Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 3-24-2021
“Sometimes it is NOT for you to figure out or decide, sometimes it’s just something for you to accept.” -EaE
I was in Afghanistan when I decided I needed to give myself therapy, badly! I was so tired of being offended by literally everything everyone said to me, every day. Even worse, I kept it internalized and people had no idea I was struggling with rage from the work center bullying and emotional abuse that I had been subjected to. As a young mental health technician, I decided to utilize the only mental health article/concept I knew that was at my disposal: Albert Ellis REBT and what he called the ‘unconditional acceptances’. He broke it down into three categories: Unconditional Self-acceptance, unconditional Other-Acceptance, and unconditional Life-Acceptance. (REBT: A Smarter, More Effective Approach to Treatment (psycom.net)
Unconditional self-acceptance– I have flaws- I have my bad points and my good points, but that does not make me any less worthy than another person.
Unconditional other-acceptance– sometimes people won’t’ treat me fairly- there is no reason why they have to treat me fairly. Though some may not treat me fairly, they are no less worthy than any other person.
Unconditional Life-Acceptance– Life is not always going to go the way I want. There’s no reason why it must go the way I want. I might experience some unpleasant things in life, but life itself is never awful and it is usually always bearable.
I read these acceptances every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I read them first thing in the morning, at lunch, before bedtime, after each time I was offended or triggered. It calmed me and reminded me to dig deeper than just being offended all the time, because it is a lot more complicated than what I was giving it credit for. Yes, I had some asshole coworkers, who hasn’t’ dealt with that? But going deeper, I was subjected to emotional abuse as a child, I had a freeze response anytime I was faced with confrontation, I did not know how to assert myself and I was dealing with cultural clashes due to being from a small town and working with many blunt people from metropolitan areas.
I reminded myself to pick my battles and reframe my thoughts when I was hurt. Maybe the coworker is having a bad day, maybe they are just joking, maybe their behavior is a reflection on them and has nothing to do with me, maybe I should talk back and show that I am not a victim as I often felt I was. An important note is that I learned that the more humans work on conditional acceptances, the greater their burdens are lifted in their daily lives. As we grow up, we must really learn what we cannot change, what we do not have control over, what is too much of a burden for us to bear. Acceptance can bring a peace and serenity like nothing else.
Unconditional Other- Acceptance in a humanistic approach
I decided to take what I learned about unconditional acceptances a step further into my chosen value as a humanist. As a clinician, I strongly believe in self-determination, which I summarize as our right to be able to decide for ourselves, what is best for ourselves, regardless of what others say or think. Why is this so important to me? No one will ever be in our life and in our body like our individual self, so no one has the right to decide for us what we do with and for our body, spirit, mind, and soul. Therefore, to make life healthier for all, I encourage people to take on an unconditional other-acceptance toward all and let go of the urge to judge, criticize, discriminate, condemn, or outlaw the innocent actions of others that have nothing to do with them.
To fulfill this approach, it is necessary to accept people as they are, no matter how unfamiliar they may seem to you. If you find yourself unable to accept someone as they are even when they are not hurting you or anyone else, it is time to work on the concept of unconditional other acceptance. This includes people of different ethnicity, different sexual orientation, gender dysphoria, a different socioeconomic status, different religions, different political affiliation, different drugs of choice, different hobbies and so on. Anytime a colleague or friend heavily questioned a person that was extremely diverse from them I often used the phrase “You are thinking too hard about it, it’s not for you to understand”. The end. The fact of the matter is, people exist in this world that are quite different from you, and quite different from me, it does not make them wrong and us right. It just is what it is. To put any amount of effort into ‘forcing’ someone to be more like you would go against the value of unconditional other acceptance, it would hurt that person and it would drain your energy. It just does not make sense, period.
Unconditional Self-acceptance in a humanistic approach
An important reminder that yes, you are a human. Yes, you do have human needs, you are not absolved of the responsibility of learning to accept yourself and treat yourself as you would the people you care about and love the most. As a matter of fact, you must learn to put yourself as the top priority, if you were never taught that, you have a ways to go. Unfortunately, it is extremely hard, but fortunately, not impossible. A part of the issue I had with being so offended also had to do with my lack of unconditional self-acceptance. Since I could not accept myself, it was extra hard to accept when others pointed out my flaws. I was often overcompensating and trying to live in denial of the traumas I had dealt with and the many symptoms that came with it.
A lot of the work involved in this realm has to do with accepting our bodies, minds and souls and consciously reminding ourselves not to self-neglect these important aspects. Self-acceptance means accepting: our biological traits, our family of origin, our natural attributes, our deficiencies which we must work harder at than the average person, our traumas and our healing process as we are not anymore invincible than anyone else. We must accept that we like what we like (so long as it’s not criminal) and we also have non negotiables where we must enforce boundaries and protect our inner peace. There is a lot of work and reflection to be done in this realm, and it is often the hardest work we must face.
Unconditional acceptances are important for ourselves and others. It will lift a heavy burden if we can remain consistent with this concept and truly let go of what is out of our control and frankly, none of our business sometimes. I could have continued to stay that angry person that chose to be offended by everyone’s comments, language, tone of voice and so on. I chose a different way of viewing what was happening around me, the people around me, how I responded to any given situation/ confrontation. I chose to focus more on me, and to also remember that humans are fallible beings, the world is fallible, and that is why acceptance is so imperative to begin with.
One thought on “Unconditional Acceptances & Humanism”
Well written! I’m still working on some of those areas myself. Thanks for sharing more great advice.
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