Advertising
Advertising

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]

    Advertising

    • 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?

    Advertising

    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:

    Advertising

    • 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.

    Advertising

    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

      More by this author

      Dr. Jamie Schwandt

      Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

      10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus and Creativity 9 Game Changing Tips on How to Write Goals (and Reach Them!) Creative Brain Test: 10 Best Ways To Test Your Creative Intelligence How to Be a Maverick and Develop a Maverick Mindset Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness

      Trending in Communication

      1 5 Life Lessons I Learned From Dean Winchester 2 How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up 3 How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late 4 50+ Best Motivational Quotes To Prepare You For Any Challenges In Life 5 A List of 100 Questions to Ask Your Partner on Date Nights

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on October 22, 2018

      5 Life Lessons I Learned From Dean Winchester

      5 Life Lessons I Learned From Dean Winchester

      Is it possible to say anything bad about Supernatural’s co-protagonist, Dean Winchester? I mean, from the very beginning of the show he’s done nothing but save people, hunt things, and look out for his oft-misguided brother Sam, all while putting everyone else’s needs before his own.

      Despite a few mishaps and stumbles here and there, Dean really is a great role model (well, excluding his tendency to consume copious amounts of alcohol and spend a bit too much time with a certain adult magazine).

      Below, you’ll find a list of just a few of the things that Dean Winchester has taught me about life (beware, spoilers abound)…

      1. Always Look Out For Your Family.

      DWLL#1-reupbugged

        At the end of the day, all you really have is your family, and thus it’s important not to cut your ties with them unless absolutely necessary. As much as you’d like to think you could do without them sometimes, especially when they’re acting up, it’s a fact that most of us need some sort of support system to keep persevering in our daily lives. That motivation, that drive to succeed, that helping hand when you need it most; it often comes from family. It’s incredibly hard to go it alone in this world, and we should all be thankful for those in our family who make our journeys just a bit easier.

        Dean grew up on the road, and often found himself in difficult circumstances. Without his dad and brother, he’d have been killed, or worse, long ago. Thus, Dean goes to extreme lengths to maintain his relations with what little family he has left.

        His brother therefore is everything to him, so much so that it becomes overbearing to Sam at times (which says more about Sam’s flaws than Dean’s, in my opinion).

        Dean looked out for Sam even when most sane people would turn the other cheek. Heck, he even gave up his soul to resurrect Sam, and later dealt with his brother’s addiction with demon blood in such an understanding manner (given the circumstances) that he probably deserves some kind of award. Later, when Castiel became a permanent fixture on the show, he too became a part of Dean’s family, and as such Dean has looked out for the prodigal angel ever since. Dean is just a supremely loyal guy, who’s insanely protective of the people he loves.

        While you shouldn’t let family members take advantage of you (more on this below), keeping close ties with them and looking out for their best interests is noble indeed.

        Advertising

        2. Take Care Of Your Car.

        Is there anyone better at maintaining a car than Dean Winchester? It seems that all he needs is a few hours and some bicep flexing to get his 1967 Chevy Impala running as well as it did in…well…1967.

        I have absolutely zero sense when it comes to the mechanics of a car, so I admire Dean’s technical prowess. But this goes even deeper than the car. It’s about the symbolism of it all. We all have something we care about in this world more than most. Some may call it a hobby, some may call it an obsession, but you know it as the thing you love doing. For me it might be writing or video games. For Dean it’s his Impala. For my mom, it would be teaching. For you, it could be any number of things.

        As you see in the image above, Dean keeps his nearly fifty year old car looking brand spanking new, something of a miracle judging by how many times it has been wrecked in the show. If we all put that much elbow grease into the things we are obsessed with and care about the most, not only would we be happier, but the world would be a better place as well!

        To put it even more simply, if you love something as much as Dean loves his Impala, take the time to maintain it, to keep it in tip top shape. I know I’m getting abstract here, but if you like writing, that means keep writing!

        Or if you love cooking, keep coming up with new recipes!

        Dean is passionate about his car, and the time he puts into showing that passion is something we should all emulate when it comes to the things we love and are obsessed with.

        3. Being Brave Has Its Benefits.

        Who would have thought that Lucifer could be beaten by a mixture of bravery and brotherly love? Dean’s shown time and time again in Supernatural that he’s willing to risk his life and limb to take down the greatest of evils, whether it be Azazel, Lilith, Alastair, or the Devil himself. On that same note, were would any of us be if we didn’t have a bit of bravery? I know that I personally would be practically nowhere without the tiny amount of courage I’m able to conjure up now and then. Life is difficult, and it takes perseverance and a belief in oneself to make progress.

        For instance, I’m currently applying to a smattering of PhD programs. Frankly, it’s terrifying, putting myself out there to be judged by faceless entities in some of the world’s top universities. But I’m doing it because I know it’s the right thing for my future, no matter how much it hurts to expose myself to possible rejection.

        One thing I noticed while studying history is that great leaders usually aren’t the most intelligent, all-around awesome people in the room. Otherwise, Ben Franklin would have been our first President and Machiavelli’s republic would have worked out. No, the people who blaze a trail into the future are the ones willing to make tough, heat-of-the-moment decisions without knowing what the exact consequences might be.

        Advertising

        Often times, all it takes is a bit of moxy and belief in oneself to accomplish things you thought were impossible. For instance, I thought I could never lecture or teach a class, but when the day finally came I walked through the door, took a deep breath, and just went with it.

        Lo and behold it all went fine! Dean is the epitome of that dive in and ask questions later mentality. It may not always be the smartest move on the chess board, but it’s often the one that results in the swiftest victory.

        While there are certainly benefits to thinking everything through, sometimes the situation calls for an empty mind and bold action.

        4. You Will Lose, What Matters Is How You Deal With It.

        As a way to get my creative juices flowing for this article, I’m listening to Bob Seger’s “Beautiful Loser,” which is one of many songs that could be called Dean Winchester’s theme.

        Indeed, it played at the beginning of season 6 when Dean was still trying to cope with the fact that his brother was “dead” by trying to live a normal suburban life (which to Dean was probably worse than the forty years he spent in hell). Of course, we can all relate just a bit to Mr. Seger’s song, as we all find ourselves down in the dumps at one point or another. What matters it how we react to such adversity. Do we cower, and let our failures consume us, or keep fighting and hope to win in the future? Obviously, the latter choice is the better option.

        A good example I have relates to the basketball player Kobe Bryant, a polarizing figure to say the least. He recently attained the NBA record for most shots missed overall, which sounds bad on paper. But let’s look at the facts. Despite the fact that Kobe failed to make thousands of shots, he didn’t let it bring him down. If he let a bad shooting night or two keep him from being who he is, it’s doubtful he would have won five championships.

        We all lose, and are losers, at some points. Even the best of us. We just need to remember that there’s always a new day tomorrow, that there’s always a chance to make up for past deficiencies, always another opportunity to throw the ball into the basket. You aren’t defined by your failures, but by how you choose to react to them.

        Dean’s probably lost more than any character on Supernatural. He blamed himself for his dad’s death, was unable to keep Sam from going dark side, and unknowingly started the chain of events that led to Lucifer’s release.

        On top of all that, he seems to get his face smashed in by people who are supposed to love him pretty frequently, as you can see by the image used above. Fast forward to season 10, and we’ve seen Dean have to deal fairly consistently with people (read: Sam) who don’t appreciate anything he’s done for them.

        Advertising

        Dean epitomizes the fact that we humans lose, a lot. That doesn’t mean, however, that we have to sit on our laurels and let life beat us down.

        Despite dealing with the lowest of lows, Dean has always risen above in the end and done what’s right. It hasn’t always worked out, but I’d say he’s seen a net positive effect from his actions despite everything he’s been through.

        5. Sometimes You Have To Let It All Out.

        This season, Dean turned into a demon, which removed his humanity and allowed him to go crazy (it involved lots of bar fights and karaoke).

        This version of Dean was all-powerful and snarky to the max. He let everyone have it, especially Sam, who for the past several seasons has treated Dean like an annoyance. Obviously, there’s no way I know of to gain the powers of a demon, and so none of us can let it all out like Dean in the literal sense. But if you’re feeling wronged by somebody, something, or the world as a whole, it’s a great idea to let off some steam every so often.

        This can come in the form of an angry outburst, a lengthy crying session, a prolonged run, a few angry screams at the moon while on an empty beach. Whatever works for you to try and address the pain you’ve been feeling. This doesn’t have to occur very frequently, nor should it. It’s a way to address whatever problems you’ve been dealing with in life in a rapid manner, and come back with a renewed outlook on whatever you were dealing with.

        Sometimes everyone, even someone with as perfect of a personality as Dean Winchester, has to let out their demons, literally or figuratively.

        You can’t just bottle it up all of the time. Dean tried to do this, and it only sparked the series of events that led to him becoming a demon.

        In my opinion, Dean’s time on the dark side was good for him and his loved ones, as they got to hear just how much they’d been taking advantage of his loyalty and trust all these years.

        So there you have it. Dean isn’t just on Supernatural to be a pretty face. He’s there to represent the kind of flawed human with good intentions that we all aspire to be.

        Advertising

        Though his brother Sam has shown flashes of this as well, Dean really is the one who exudes the kind of loyalty, care, and resiliency that I and others envy.

        After 9 seasons of looking out for literally everyone, I think that Dean’s time as a demon was a breath of fresh air for the character.

        Will this form of his return?

        I hope so, because Dean deserves more than two episodes to rail against all of the people who stepped on him for years.

        Are you a Dean Winchester fan? Or just a fan of Supernatural?

        No matter which, or even none, you can benefit from the lessons the character teaches us!

        Featured photo credit: Dean Winchester/sandrieliribeiro via flickr.com

        Read Next