In a coaching session the other day with a client, I brought up the fact that the English language may not always be the best for talking about things like mindfulness and acceptance.
Which makes sense because the tradition of mindfulness comes from Eastern philosophies.
Shifting the Definition of “Mind”
For instance, the word for “mind” in Japanese Zen is actually closer to meaning “heart/mind”.
In our culture mind means intellectual, thinking, problem solving, figuring out a way.
These can be useful for things like engineering, science, competition and surviving.
But just shifting the context of the word “mind” to “heart/mind” – the definition of mind becomes much more encompassing to things like feelings and intuition, and opening up to your entire being.
So when we say “I accept that” – what space is it coming from? Is it a place of suffering, struggling and “accepting” with resentment of the situation.
Or is it allowing what is to be there, especially the negative thoughts and emotions that you are experiencing, or perhaps resisting?
This latter definition is true acceptance.
Acceptance & Social Anxiety
So how does this apply to social anxiety? Well, if you’ve been struggling to push away your anxiety and depression, you haven’t been truly accepting that it’s there.
And because it’s a part of you, and you are rejecting it, you aren’t accepting yourself.
What happens when we don’t really accept ourselves, good, bad, ugly, pain and all?
You probably guessed it…suffering.
What if the suffering you experience from your social phobia isn’t to do with the actual thoughts and feelings of social anxiety themselves, but your relationship to them?
The WAY you treat your socially anxious thoughts and feelings when they appear.
They’re inside you, right?
They’re real in your experience, right?
They’re part of you, though they are not you.
How well has it worked to push them away, to fight them and resist them? Honestly, ask yourself.
Maybe it does work for you, I’m not sure.
For me, I did have some success in challenging the thoughts for certain things.
But for others, it didn’t work.
I didn’t realize that I wasn’t truly self-accepting when I did this.
Acceptance is Never a One-Time Thing
You can’t just say “I accept it” and then it’s totally done and over.
You have to keep exploring and engaging with your thoughts and emotions, allowing them to be there without pushing them away.
And it takes practice, over and over. I screw this up all the time.
But I do my best, and when I truly able to sit with any uncomfortable feelings or thoughts, I settle into my humanity, and often things resolve right then and there.
It’s a very strange thing, because as you practice allowing them to be there, being present with them and yourself, without trying to make them go away, they often do go away!
However, trying to be tricky and make them go away with the agenda to make them go away, will backfire.
It’s really paradoxical.
When you can order pretty much whatever you want over the Internet anymore with the push of a button, it’s easy to think that once we push the acceptance button, that everything is resolved.
Not so. I mean you can buy an “easy button” from Staples, so why not an acceptance button?
There is notyou can push. It’s a way of being and living, and it requires practice and maintenance, there is no “getting there”.
Once you think you’ve gotten there, it’s probably a good sign that you’re caught up in your thoughts again!
Time to dive back into that mindfulness practice! :)