Love yourself: the acceptance technique (with an exercise)
The exercises related to the acceptance technique can be considered as preliminary to the exploration and integrationof the unconscious, particularly, but not only, of lower unconscious contents. In some people, in fact, self-loathing and rejection run so deep, that any other personal growth work will be ineffectual unless an adequate level of self-acceptance has been achieved.
Developing an attitude of self-acceptance is a precondition
to being able to face obstacles and challenges
without falling into self-recrimination or repudiating our worth as a person.
Accepting ourselves means honouring the reality of what we are; recognising, admitting and accepting our totality as human beings, becoming whole. To accept ourselves means to be on our own side and become our own best friends. But lovingly accepting who we are is not at all simple. Whenever we struggle to accept ourselves or certain aspects of our character, it may help to check whether we are influenced by the following false beliefs:
On the one hand, we might believe that, to accept ourselves, we need to approve of and justify everything about ourselves. Yet, the willingness to live and accept our experiences does not imply justifying them at all cost, that is, “making them just” and uncritically letting them dominate our lives. Let us suppose that we have done something we regret, something we are ashamed of or reproach ourselves for. Accepting ourselves does not mean denying when we do wrong or justifying our errors. It means that we acknowledge our mistakes, but by being more forgiving about them, we are more open to understanding what led us to acting that way in the first place, so that we may do better next time. We can therefore accept the fact we made a mistake, whilst firmly deciding to outgrow it.
On the other hand, we may believe that accepting ourselves for who we are might lead us to become complacent and unwilling to change or improve. But acceptance is not the same as resignation (De Paolis, 1996, p. 72). Acceptance is quite the opposite of resignation in that it frees us to move confidently towards life. Acceptance does not mean remaining passive when we are confronted with our limitations. Rather, self-acceptance is an indispensable condition for change and growth. If we do not accept the reality of our experience and of who we are, we will struggle to face the parts of our being that require transformation. Which brings us to the fundamental paradox of acceptance: accepting who we are is a precondition for change, rejecting who we are leaves us bogged down in the very behaviour we find unacceptable.
Of course, the acceptance technique may be used not only in preparation for the exploration of the unconscious, but also any time when, over the course of the psychosynthesis process, we come up against super-egoic instances or persecuting parts (the censor/the critic/the judge/the inner perpetrator) and/or with persecuted parts (the outcast/the victim/the abused).
The following visualisation is intended to develop, intensify and anchor a general attitude of acceptance toward ourselves. By promoting a feeling of love and benevolence, it leads us to become aware of our own value, of the preciousness, uniqueness and irreplaceability of our being and to nurture in us freedom to exist in all our fullness.
Visualisation to foster self-acceptance (Guggisberg Nocelli, 2004)
Make yourself comfortable and close our eyes. If closing your eyes does not feel right, maybe you can just try to lower your gaze, instead, to encourage introspection. Take a few deep breaths and, at each exhalation, let any tension you are feeling in your body soften a little (let this relaxed feeling extend to your legs, pelvis, trunk, arms, shoulders, face and the whole head).
Now imagine walking in a landscape that inspires well-being and tranquillity…. You feel serene and you are aware that you are going to a special place, a place that makes reconciliation with yourself possible. As you walk at a leisurely pace towards your destination, you observe your surroundings with great interest and curiosity… where are you? Are there particular scents in the air? How is the quality of light? Which sounds do you hear?
As you realise that you are getting closer to your destination, you are filled with joy and anticipation… you can already see it in the distance. The image becomes clearer as you get closer…. Taking your time, you enter this space and look around you, feelings of awe and wonder fill your heart… choose a place where you can sit peacefully… your spot.
Once seated you feel a very pleasant sensation of warmth and peace enveloping you like the softest blanket…. little by little, you feel this warmth and peace reach every cell in your body, every part of your being…. and, with this warmth and this peace, you also experience a growing feeling of deep love, benevolence and acceptance towards yourself…. you become aware of your value, of the preciousness of your being, of your uniqueness and irreplaceability!
You know that in this sacred space you are free to be exactly what you are… free to welcome yourself entirely, to accept yourself completely…. You are free to exist in all your fullness. To anchor the experience, place your right hand on your heart and enjoy a little more, in silence, the good sensations that you are experiencing.
Now let a word or a simple statement emerge that expresses love and acceptance for yourself and repeat it a few times so that you can embed it firmly in your memory.
It is almost time to leave, but before you do, look around once more and see something that has been left there as a gift for you: an object, a symbol that will remind you of this place of reconciliation and acceptance. You take it with you and, giving thanks, you set off on your way back, feeling calm and renewed, aware that you will be able to return to this space whenever you feel the need and desire.