The Power of Joy
Stop the battle with what is
I’m trying to figure out why men have nipples. I mean what’s the purpose? I have nipples and their role is pretty clear. Now, I could try to search the answer to this question but I’m afraid of what will come up on my computer if I put the word, “nipples,” in my search bar. So, the question becomes another mystery of life. If you and I sat down for dinner and a few drinks one day, I bet we could come up with a thousand questions like this one that we have no answer for. That’s one thing. It’s the bigger questions that tap me on the shoulder with a constant rhythm that I can’t take.
During a particularly horrific period of my life, in my grief and struggle, I couldn’t stop asking, “Why?” It felt like if I had the answer to that question, my heartache would go away. Why me? Why this? Why now? It wouldn’t stop. One day, I realized was literally no answer to those questions that would placate me, or that would wrap my pain in a nice neat basket and whisk it off to some other universe. Such an answer did not exist. Then I stumbled on the book, Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. The book is about being able to accept situations that are outside of our control, which in turn reduces the suffering caused by them. She says, “Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns.” I sure want freedom.
I blasted through that book, highlighter in hand, and then tried to practice the concept. I started slow, with my hair. All my life I’ve battled with my stick straight hair to curl and fluff and do something other than hang stick straight. But my mother fluffer of a head of hair always refused, flopped and mocked me and my plethora of hair products and curling irons. So I went short. I let my hair just be there and accepted it’s straightness and it’s limitations. These days, I get out of the shower and kind of move my hair into place with my hands and walk out of the bathroom. That’s it. THAT IS IT! It’s fantastic!! It’s freedom all because of acceptance.
Once I moved onto other subjects, I realized how much time I spent wrestling with what is. Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to change our situation, better ourselves, or have hope. What I’m saying is that once we accept what is, then we can create a plan for positive change and a design for a thriving life. Sometimes we unknowingly perpetuate our suffering with our own internal loop of questions that can’t be answered and laments that won’t stop.
We are designing our fall retreat around this concept of acceptance, of stopping the battle with what is, and beginning the blossoming of what can be. From now on, men can walk around with their purpose-less nipples and I won’t even wonder why. I'm too busy throwing away hair products.
The Power of Why
Shifting your emotional perspective
We ALL go through challenges in life, and some challenges are easier to accept than others. However, science shows that holding on to our pain and suffering for prolonged periods of time negatively impacts our physical health and emotional wellbeing. Rather than marinating in our pain, we need to work towards accepting life as it is.
In Acceptance Commitment Therapy(ACT), acceptance refers to “experiential acceptance” - which means accepting your inner experiences ~ your thoughts, images, emotions, urges, memories, sensations, and so on. With unwanted painful emotions, ACT encourages you to think of acceptance in terms of the “four As”:
- Acknowledge ~ mindfully notice and name them.
- Allow ~ allow them to be present.
- Accommodate ~ opening up and making room for them.
- Appreciate ~ appreciate them for their help and guidance.
Appreciating them doesn’t mean liking them or wanting them. It means seeing your emotions as an ally and appreciating what they have to offer you. This is a radically different perspective as most of us see painful emotions as the enemy. So this requires a shift in perspective to see the positive benefits of so-called “negative” emotions. ACT is primarily interested in the functions of an emotion: the effects it has on our behaviors. Therefore, in some contexts, “negative” emotions can have positive functions such as life-enhancing effects on our behavior.
Experts say these positive functions fall into three main classes:
- motivation ~ Our emotions motivate us to behave in particular ways.
- illumination ~ Our emotions illuminate what is important.
- communication ~ Our emotions help us to communicate with others.
For example, sadness can motivate us to slow down, withdraw, and rest; it can illuminate the importance of recuperation after a loss; and it can help us to communicate “I’ve lost something/someone important” or to tell others "you are important to me!"
Another aspect of appreciation is tuning into our emotions and extracting their wisdom. Experts suggest that we ask: “What does this emotion tell you that you really care about? What does it suggest you need to face up to, or need to do differently?” Exploring our emotions in this way will help to connect us with our values, goals and needs; which in turn points the way to committed action.
So it’s important to recognize that there are many facets to acceptance. Practicing the four A’s of acceptance will ultimately help us to shift our emotional perspective in life!