The Usefulness of Fears and Aversions
Approached mindfully, our fears and aversions serve a purpose, which deepens self-acceptance practice. The key is to view our fears and aversions as interesting growth opportunities rather than as things to reject and avoid. Over time, we become less likely to attempt to reject those parts of ourselves—and this, too, contributes to self-acceptance. When we increase our awareness through increased perception, we find fewer things about ourselves that engender aversion and fear in the first place. A corollary to this is that when we engage in mindfulness practice over time, we generate fewer of the negative attributions that create aversion and fears.
Chronic Illness and Acceptance
Because fears and aversions naturally arise when we live with chronic medical challenges, these conditions can offer opportunities to learn how to live with greater acceptance of our experiences and of ourselves. Cancer survivor, psychotherapist, and mindfulness teacher Elana Rosenbaum put it this way: “It became clear that the more I could let go and accept these limitations the better I felt and the freer I became. The more I lived in the present moment as it was, rather than what I wished it would be, the happier I felt.”
Unpleasant Emotions Can Guide Us
The greatest value of unpleasant states is that they help us identify our values and needs. For example, anger can serve to inform us that we are fused with the belief that the situation or other person should be different in some way. Sadness can let us know that something we value was lost, or not achieved or acquired. Shame tells us that we are self-judging ourselves as flawed. If we fail to accept all these rich inner-life experiences, we are practicing self-rejection rather than acceptance.
The Secret to Self-Acceptance is the Practice
Self-acceptance is not a thing to acquire. It is an attitude that only exists when we practice it. Most of us spend a good deal of our time practicing being self-critical. This is a problem because the more we practice anything, the more it becomes an automatic habit.
There are some activities that are particularly conducive to the practice of self-acceptance. One such activity involves being in community, especially if involvement in that community provides you with a sense of belonging. This is because when others demonstrate acceptance of us, we can more easily practice self-acceptance. Relationships that leave us feeling accepted and valued allow us to feel that way about ourselves, and each time we feel accepted, we are actually practicing self-acceptance.
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