The absence of self-rejection is self-acceptance
I used to think that self-acceptance was an action. That there was an “accept myself” mental motion I could execute.
I had tried to “accept myself” many times, but it never seemed to do anything.
Nowadays, I think “self-acceptance” is a misnomer and mostly doesn’t exist.
Instead, I think self-acceptance is really about the absence of self-rejection of parts of yourself.
For example, I’m often unaware of how I’m feeling in my body, and I would rather be aware. The common advice to this problem seems to be “become more aware of your feelings by ‘accepting’ them”. But by my logic above, the way to actually accept feelings is to cease rejecting them.
How to do that? Well, if I’m rejecting a feeling (or any part of myself), I probably have one or more incentives or fears that are causing this.
I investigated this through Coherence Therapy. I would call up the bodily sensation of being in touch with my feelings and then, speaking directly to the sensation, ask, “What bad thing happens if I’m aware of everything going on for me?” If I listened, I would hear its reply.
Through this process, I discovered that I unconsciously believed my feelings were dangerous in various ways:
I was afraid that being aware of my feelings would make me less productive, rather than keep me focused on what feels meaningful.
I was afraid that expressing my emotions would make other people mad at me, rather than help me find the people I feel comfortable being myself around.
I believed deep down that negative feelings were intrinsically bad to have, rather than merely indicating that the world or my interpretations of the world could be improved.
No wonder I was rejecting my feelings!
When I discovered each of these fears, I investigated them, and usually ended up successfully changing these previously-unconscious beliefs. (I’ll write more about Coherence Therapy in a post soon.)
I’ve made a lot of progress on “accepting” my feelings by untangling why I was unconsciously rejecting them.
Thanks to Stag Lynn for helping edit this post. Thanks to Kaj Sotala for reviewing the draft.