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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Unconditional Acceptance


The most influential person in my lifetime was my late stepmom, “DT.” Although we disagreed on the timeline, I was introduced to her somewhere between three and five years old. To this day, I have no idea about the origin of her nickname.

However, what remains clear is that no other individual showed me more love and support than DT. In fifth grade, I moved from Bomb City to Aurora, Colorado and lived with her, my dad, and my half-sister.

During that time, and on many occasions, DT intervened on my behalf when I was being physically and emotionally abused. She also taught me invaluable lessons about life—education I didn’t receive in the public school system.

Those who judge books by their covers may’ve mistook her gold-plated tooth, featuring a cannabis plant, as a symbol related to an outcast. Perhaps at face value, one may discern certain stereotypical traits with some degree of accuracy.

After all, DT was a fallible human being with a checkered past. Having endured her own experience with the criminal justice system, she instructed me to look beyond surface-level explanations for why society functioned as it did.

A recipient of rehabilitative programs offered to those in incarcerated settings, she went on to secure meaningful employment in a government setting despite not having maintained a college education. The story of DT was more complex than the mere tale of a felonious citizen with a weed plant on her front tooth.

Around the time I was in high school, back in Bomb City, and playing the game of life in a dangerous fashion, DT didn’t harshly judge me. Rather, she challenged me to think critically about potential outcomes of my behavior.

Upon graduating, and without knowing in which direction I was headed, I once again moved to Aurora. There, I gleaned knowledge from the amalgam of wisdom afforded to DT throughout her lifetime.

Those within my inner circle have likely heard more than one “DTism” I learned from my late stepmom. Though not a complete list, here are some of the axiomatic expressions imparted to me by DT:

“You got more nerve than an astronaut.”

“If wishes were horses, then all poor people could ride.”

“You throw a rock into a crowd, the dog you hit will holler.”

“I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout you, lest it’s you.”

“You a lie and ya feet don’t match!”

“You don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.”

“There ya go and there ya be.”

“Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

“Ain’t got time for all that mess!”

“I been down so long, getting up didn’t cross my mind.”

“Water seeks its own level.”

“That’s a dog that don’t hunt no more.”

“You know, the Bible say your sins will find you out. You got no business eatin’ or lickin’ on anything you can’t swallow!”

“You’re painting with a broad brush.”

“The Devil is a liar!”

“That which ain’t caught you, ain’t passed you.”

“I ain’t the one and we ain’t the two!”

“This, too, shall pass.”

“A lie don’t care who tell it.”

“I didn’t write the book [Bible], and it’s a good thing I didn’t.”

“Don’t play me, play lotto!”

“Honey, they didn’t stop makin’ guns when they made yours.”

“G-d is good all the time.”

As is the case with any relationship involving a complex human, DT and I had our fair share of disappointing moments and conflict. For example, when I informed her and my dad of my intention of joining the Marine Corps, they both laughed loudly in disbelief.

“Boy, you don’t like bein’ told what to do,” DT shouted with tears streaming down her face while teasing me and chuckling. That experienced helped fuel me when in boot camp. I wanted to graduate, become a Marine, and laugh in DT’s face—showing her I was capable of accomplishing goals.

During a separate instance, after informing DT of my plan to obtain a second graduate degree—this time concerning the field of social work—she again expressed doubt. “How you gon’ be a social worker when you don’t like people?” my late stepmom asked.

Regarding both these instances, I now realize how relevant DT’s criticism was. I was kicked out of the Marine Corps for disobeying orders. As well, I make no secret of my contempt for the field of social work, as I tend to be more asocial than social—among other matters.

Nonetheless, even when expressing warranted apprehension concerning some of my life choices, DT offered far more support than skepticism. It is DT I credit for keeping me on this plain of existence, especially following an arduous divorce.

DT is the person who encouraged me to attend college and who cheered me on through three of my degrees. She challenged me when I’d given up on disputing my irrational beliefs which deprived me of motivation.

When detained in the Naval Consolidated Brig, Miramar, San Diego, California and unable to speak with anyone other than my attorney, DT pulled some strings with her government contacts and was able to make personal calls to me. Her tenacity led to improved treatment when I was confined.

I could list many examples of support received from my late stepmom, yet I suspect the reader understands that this was a person who deeply impacted my life. Because of the time we spent together, the weekly calls we shared, and for all she taught me, I loved DT very much.

A person may read this post and conclude that I’ve done little more than the typical sanctification of an individual after death. This common practice within society is something to which I don’t abide.

If you had no honor in life, I certainly don’t honor you in death. Take my biological mom, for instance. She, too, is dead and I’m not writing a blogpost about how—despite our ups and downs—she was an amazing influence on my life.

I don’t revere the dead and I think my mom’s demise is a fitting end to the devastation she spread in her lifetime. Make no mistake about it; my biological mother couldn’t have held a candle to the light DT shared during her lifetime.

All the same, I practice unconditional life-acceptance (ULA) with which I accept life as it is. As such, I don’t disturb myself over the past, the memory of my mother’s behavior, or anything over which I have no control or influence.


In the interest of unconditional acceptance, I contemplate the concept of unconditional love—affections with no stipulations. DT frequently told me that she loved me unconditionally.

There was a time in my life during which I thought it incredulous to propose such a thing. In fact, I questioned DT’s proclamation similar to the following simulated dialogue:

DT: Honey, I love you unconditionally.

Me: I love you, too, but, unconditionally? I don’t think it’s possible for a human to do much of anything without conditions, especially when it comes to love.

DT: Well, I love you unconditionally.

Me: Wait, wait, wait. Are you telling me you’d still love me if I did [thing X]?

DT: Of course! I’m telling you, there’s nothing you could do that would make me stop loving you. I love you unconditionally.

Me: Ok, say I did [thing Y]. That’s something I don’t think I could love someone enough to overlook. How about it?

DT: Deric, I told you, I love you unconditionally. I wouldn’t like that you did [thing Y], but that doesn’t mean I would stop loving you. You are who I love and it isn’t [thing Y] that could change that.

Me: Hmm. Ok. I think I have it. The worst possible thing I can imagine—which I’m never going to do. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that I was found guilty of [thing Z]. I mean, there’s overwhelming evidence. To make things worse, let’s say that I actually admitted to [thing Z]. How about then?

DT: Honey, listen to me. There’s nothing—do you hear me?—nothing you could ever do that would make me stop loving you. I love you unconditionally. That means with no strings attached. I don’t just up and stop loving you, because [thing Z]. I hope you never do that, but even if you did, I’d still love you.

To me, DT’s devotion was irrational. It defied any principle I used at the time. My doubt didn’t arise from belief that I was being lied to, though due to the fact that I didn’t personally know what it was like to do anything “unconditionally.”

Unfortunately, I last had contact with DT on June 3, 2018, as she verbalized to me via telephone that we could no longer retain contact. She made it abundantly clear that even though we may never speak again, she still loved me and always would.

I could explain why it was that DT chose to part ways. However, the numerous reasons which are too convoluted to outline herein are of little consequence, so I’ll spare the reader my version of events.

What may be useful to know is that my biological family has a history of systematically excising members from each other. DT was the last remaining family member with whom I maintained contact.

That is until May 3, 2020, when I received a call from my half-sister. She was too distraught than to speak, so my dad continued the call and notified me that DT had experienced a fall, suffering a hemorrhagic stroke—as I understand it.

Without my input, family members decided against the option of life support. To my knowledge, she died shortly thereafter.

Despite the fact that I considered DT’s proclamation of unconditional love to be irrational, I believe she loved me unconditionally to her last breath. At this point, the reader may question, “If she loved you unconditionally, how come she didn’t keep you in her life?”

This is a matter regarding which I’ll call upon Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) for elaboration. In a post entitled Unconditional Other-Acceptance (UOA), I stated:

Recognizing that I am prone to error—always have been and always will be—and accepting this undisputable fact is unconditional self-acceptance (USA). Admitting that others are also imperfect—always have been and always will be—and accepting this truth is UOA.

In a separate blog entry entitled Acceptance, I added, “UOA can occur when we accept that we can’t change people, though we don’t have to keep them in our lives.” DT loved me unconditionally and she likely unconditionally accepted my fallibility, though she wasn’t obligated to retain contact with me.

It’s worth noting that love and acceptance aren’t entirely analogous concepts. I can love someone and accept the individual’s shortcomings, though make a healthy decision not to allow the person access to the resource of my finite time.

In the most reductionist definitional standard, love may be described as an intense emotional state of deep affection generally accompanied by interest, joy, or pleasure. I believe that DT loved me unconditionally.

Acceptance may be defined as the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered. I have no doubt that DT unconditionally accepted my existence as an incredibly flawed human being.

If DT loved me unconditionally and without stipulation accepted my imperfection—and I have no doubt that she did—she could at the same time choose not to keep me in her life if doing so was not in service to her interests and goals. I think this crucial point is misunderstood by many people.

Moreover, I can unconditionally accept someone without loving them. For instance, most of the time when driving on the streets of Bat City, I practice UOA without loving the strangers who surround me in their vehicles.

Likewise, a person who experiences intimate partner violence can unconditionally love someone without further accepting the abuser into the person’s life. Even in this example, UOA can be practiced by acknowledging that the abuser may never change while simultaneously distancing oneself from the perpetrator.

Additionally, and despite the faux wisdom of the Internet, a person can practice USA without loving oneself. The whole “you can’t love someone unless you first love yourself” nonsense of the modern zeitgeist simply isn’t true.

Finally, practice of ULA is what allows me to write the current post. I unconditionally accept that DT walked away from my life in 2018, then she died in 2020, and that history cannot be undone.


The most influential person in my lifetime is dead. Prior to the collapse of our relationship, we experienced highs and lows common in many familial relationships.

Despite any influence of unpleasant situations, I remain a better person for having known DT and benefitted from the contribution of her time, love, wisdom, and support. Because of her, I fully understand the concepts of USA, UOA, and ULA.

Now, I try to help people in my personal and professional life so that their lives may be indirectly impacted by the helpful elements bestowed upon me from DT. Regarding most problems with which I’m presented, I keep DT’s declaration in mind, “That which ain’t caught you, ain’t passed you.”

The uncomfortable issues we experience while alive—whether in the foreground or background—will remain constant until we pass through this plain of existence. Until then, these matters are ours with which to deal.

For those who recognize that while you’re alive it isn’t too late to work on problems, I use REBT as a means of helping people to get better, not merely feel better. If you’re willing to accept the challenge of pushing through discomfort as a means to grow, I invite you to contact me.

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—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging 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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