On their 2018 album entitled Delivery, French producers Zoom & Rectape featured the vocals of Dominique Larue for the song “Acceptance.” Lyrics include, “I’m dumb. I’m a shell of myself. I am numb. I’m me and I stink. I’m scum, but I’m here and it’s clear I ain’t done.”
USA is essentially acknowledging that I’m a fallible human being—always have been and always will be. Larue appears to understand this concept by acknowledging her shortcomings and admitting that there is more to life than that which she doesn’t like or love about herself.
Throughout my life, when I didn’t know about USA, I placed unnecessary conditions on myself. I believed things like I should, must, or ought to strive for perfection. When inevitably unable to fulfill my unattainable condition, I didn’t accept myself.
Though some people express that USA is akin to taking the “easy way out,” I recognize the self-disturbing narrative inherent in this claim. It’s something like, “One ought not to accept oneself unconditionally, because doing so denies an opportunity to better oneself.”
However, USA concerns the rejection of irrational beliefs, such as, “I must be perfect,” while at the same time allowing a person to improve upon oneself. I merely start from the default position that I’m a flawed individual while attempting to better myself in a reasonable manner.
Using a concrete example, I’ve been informed by at least four people that the way I write is convoluted and unacceptable. If I were to take this criticism at face value, I may unhelpfully believe that it isn’t my writing which is undesirable—I as a person am unacceptable.
Rather than adopting this unhealthy perspective, I acknowledge that I’m not a competent writer. This is USA. Additionally, I attempt to improve upon this default position through continued practice.
I may never advance beyond my imperfect writing style and that’s okay, because I don’t disturb myself by believing I should become the next Leo Tolstoy. In a Larue-esque proclamation, I’m me and my writing stinks, but I ain’t done trying to improve nevertheless.
Once a person understands USA as a concept, the individual may then appreciate the notion of unconditional other-acceptance (UOA). This idea relates to accepting others as they are and without unproductively demanding that they be any other way.
For UOA, I ask the reader to forgive me an anecdote. In high school, I had a friend who I’ll refer to as “1/2 Ton.” For a period of time, we were inseparable.
Back then, people used to tell me I’d eventually pursue one of three professions—a preacher, attorney, or psychologist. For the latter, anyone practicing in the field of mental, emotional, and behavioral health was mistakenly referred to by my peers as a “psychologist.”
1/2 Ton was given his nickname by me after I graduated high school, because he had a heavy gold plated pistol. For this and other reasons, 1/2 Ton’s dad referred to my friend as a “thug.”
In turn, and in response to his moniker, 1/2 nicknamed me “Preacher,” because I attended house parties and other get-togethers while spreading biblical knowledge—much like Sharif from Boyz n the Hood raised awareness with others about Islam. I viewed the title as an honor.
1/2 Ton was agnostic in regards to faith and he frequently chastised me for pushing my religious views on him. I didn’t know of or practice UOA at the time.
When I informed 1/2 Ton of my intention of joining the Marines, he disagreed with my decision and told me, “They’ll own you.” Despite our diverging views, while home on leave from military service, 1/2 Ton and I assumed the “crossroads” pose—promising to remain connected for eternity.
Later in life, following my military service, 1/2 Ton and I swapped religious roles. I became agnostic and he was hyper-fixated on religiosity.
When inviting my longtime friend to my college graduation, he told me that the only way he would consider the offer was if I agreed to attend church service with him. I declined and because of my decision, he shunned the idea of any further contact with one another.
Unaware of REBT at the time, I thought in action-consequence terms—believing that an event could cause my emotional, bodily sensation, or behavioral response. I concluded that because my friend rejected our relationship, his behavior made me sad. However, I was wrong.
Considering the ABC Model, I now understand that there was a belief-consequence connection at play. 1/2 Ton declined further contact (Action), I told myself, “My friend should accept me as I am” (Belief), and because of my unamiable assumption, I experienced sorrow (Consequence).
As I comprehend the A-B-C chain of events, I can practice UOA to resolve the unpleasant consequence of my belief. I accomplish this by admitting truth.
1/2 Ton is an imperfect person, just as I am. Like me, who has distanced myself from others in my life and for various reasons, he’s made a decision to abstain from contact.
I think it’s worth stating that a person can practice UOA while simultaneously not accepting others in the individual’s life. I suspect 1/2 Ton understands this, because he’s given up trying to convert me—which is accepting me without condition—while also not allowing my presence within his life.
If in turn I were to demand that he accept me unconditionally while also accepting me into his life, this self-disturbing condition would sabotage my mood and behavior. UOA can occur when we accept that we can’t change people, though we don’t have to keep them in our lives.
After all, how would applying a rigid condition on 1/2 Ton serve my interests and goals? I could declare, “I’ll be content only if my friend accepts me in his life,” and when he doesn’t do as I demand, then what?
Is sorrow worth the condition that caused the unpleasant emotion? No. Therefore, I can unconditionally accept 1/2 Ton even though he doesn’t accept my friendship. This is UOA.
Once you understand the concept of UOA, you can then practice unconditional life-acceptance (ULA). This principle relates to acknowledging the imperfection of life without demanding it should be any other way.
When presenting this idea to others, I draw upon Stephen Covey’s spheres of control, influence, and concern. In particular, the latter relates to a wide range of concerns over which the average person has no control or influence (i.e., the past, volcanic activity, etc.).
For instance, I could lament the fact that the United States has reportedly sent $113 billion in aid to Ukraine when that money is desperately needed in our own nation. However, I use ULA to affirm the fact that I have no control or influence over this matter whatsoever.
If I were to deceive myself by claiming, “Politicians must do as I demand,” this unhelpful condition would be the cause of needless suffering when the professed requirement wasn’t met. Because I don’t enjoy upsetting myself, I draw upon ULA to deal with reality.
Herein, I’ve highlighted unconditional acceptance on micro (USA), mezzo (UOA), and macro (ULA) levels. Though I could choose to disturb myself about a great many things, I’d rather devote my time towards tolerance and acceptance.
I find that by doing so I lead a more purpose-driven and meaningful life. Would you like to know more about how acceptance of this sort may benefit you?
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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