Counsellor & Psychotherapist
Masters of Counselling & Psychotherapy UofA
Member of the ACA College of Supervisors
Level 3 Member Australian Counselling Association
I am not sure if you have even given yourself the treat of reading a book by Dr Russ Harris called the "Happiness Trap". The book is a self-help book based on a therapy called Acceptance Commitment Therapy.
If you ever have the time, opportunity or inclination, please take a moment to read. If you don't have the time opportunity or inclination clearly the title of this article has piqued your interest so I am going to share a quote on self acceptance from the book. It has the potential if read at the right time in your life to be life changing.
As a Therapist, student of life and Writer, I would prefer to impress you with my own words; however, if someone has said it far better than you can then I think you pay homage to that by not trying to modify it any way.
The quote is from The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris, TrumpeterBook Boston 2008, page155-156 and it is on the topic of Self-Acceptance. Something that many of us struggle with on a daily basis.
Now over to Dr Russ Harris...
Self-acceptance means being okay with who you are.
Treating yourself kindly. Accepting that youíre a human being and therefore imperfect.
Allowing yourself to mess up, make mistakes, and learn from them.
Self-acceptance means you refuse to buy into the judgments your mind makes about you, whether theyíre good judgments or bad ones.
Instead of judging yourself, you recognize your strengths and your weaknesses, and you do what you can be to be the person you want to be.
Your mind will tell you an infinite number of stories about what sort of person you are, but you donít have to believe them.
Unsplash, maxime niyomwungeri
Consider the following example...
Have you ever watched a documentary on Africa?
What did you see?
Crocodiles, lions, antelopes, gorillas, and giraffes?
Poverty-stricken shanty towns?
You can learn a lot from watching a documentary. But, one thing is for sure, a documentary about Africa is not Africa itself.
A documentary can give you impressions of Africa, some dramatic sights and sounds that represent it.
But a documentary canít give you the real-life experience of Africa: the taste and smell of the food, the feel of the sunlight on your face, the humidity of the jungle, the dryness of the desert, the feel of an elephantís hide, the pleasure of interacting with the people.
No matter how brilliantly filed, that documentary is, even if itís a thousand hours long, it canít come close to the experience of actually being there.
Because a documentary about Africa is not the same thing as Africa itself.
Similarly, a documentary about you would not be the same thing as you yourself. Even if that documentary lasted for a thousand hours and included all sorts of relevant scenes from your life, all sorts of interviews with people who know you, and all sorts of fascinating details about your innermost secrets, even then the documentary would not be you.
To really clarify this, think of the person you love most on this planet. Now, which would you prefer to spend time with, the actual living person or a documentary about that person?
So, thereís this huge difference between who we are and any documentary that anyone could ever make about us, no matter how "truthful" that documentary may be. And, Iíve put "truthful" in quotation marks, because all documentaries are hopelessly biased in that they only show you a tiny part of the big picture.
Since the advent of cheap video, the typical hour-long television documentary is "the best" of literally dozens, if not hundreds of hours of footage. So inevitably, itís going to be quite biased.
And the bias of a human film director is nothing compared to the bias of our think self. Out of an entire lifetime of experience, literally hundreds of thousands of hours of archival "fill footage", our thinking self selects a few dramatic memories, edits them together, with some related judgments and opinions, and turns into a powerful documentary entitled, "This is who I am" (and usually it has a subtitle: "Why Iím not Good Enough"). And the problem is, when we watch that documentary, we forget that itís just a heavily edited video. Instead, we believe that we are that video! But in the same way that a documentary of Africa is not Africa, a documentary of you is not you.
Your self-image, your self-esteem, your judgments about the sort of person you are, all these things are nothing more than thoughts, images and memories.
They are not you.í
Unsplash, delfi de la Rua
How powerful is that? Thoughts, images and memories are not you.
I believe the next level of that is your thoughts, images and memories about your past, your health, your relationships are also not you.
When we understand that, internalise that we free ourselves from the shackles of the heavily edited thoughts, images and memories that we hold as truths and reasons for not living our best life.
We then get to experience for the first time a personal freedom we have never experienced before.
Does the thought of that or believing in the possibility of that kind of freedom just make you feel lighter already?
Well it should. You have been carrying that burden for too long. Believing in something that just isn't true is hard work and quite frankly dam tiring.
Maybe you are ready to let it go?
Maybe you are ready to step into self acceptance?