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The Harsh Truths About Accepting the Unacceptable

The Harsh Truths About Accepting the Unacceptable

Why is it that people have significantly different outcomes with similar experiences? Have you noticed some people can experience trauma, yet thrive, while others spiral into darkness? I have personally lived through this darkness. As a young child in foster care, I felt trapped and alone.

Imagine you are trapped in a tank of deep water. You tread water for a long time. You start getting tired. You aren’t sure how much longer you’ll be able to keep your head above water. You try to stay afloat, try to conserve energy and pray someone will come along and help you. Time ticks on. You are so tired. You sink below the surface, hold your breath for as long as you can. Nobody is coming to save you because nobody notices you need help. Desperately, you pull to the surace, gasp for air, sink back down again. You aren’t going to make it. You have lost all hope.[1]

Even though I felt all hope was lost, somehow I made it. I did not hopelessly drown. My younger brother is a different story though. He seems to be hopelessly trapped. So, how did I make it while he did not?

Be brave through traumas.

What exactly do we go through after a traumatic experience? Let’s answer this question by diving into the 5-Stages of Acceptance (otherwise known as the 5-Stages of Grief). There are different types of “acceptance or grief” models; however, we will focus on one in particular, a model introduced by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross – the Kubler-Ross model. [2]

    Stage #1: Denial.

    The first stage is denial. People enter this first stage after shock from experiencing a traumatic event in their life. Events such as the death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, rape, being in a serious accident, or the traumatic exposure veterans experience during war.

    If you or a loved one have experienced a traumatic event, you are most likely in one of these five stages. In order to recover from your experience, it is important to be able to identify which stage you are in. Here are a few things to look for in this stage: [3]

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    • Clinging to a false sense of reality.
    • Your outlook on life becomes meaningless.
    • Your life makes no sense.

    Example

    I was placed into foster care as a young child. My younger brother and I were in a state of denial when we were placed into the foster care system. We believed our parents would change their behavior and become better parents for us.

    Why This Matters

    Denial helps us survive loss. It is a way for the universe, God, Buddha (whatever you believe) to tell us that we have reached our limits of what we can handle.

    Stage #2: Anger.

    The second stage is anger. Anger is where we possess the need to blame someone else for our problems. Here are a few characteristics of this stage: [4]

    • The need to blame someone else.
    • Your anger extends to everyone around you.
    • You feel abandoned.

    Example

    After being placed into foster care, I was extremely angry. I blamed everyone I could think of. I blamed my mother, my father, my social worker, my grandparents, and even God. What is funny (looking back now!), I remember cursing God one evening and woke up deathly sick the next morning… coincidence?

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    Why This Matters

    When we feel our anger, instead of suppressing it, we start to recover. Think of an open pit. You are stuck at the bottom of this pit with no way out. Once you feel your anger, it is as if a rope magically appears to pull you out of the pit.

    Stage #3: Bargaining.

    The third stage is bargaining. Bargaining is when you believe you can avoid the actual problem through negotiation. Let’s take a look at a few ways to identify this stage: [5]

    • You have self-doubt.
    • You are constantly using “what if” and “if only” statements.
    • You are stuck in the past.

    Example

    As a foster child, I remember telling my biological parents that I would do anything they wanted or be whoever they needed me to be if they would only stop their drinking and drug use.

    Why This Matters

    It is important to recognize when you reach this stage. In this stage, you are stuck in the past; however, it is fairly easy to recognize that you are in this stage simply by paying attention to your thoughts and words. You will find that you use quite a few… “what if” and “if only” type statements in this stage.

    Stage #4: Depression.

    The fourth stage is depression. Depression is a dark stage where you withdraw from everything. Depression is the most dangerous stage, so here are few things to look for:

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    • Withdraw from life.
    • An intense sadness.
    • Suicidal thoughts.

    Example

    I can vividly recall the sadness I experienced when I finally realized nothing could be done to save my parents. I had a horrible feeling that one day soon they would both die due to their lifestyle. Sadly, my father would commit suicide not too long after.

    Why This Matters

    This stage is important because grief enters your life at a deep level; a deeper level than anyone could ever imagine. It is important during this stage to understand that depression is an appropriate response to trauma. [6]

    Stage #5: Acceptance.

    The fifth and final stage is acceptance. Acceptance takes place when you accept the true reality as your permanent reality. You will know when you enter this final stage by the following characteristics:

    • You realize that you can’t remain stuck in the past.
    • You start to enjoy life again.
    • You make new connections.

    Example

    I finally hit this stage when I told myself that I could not change my family. I had to start preparing for a reality without the majority of my family in my life. I wasn’t happy about this, but I accepted it.

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    Why This Matters

    Accepting the true reality as your permanent reality is an important step in recovery. Typically, we don’t necessarily like it, but we accept it and learn to live with it. It is important to remember, we cannot start this stage until we have allowed an appropriate (determined by the individual) amount of time at each stage… essentially, we cannot rush into acceptance.

      You can’t control everything, but you’re always in control of something.

      Once we develop a growth mindset, we then find that we can become better. A growth mindset will put us on a path, not just to recovery, but a path allowing us to thrive. It will put us on a path to Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG). Along the way, look for meaning or purpose in your life. When we discover meaning, we find that we have a greater purpose to live.

      Here are some ways you can develop a growth mindset:

      • Believe you can become better.
      • Attempt to learn as much as possible – knowing you can and will become smarter.
      • Read and listen to audiobooks.
      • Exercise and eat nutritional foods.
      • Embrace challenges – know that you can learn from them.
      • Embrace failure as opportunities to learn.
      • Embrace effort as a necessary step toward growth.
      • Eagerly learn from criticism.
      • View the success of others as an inspiration – learn from them.
      • Create synergy with others and stimulate growth in yourself and in others.
      • Additionally, really think about the following quote…

      “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” – Winston Churchill

      Remember, there is always the silver lining.

      When I personally developed a growth mindset, I soon discovered the meaning in my life. I didn’t have to look far to uncover it… in fact, it had been with me all along. My beautiful wife and my precious daughter are my purpose… they are the meaning in my life.

      You too can easily discover meaning in your life, accept the seemingly unacceptable realities of this world, and thrive. All you have to do is open your eyes!

      Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

      Reference

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      Dr. Jamie Schwandt

      Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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      Last Updated on August 19, 2019

      How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

      How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

      We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

      When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

      In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

      Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

      If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

      According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

      No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

      When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

      Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

      1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

      When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

      Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

      When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

      Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

      In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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      It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

      You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

      Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

      What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

      You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

      That’s where we all should be.

      So, answer me this:

      How are you, really?

      And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

      Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

      Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

      Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

      Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

      It’s taking control.

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      2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

      You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

      You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

      In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

      Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

      You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

      Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

      But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

      It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

      In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

      It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

      Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

      Change will happen.

      Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

      You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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      And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

      You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

      That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

      You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

      When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

      There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

      3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

      Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

      In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

      If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

      Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

      Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

      How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

      Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

      “Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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      Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

      Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

      It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

      Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

      “If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

      What would you do if you felt you were enough?

      By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

      So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

      Final Thoughts

      By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

      Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

      When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

      You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

      More About Living Your True Self

      Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

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