it? Still, the human experience makes every attempt to avoid hurt. What does this have to do with therapy? Everything.
Usually, people tend to seek therapy when life events disrupt their balance. At times these events can feel as though one’s life has been entirely upended and spilled out. An individual may wake up one morning unable to recognize the life he leads, how it arrived, and remain baffled by the notion of change. He may not believe improvement is even possible. The language in his head says, “This time, I’ve really done it. I’ve made a mistake that is irreparable.” And, often that conversation snowballs into a lifetime of penance. But, what if he welcomes his own insufficiency? What if he became a little more tolerant of his shortcomings through acceptance? Now, when I refer to acceptance, I am not suggesting that poor behavior is without consequence or that acceptance should be used as an excuse for it. Most people have heard another describe a personal inadequacy as “That’s just the way I am.” No. I am speaking to those of us who are notoriously unforgiving toward ourselves. In my opinion, self-acceptance is imperative to one’s ability to navigate their circumstantial realities with more ease. How can I approach my difficulties with perspective if I am unable to welcome my own deficits? Therapy provides an opportunity to develop and grow into self-acceptance which I believe may increase the ability to accept others and life as it is. Why is this necessary? Because unreasonable expectations tend to grow into expectations for unattainable solutions.
The article titled Rethinking Failure and Success suggested the need to redefine these concepts into ones that focus less on expectations and more on movement. An individual’s ability to reconsider the meaning of failure and success may provide an opportunity for increased self-acceptance and life acceptance. If I can acknowledge personal failings alongside personal strengths, I may also be able to shift my life perspective enough to tolerate its twists and turns¬ with less distress.
Therapy offers, through strengthening self-awareness, an opportunity to advance beyond expectation into a world of exploration. When I find the courage to leave my unhealthy and limiting ideas of the way life should be, I open up to the possibility of what it can become. That’s movement in a more satisfying direction.