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All Of You Can Be Here

In the beginning, I underestimated it. Sure, it was mentioned in my training, but it seemed kind of obvious to me. Who wants to see a psychologist who doesn’t accept you?

My position towards acceptance was casual at best.

But as I’ve continued in my career, I've come to see acceptance as powerful. Vital. Sacred.

Acceptance is the process of being received. When we are accepted, we are received by another into relationship with them.

The receipt is complete – meaning all of us is received. This includes the parts of us we’re still figuring out, the parts of us that are struggling, and the parts of us that have totally blown it.

When we are accepted, we have permission to be ourselves. The relationship is experienced as safe, rather than insecure. This safety allows us to be more honest and to share parts of ourselves we might otherwise keep hidden. Contrary to expectation, this actually strengthens the relationship.

Unfortunately, many of us have had painful experiences where we’ve shared honestly in what we thought was an accepting relationship, but it wasn’t.

Instead, we were criticised. Dismissed. Ridiculed.

Perhaps we concluded that it’s too painful to risk being completely ourselves, and decided to share only things that others will approve of. Our happy experiences. Our likeable qualities. Our sadness, our neediness, and our addictions are not shared because they are unacceptable. We act as though these parts of us don’t exist.

Hiding our weaknesses means they persist. If I’m hiding something, I’m unwilling to look at it. If I don’t look at it, I can’t see it. If I can’t see it, I can’t change it.

And so, we get stuck.

When a person is truly accepted, they can experience all parts of themselves. Their weaker parts don’t need to be hidden, but can instead be understood, resolved and integrated into the rest of themselves in a healthy way. This is maturation.

Typically, we want people to change, and then we will accept them. But if we are selective about the parts of them that we accept, they will be too. This attitude will actual thwart their growth.

Acceptance is not agreement. It can differentiate between the inherent value of a person and their behaviours.

Neither is acceptance endorsement of poor choices. It’s the climate for growth.

Viktor Frankl said this: “I must first accept someone before they can change. I must take them as they are before they can be what they could”.

What a privilege to influence someone’s process of becoming in this way.


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