I’m going to write a book…
another one…and entitle it: Acceptance: The Answer to all of my Problems Today.
Without a doubt, the number one issue I see in my office is the person who consistently links their ability to be happy, content, satisfied and peaceful with the behaviors, actions, belief system or convictions of another person.
In other words, they believe that unless they can bring this outside entity, person, place, thing or event into compliance with their needs, wishes or desires…they cannot be complete, happy or at peace.
Their attention is so heavily focused on an Other…that they cannot look inward and see how they are contributing to the problem or find any type of internal contentment. Consequently, these individuals live in a perpetual state of stress, anxiety and internal discontentment because they cannot grasp the reality that life simply does not afford us the ability to control anything outside of ourselves.
In acceptance we find peace because we are able to separate ourselves (our internal sense of self) from that which is outside of us and over which we have no control.
As the Big Book of AA points out “…and acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.” ~ page 417 Big Book of AA
With couples, the inability to find acceptance, generally amounts to each partner attending their first therapy session loaded for bear (apologies to those offended by gun analogies).
They arrive in my office with enough animation to drop a large woodland creature in its tracks.
And, over the course of the therapy session, they proceed to unload their arsenal at their partner convinced that if they could just provide a strong enough case for their partner’s bad behavior they will be exonerated.
This is not to say that the partner, spouse, child, parent or unidentified Other is not indeed participating in some kind of deplorable behavior. It simply means that doubling down on that behavior will only galvanize the issues instead of resolving them. Not to mention that fact, that we simply have no power to make another human being do anything.
Helping people shift from an external locus of control to an internal locus of control isn’t always easy or timely.
Because people have, for the most part, been steeped in the cultural belief that lives change from the outside in…they mistakenly believe that alleviating the external pressures, behaviors and manifestations (of others or themselves) will create internal stability and calm.
And apparently, the human tendency to focus on outward appearances has been a problem for thousands of years. For example, when Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees (who were masters at focusing on external behavior) he admonished them to first clean up the inside of the cup…which is where the real dirt is located, before they worried about cleaning up the outside of the cup…or someone else’s cup.
In their zeal to keep the law…they missed the entire point.
“You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisees! First wash the inside of the cup, and then the outside will become clean too.”
~ Matthew 23:25-26
They failed to realize that outward behavior is simply a manifestation of an internal issue. You can’t clean up the inside by simply washing the outside. If, however, we flip that process and first take care of the internal issue…the external behavior will, as the internal place becomes more healthy, dissipate.
Oh…and by the way…cup cleaning is a personal project…not a group lead car wash.
When we learn to acknowledge, embrace or align ourselves with the concept of acceptance we realize that we are powerless to control anything outside of ourselves. We focus less on others and focus on those things that are actually within the scope of our control…me, I, and myself.
When I learn to focus on my Self, my actions, my behaviors and my attitudes, and surrender all Other’s to the care of their Creator…I find internal peace, stability and happiness. My internal happiness is no longer linked to external sources. I can live a life of peace, serenity and calm regardless of what other people say or do.
The quickest way to impact a troubled relationship, for the better, is to turn my focus inward and attend to all of the baggage and rubble I brought to the game… and trust that the God of the identified Other, is big enough to address the issues and problems, that lie within them.
As Jesus put it… we must first take the board out of our own eye before we can see clearly enough to take the splinter out of someone else’s (Matthew 7:5).
Helping people move into a place of personal, internal focus and away from an external obsession on the behaviors and beliefs of others is not easy duty. It requires patience, understanding, guidance and honesty.
But when, individuals, partners, spouses and parents begin to grasp the concept of acceptance, powerlessness and personal responsibility…dare I say differentiation, what beautiful transformations become possible.
If you are troubled by the behaviors, actions or beliefs of Others and are ready to explore how internal peace and serenity can be achieved through acceptance, call the counseling center today at: