Imperfect Acceptance

We had been at a two day training session for coaches, but most of the time was spent exploring otheresteem issues that were very impressive to this group in particular. The impact on their coaching practice and personal relationships was evident to them, so they went back and forth exploring the implications of the four practices with eachother and in relation to their current coaching clients. One of the participants was especially curious about what real, honest to goodness acceptance might look like. He felt it was the most important of the four practices and one that presented a big challenge in many instances. We discussed this together and he set goals for working acceptance into his life in the next few weeks before we met again.

But it was another of the participants that went away from the experience fired up and ready to go! On the plane ride home she took a notebook and wrote profusely about things she wanted to accept about her husband, often moving herself to tears. She went on to write about everything she appreciated in him and all that she still held as positive expectation. Then, she got to gratitude and realized that, even through the tough times like the ones that they are facing now, she was deeply grateful for their life together.  She couldn’t wait to get home and tell him all about it! She envisioned how it would change their lives, what it could do for them as a couple, as a family. And as soon as she was home she found the time and told him all about it.

The next day, she was writing to me about the adventure. She was dumbfounded by his response! Instead of playing out as she had imagined, he listened intently, looked moved and touched and finally told her that he was so happy she saw everything that she was ignoring and how she was as much to blame for their problems as he was.  She felt her heart sink and her excitement crash. What had she done wrong, she asked me? How could he not understand? This smart, intensely sensitive, brilliant woman was asking. She was judging the excersise as a failure. And him as insensitive, misunderstanding and just plain awful!

I couldn’t help but smile at the irony and at the very same time, understand her plight. I reminded her: you are practicing this. The more you practice, the better you will get. This is all new to you, and to him. So, let’s begin again.What if you accept his reaction? It quickly dawned on her that she was not doing that. What if he gets to react in any way he does and you get to practice everything even more deeply?

I know I’ve been there! More than once! Imperfect acceptance requires an understanding that what you expect is yours and yours only. You don’t get to accept only what you like, but what the other is, what he does, how she reacts.  True acceptance opens the path for consistent positive expectations that can truly make a difference.  And I have high hopes for her. She is well on the way!

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