I wrote about this last week, however this is such a rich topic that shows up so frequently in our lives, yet we are scarcely aware of it.
When I was coaching parents and developed the UnParenting Paradigms, I had no idea that what I had really developed were overall relationship paradigms. Parent/Child, Romantic, Elder/Adult Child, Friendship, Student/Teacher, etc. etc.
So here is the paradox of unconditional acceptance:
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a dear friend, Camille, who’s mother is exhibiting more and more signs of dementia. It’s not a secret that there are behaviors her mother has had for years, unrelated to dementia, that my friend has never been able to accept. Camille will complain about her mother time and again and it seems to intensify as her mom gets older. Possibly because the behaviors are more pronounced, or perhaps Camille cannot believe that, after all these years, her mother can still behave this way, or maybe it’s noticing the lost opportunities to experience her mother in a different way.
Ok, still with me?
Would you say she is accepting her mother? No, obviously there is something that is preventing her from full acceptance, no doubt something that was imprinted years ago. Possibly something in her mother’s behavior triggers something within herself that she doesn’t feel all that great about, but that’s another story. And I’m a coach, not an analyst, so I’ll stay away from that.
(I’m about to reveal one of the paradoxes.)
All the while I’m listening to her story of who her mother is, how it affects her and why she wants it to be different, I’m posing questions and invitations to look at it another way, and….. I’m not accepting Camille! Oh sure, as her friend I am hoping to offer alternative perspectives that allow her to reflect; HOWEVER, at some point I realize I am judging her and her behavior. How do I know I’m being judgmental? Because I hear my thoughts say “Oh, if only she would let go of those preconceived notions she has of her mother and be more present with her.”
So I ask you, is that accepting?
Does it mean I can’t offer some suggestions or point out some observations?
It’s all in the underlying motivation. Why would I offer suggestions or make observations? Is it because she expressed an interest or desire to shift her perspective, or is it because I have not learned to accept that she feels this way about her mother?
I found this revelation so fascinating and exciting because the more I accept people for who they are and for the path they are on, the less I am bogged down. Make no mistake, judgmental thinking bogs you down. It clutters your mind with “I know-s” and “If only-s”. It leaves little room for possibility and peace.
So if possibility and peace appeal to you, begin to take note of the conversation you’re having, out loud or in your head, with others. When you find something that you recognize as non-acceptance, see if you can pause, acknowledge it and let it go. Simply state to yourself, as if you’ve just discovered something new, “Oh! Karen pays her bills late and is ok with it!” And let it be. You might not be comfortable paying your bills late, and that’s fine, too. But Karen doesn’t have to be made wrong or bad because of her choices.
Ann Landers said it simply and directly. MYOB.