Unconditional Self Acceptance? Approaches to Renewal, Part 4
Unconditional self acceptance, the ability to just be compassionate to everything in ourselves, can be a powerful approach to renewal. As Jung noted, though, it can also be very difficult!
As with everything we’ve examined in this Approaches to Renewal Series, unconditional self-acceptance would take us to a different perspective on our lives than we often usually have. In our normal way of mental functioning, we’re very ready to cut off or block out or censor parts of ourselves that might not “make the cut” in terms of who we feel that we “ought” to be.
We often want to see ourselves as unfailingly strong, as moral, and as possessing no significant wounds or flaws. Yet the reality of who we are can often make us confront truths about our lives that we find hard look at.
Everything Within Ourselves Belongs!
A remarkable quotation from respected Jungian analyst Robert Johnson powerfully highlights this whole issue of self-acceptance:
There is nothing in the psyche that doesn’t belong, though it may be expressed in a clumsy way or at an appropriate time. The key is getting things on the correct level. The more our potentials can be honoured in some way, the more whole and satisfying our lives become. To redeem unlived life we need to change the question from ‘What should I do to get rid of this wrong thing in me?’ to ‘Why is the right thing in the wrong place‘ [Italics mine].
Robert A. Johnson and Jerry M. Ruhl, Living Your Unlived Life
So, this is quite a different message than we often hear from various voices in our culture. So often, we are caught in the belief that there are wrong ideas, or wrong parts of ourselves that we must amputate, to deal with issues such as depression. There are many things that are wrong with such an approach, and one of the most important is that — it doesn’t work.
What We Resist, Persists
One of Jung’s most famous sayings is that, “What we resist, persists.” He stresses that, if we have troublesome thoughts or feelings, or predispositions to do certain things that we really don’t like, and we struggle mightily to rid ourselves of them– we’re bound for disappointment! The more we seek to push these thoughts out of mind, and to label them as unacceptable, “wrong”, “bad” or “unhelpful”, and try to shut them out, the more they will find a way to seep back in through the cracks!
We cannot deal with unacceptable parts of ourselves by rejecting them and pushing them away. So, what are we to do?
Accepting the “Unacceptable” Parts
There is an approach that may seem naive, yet it carries within it a great potential for healing. We can accept those parts of ourselves, seek to understand them, and find a way to dialogue with them. To have compassion for the rejected “unacceptable” parts of ourselves is one of the most healing gifts that we can give to ourselves.
Most of us have aspects of ourselves that we find hard to put up with, and that we wish would just go away! Perfectionism, compulsive behaviours, self-medication, unwanted aggressive behaviours, persistent fears — and many more persistent behaviours or thought patterns are all things that many people wish that they could get rid of, but find they can’t. To accept the unacceptable impulse or part of ourselves, and find an appropriate place or expression of it in our lives can bring a tremendous amount of positive value into our lives.
The journey towards wholeness in /a-midlife-transition involves developing a compassionate acceptance of our previously unacceptable parts, and moving beyond shame, to listen to our own unknown or repressed voices.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst