Judge or Accept?

1 May, 2011

There are many things that can occur in our lives. Some of those things feel amazingly good and we feel happy because of them. Some of those things feel horrible. One of the key things I have learnt by existing on this planet in the form of Charlotte Hinksman, regular human-being, and Charlotte Hinksman, life coach assisting others, is that S*%t happens in life. It doesn't matter who you are, how much self-development you have invested in, how much money you have in the bank, whether you are blissfully happy on a daily basis or otherwise - life will still, and always be, Life. Things outside of us change, life events will happen that we simply can't control - some will be great, and some will not.

There are, of course, many things within our control and many things which, by the direction of our minds and using tools, strategies and guidance, we make happen, we create the things we want in our lives and make decisions that get us the balance in life that we find personally fulfilling, based on what is important to us. Some people pull this off to the upmost degree (i.e. Anthony Robbins) and some people need more support and guidance to be the master and creator of their own life. Either way, we can all do it, which is a really amazing thing to know and hold close.

And, even so, stuff will still happen that is not pleasant or pleasing to us. There will be people that come into our lives that cause us a problem, people that leave our lives and cause us a problem, our work environment might change without first discussing it with us - how dare it - and natural disasters happen, people and animals die. As Eckhart Tolle refers to it - our Life Situation - which is always changeable and changing.

I find this subject really interesting personally, working in a role where I help others solve their Life Situation problems. I used to really struggle at the beginning of my career believing I had to be absolutely "perfect" myself before I could do good work with my clients: I had to be modelling the perfect lifestyle - be in balance all the time, have everything I wanted, never have a problem or a challenge....and my goodness, has that been a learning curve for me! Now that I have given up that old belief my life is much easier, and I know what it is that creates a good model for clients and for people in general - the modelling of imperfection (given that perfection is an absolute fallacy) coupled equally with the ability to bounce back from the various Life Situation challenges and get back into balance as quickly as possible.

This is what people need to learn and accept: you, and life, are not perfect and never will be. Things will go smoothly, and, hopefully, will go smoothly most of the time. And still, you will never be immune to Life's challenges. A lot of people trip themselves up by believing nothing "bad" could ever happen to them, and then, when it does, there are no coping skills with which to deal with the situation that has presented itself.

With Martin Seligman's research collation and analysis on depression and happiness over the last 10+ years, we now know that your inner response and coping strategies are key components of the structure of depression. People that are good / better at feeling happy in their lives are not living differently to those that are better at feeling depressed in their lives: they still experience what we may call "stressful" life events. The difference with people better at consistent happiness is the way that they internally RESPOND to these life events - their thinking style and their coping strategies are what makes the significant difference.

I could write a whole book on Seligman's conclusions - however, this article has a different focus. I want to talk about two things that are part of our "coping with our Life Situation strategy" - one of which highly damaging and ineffective, and one of which is fundamentally useful. I want to talk about them so you can recognise what you are doing within yourself, and hopefully then make a choice about doing more of the useful one.

1. Judgment.

Anyone who has ever worked with me in my office will know that this is one of my key subjects - and it would be rare for me to not be pointing this out to a client. We all go and see people, professionals like myself, because for whatever reason, at that point in time, we are struggling with something in our lives. This means that there are some unhelpful patterns inside of us that need to be noticed and addressed. One of the main players is self-judgment. It is something I have struggled to let go of in my own life, and am really getting better every day, and noticing the difference this makes. I know where I picked my judgment up from - it has been a strong one for me as it got ingrained really early in childhood.

When things go wrong, we can judge others and judge ourselves, or just judge the situation itself. We say it SHOULD be like this, or it SHOULD NOT be like this, or I SHOULD HAVE known better. The essence of this should word automatically creates conflict - the nature of the word itself is that the status quo is what it is is, and that that is fundamentally not OK. Something else SHOULD be.

We also have a fear of the judgment of others. Now this is one is really interesting - and again, a key player in those unhelpful patterns. A lot of us don't get taught how to feel good about ourselves when we are growing up at home and at school. We don't get the chance to develop a sense of self that is not reliant on other people and our perception of other people's perceptions of us. We therefore grow up with our self-esteem becoming, what I refer to as, other-esteem.

Our sense of self and whether or not we are OK, acceptable, is so often in the hands of others. Will they approve? Will they disapprove? What will they think? What if they think this or that? Maybe they think it is my fault? Maybe they think I am not cool enough? I could go on, but I will refrain from telling you something you are likely already familiar with! They key dynamic is that what someone else may or may not think means something damaging about YOU - it rocks and sways your very own sense of self.

What happens, with such a fragile sense of ourselves, is that the chance of someone not approving or not accepting us because our of our Life Situation is a very real threat, your brain sees it as a threat to its very survival. Why? A lot of my clients when they have identified this problem within themselves, will often say in response to me asking "what do you want to do instead?" - "I want to not care what others think". It is tempting to want this! However, I don't believe that completely not caring is dooable. We are a species that need bonds with other members of our species to survive, there is no getting around this. Health psychology research has shown this again and again over years of research. Some animal species do not need this, we do. So, it wouldn't make sense to our inbuilt survival mechanism to just not care at all. If everyone on the planet rejected us, we wouldn't survive.

It IS possible to care differently however, and place significantly less emphasis on the illusion of our perception of what others may or may not think about us, and to have a sense of self much more solid and reliant on something much more reliable.

Remember: when you judge yourself or the situation you find yourself in, you automatically create an inner conflict which doesn't need to be there. You never truly know what other people think. Every time you think you do, you are making it up, imagining it - unless you ask, it will always be based on this illusion you create inside your head.

Practice: Noticing those judgments in your head. Particularly the SHOULD word. Awareness creates change.

Instead: Start paying attention to the situations that present themselves in your life and use them for a perfect opportunity - what can YOU LEARN from them? Are they in your control (i.e. something you did or didn't do influenced them) or out of your control? If they were influenced by you, then AWESOME - you can begin to do something about it. You probably want a different outcome next time, don't you? Then start noticing, without judgment, what happened and what your part was. And ask yourself: What did I learn from this? What can I do differently next time? You will always find something useful with this kind of structured reflection and feedback.

2. Acceptance

This is another one of my key areas, probably because it something I have struggled with in my own life, and something I am getting better at. It is a very spiritual concept - accept what is. Just accept it. This is hard for us when what is, is so unpleasant or causes us so many problems in our Life Situation.

It is OK that it is hard, we can accept that, that is part of the acceptance. When something is hard, it means that you are learning, which is the aim, and therefore great.

We create so much resistance to our lives and ourselves. We shouldn't be crying. We shouldn't be feeling like this. We should know better. We shouldn't be tired, we should be sleeping perfectly, we shouldn't be emotional. This makes it so much more difficult to actually cope with what has presented itself.

Of course, there are things that are not ideal, that cause us problems, that would be helpful to change and that the change would allow us to live our lives with more ease. That is why professional therapists, life coaches and good friends exist, so we can move through these issues and create more ease in life. So, noticing that something isn't helpful and starting a line of enquiry as to the best way to go about changing that, is very useful indeed, and the reason my job exists!

However, how we FEEL about the problem before we change it or whilst we are changing it, is the bit that we make very difficult for ourselves by judgment or resisting the issue that has come up. Some part of us believes we shouldn't be experiencing what we are experiencing. This kind of resistance and creation of conflict is harmful to us, and not necessary, as it just makes things more difficult.

Remember: What is, is. As Tolle would say "the Isness of now, is, the Isness of now". In other words whatever has manifested in your Life Situation is here now, no matter what you feel about it. You can either resist it, or accept it. Accepting it makes it easier to change, as the conflict will disappear, and a conflict with yourself makes things harder to change. Accepting your current circumstances is not "letting yourself off the hook" - you are just resolving the internal conflict and the self-judgment whilst you go about learning how to get different outcomes, if you can.

Practice: Noticing where you find yourself, no matter where or what it is, and remind yourself: What is, is.

Instead: Start accepting where you are. Remember, this doesn't mean you like it, or that you want the same result next time. You may absolutely still want to change the situation, and you can and will. How you feel whilst you are changing it is the big one. I have a little mantra that I use to myself whenever something presents itself that seems difficult - you might choose to use it too, or find another one that works for you:

"acceptance, acceptance, acceptance."

It is hard to notice these things and practice new things. It need only start with baby steps, and awareness. Go easy on yourself. It is worth the practice and the attention, as you will create and ease and a freedom that are worthwhile.

Recommended reading:

Eckhart Tolle - Practicing The Power of Now.

www.charlottehinksman.com for coaching services in Wellington and via SKYPE.

As always I welcome your comments and feedback.

Charlotte.

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