“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness concious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular”– Carl Jung
In an article in the Radio Times this week, Chris Packham co presenter of the BBC SpringWatch TV program told the interviewer:
“I actually don’t like myself, I never have. I see every error in myself and I analyse it, so when other people like me it generates a mixture of emotions – first of all suspicion, and then confusion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a self-harming or suicidal type, but I haven’t got an ounce of smugness in me. I’m a shy boy, always have been, and I like animals more than people.”
That’s an excellent* example of how lack of self acceptance show’s up in the way we speak about ourselves.
Imagine for a moment that his critic was on the outside, that he had a ‘friend’ who regularly told him “I don’t like you” or commented on every error he made and analysed it in great detail. I don’t think that would be much fun and you probably wouldn’t want to keep a friend like that around.
How does this resonate with you? Do you recognise something similar in yourself?
Most people would think that the way that you think is fixed, it’s too late, or even that it is natural. All these things are learned. It’s very unlikely that the newborn Chris Packham didn’t like himself or analyse every error, somewhere along the way he learned that about himself.
If you learn something you can unlearn it or learn something different.
If you have a thought like “I don’t like myself” from time to time you might like to try this little experiment.
- ‘Step out of that thought’ as if it were an old pair of shoes.
- Wiggle your mental toes
- ‘Step into’ the thought: “I like myself, I’m a human being doing my best, just like everyone else”.
- Try this idea on for size for a few moments.
What does it feel like to think of yourself in this way?
*I bet the experience isn’t excellent from his point of view
Thanks Sally for spotting the original article and letting me know about it.
accept: to receive willingly
compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others distress with a desire to relieve it
Compassionate self acceptance is the ability to honestly recognise our complete experience of being this human being in whatever situation we are in with kindness and courage and not criticism or judgement.
This is the not the same as resignation, a mute acquiescence to the situation. Accepting yourself and your situation lets you devote your attention to doing something about it, and not using up your energy beating yourself up, obsessing how bad you are.
This isn’t the way many of us have been taught to approach life. We’ve been taught reject ourselves, our feelings, avoid the present moment and treat ourselves critically or harshly so that we can shape up.
What would it be like if you could treat yourself kindly?
As you can see there is a different look and feel to the Practical Wellbeing website. This reflects some changes in the focus of my therapy work in Practical Wellbeing.
After a six months of soul-searching and reflection I have decided to focus my work on helping people develop compassionate self acceptance. It’s taken a bit of time for me to work out that this is the kind of work I am here to do. At the grand old age of 50 I finally discovered “what I want to be when I grow up”.
Now that I’ve discovered this interest it seems obvious to me looking back along the road how I have worked my way towards this all my adult life. First with Person Centred Counselling, meditation, Buddhism, yoga, NLP, EFT, hypnotherapy and many other steps along the way as I have worked towards a sense of self acceptance for myself. I’m fascinated in this work and it seems only right that I should put such fascination to good use.
So what’s the problem with lack of self acceptance?
The short answer to that question is that there is a lot of it about. In this culture a great deal of our early socialisation is about making us feel bad about ourselves. To have us fit in with our family, friends, colleagues or society at large and to motivate us to be good little consumers. After all “we’re worth it”, but only if you buy the right product.
A few years ago the Dalai Lama attended a gathering of some Western Buddhist teachers. At one point one of them was talking about self-criticism and the Dalai Lama stopped to ask his translator to re-translate because he hadn’t understood what had just been said. The translator obliged, but the he still did not get it, in fact it took a couple of goes before he understood.
The misunderstanding wasn’t because of faulty English but because the idea of treating oneself with contempt was completely alien to him. This attitude is much more common in the West (to the point of being endemic) than it is in the East.
What are some of the symptoms of lack of self acceptance?
- You give yourself a hard time as your own worst critic. It says a lot that ‘he is his own worst critic’ is a very common turn of phrase.
- You treat and speak to yourself in a way that you wouldn’t dream of using on anybody else.
- Your relationship with yourself is poisonous, if you could get away from yourself you would. Unfortunately wherever you go, there you are.
- You use every problem or difficulty you have as a stick with which to beat yourself up. However many problems or difficulties you work on there are always more to use to give yourself a hard time.
- You think that you deserve all this because you are a ‘bad person’
What’s the good news in all this?
You weren’t born this way. No-one is born hating themselves, it is a learned behaviour.
Just imagine for a moment that at birth there was a mix up at the maternity ward and you went home with the wrong parents. Luckily for you, they were the perfect parents, they loved you, cared for you, taught you and you grew up a happy well-balanced adult.
That’s possible isn’t it?
If that was the case you might be reading this article and thinking “What’s the big deal? Doesn’t everyone like themselves?”.
If this article is ringing bells for you then it probably didn’t happen that way.
We get the parents and life we get and everything that went with that.
If you learned it, you can unlearn it, you just need to know how.
Just imagine for a moment that you:
- could be a calm compassionate advisor to yourself
- could treat yourself with the same kindness, courtesy and respect that you would treat anyone else with.
- have a good relationship with yourself; being kind, encouraging and productive.
- see problems and difficulties as just that, something to work around or accept and not use as a stick to beat yourself with.
Does that sound good to you?
OK, so how do you get more self-acceptance
There are three broad strategies
- Resolving inner conflict between the parts of you that are at war. We express these kinds of ideas as ‘I hate myself’ or ‘I can’t forgive myself’
- Changing unhelpful beliefs we have about ourselves. We express these ideas as ‘I am a bad person’ or ‘There is something wrong with me’
- Learning how to bring compassionate acceptance to yourself and your experience.
All these are achievable using NLP, EFT or other strategies. This is what I have worked on directly for the past six months and indirectly for the last 30 years. In following newsletters I’ll be covering various aspects of self-acceptance work and more general aspects of EFT and NLP training.
If this is of particular interest to you then you will be interested in the Self Acceptance Workshop on June 19th in Newcastle.
In case you think that I had abandoned everything else. My general purpose NLP and EFT work will continue and I will continue to run EFT and NLP trainings
A few days ago I was listening to a recording about Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, a psychotherapist and meditation teacher who recounted this story which gave me quite a jolt.
A family went out to dinner, the waitress came over took the parent’s order. Their five year old daughter decided to get into the act and piped up with “I’ll have a hot dog, french fries and a coke”. “Oh no, she won’t!” interjected the father. Turning to the waitress he said, “she’ll have meatloaf, mashed potatoes and milk!”.
Looking at the little girl, the waitress said “So, honey, what do you want on that hot dog?”. When she left the family sat stunned and silent.
A few moments later the little girl, eyes shining, said: “She thinks I’m real!”
When were you last acknowledged as real?