Don Draper looks over his shoulder at the person standing in front of him and delivers this price line, loaded with dialectics: “You’re good. Get better…”
And that right there may be all you need to know for living.
I don’t buy into the cult of so called-self-acceptance. It is all the rage. In reality, if you are using that phrase, or expressing those ideas, just know you are squarely in the middle of a lovely fad. It will pass.
Here I’ll tip my hand: I believe in an almost limitless capacity within humans to exhibit the good, the true, the noble, the wise, and the sacred. I also happen to conversely believe in the almost equally limitless capacity for humans to be despicable, vile, loathsome, and corrupt. I suppose I simply think an awful lot of humankind. We are, rightly understood, infinite in moral possibility.
The cult of self-acceptance does not however believe in human capacity. They believe you are locked into the caste system of where you happen to find yourself today.
If you are bitchy, then you are a bitch–why struggle? If you feel spiteful towards a peer–then this is you–be authentic. If you are morbidly obese–well, thank God for being comfortable in your own skin. On and on the inanities of today’s sexy “wisdom” go.
In the show Breaking Bad a meth addict and dealer attends a recovery group in order to sell them the drug. During an intervening week he shoots a person. Needing someone to tell, simply in order to deal with the guilt, and the pain of this act he tells the group. But he's not entirely honest–how could he be after all? Instead he says he's shot a dog. The group is sympathetic.
It’s ok, they say. The dealer is confused, what do you mean it’s ok, I killed a dog!? Well, someone pipes in, he was probably just coming after you–it was self defense. No, I shot him in cold blood! Maybe you relapsed, another adds. This is about the meth, isn’t it? You wouldn’t have done this if not for the drug. The group leader eventually contributes–man, you just need to accept yourself. you just need to be ok with who you are. Finally the dealer has had enough. He erupts. He points to one group member and reminds them how their eleven year old child died due to negligence–should we just accept that, he asks? Then he coldly outs-himself, I’m here to sell you more meth–are you going to accept that!?
No. They won’t. Finally, he thinks out loud, something they won't accept.
An example of this comes from the writing world. Post-modern philosophy and particularly literary critique has informed a generation of authors that they have biases. And if one watches or reads much journalistic efforts these days, you see a bent towards owning up to their bias. Most news these days comes across as pure editorialist.
One author though said it brilliantly, the point of knowing you have a bias is to get over it–not to wallow in it. In other words, once having affirmed where we are, we move to where we wish to be.
Recently I posted a jab at non-directive therapy, which attempts to refrain from intervention. The satire has a client committing suicide while the therapist simply “accepts” all of it. That post was a joke. No real therapist would do something so moronic. They would acceptthe situation–the client REALLY wants to commit suicide. Then, theywould intervene. Accepting something, being aware of it, is only sogood as how we go about addressing that thing.One of my favorite Hindu teachers was guiding his students in theact of centering awareness. This form of meditation teaches ultimateacceptance as you contemplate. The point is to simply notice yourreactions–to form a witness of what is without tampering. Anypracticioner of yoga knows this tactic. However, the guru went on tosay something very significant. He said, “Developing innerawareness, and personal acceptance, is a crucial part of your path.However, even this must be set aside for true enlightenment tooccur.”The final step towards enlightenment requires awareness–but itmoves beyond it.The problem with the self-acceptance bit is that it draws from a ratherignorant assumption. Namely, that we are static creatures who simply are… We aren’t. We are always becoming.
We are constantly being shaped. We are constantly choosing. We are always evolving and adapting. And, amazingly our choices play massive roles in this process. We have a level of self-governance, which while not absolute, is absolutely breathtaking in scope. The power to choose requires that we be aware of all of the options ahead and behind, to the right and to the left. It necessitates that we accept what is, and not cover it up with pretty words or false dichotomies . But then, and only then, we must leap forward into the infinite capacity of Being. We then, walk in the light….or not….it will be our choice. To accept what is, while minimizing the potential good of what might be is ultimately to sell ourselves short.
Just remember that the next time someone offers you their shard of pop psychology, “Accept yourself…”. They don’t actually believe very highly in you