No one is the finished article; we are all on this journey and no one is getting out alive. By focusing on and accepting yourself you will begin to love yourself. This is a necessary dose of positive narcissism, if you like. If you love yourself and deem yourself acceptable and worthy then others will too, but it must start inside you. If you derive your self-worth and level of acceptability from others, they can wield control over you and your emotions. If you are in a toxic relationship that is fuelled by a dominant partner who makes you feel small, stupid and worthless, that partner is impacting negatively your ability to feel your worth and accept yourself; your beautiful imperfect self. You can’t think yourself better in an abusive relationship, however. You need to take action and change your situation by getting away from it.
If you have children who can see an emotionally abusive relationship, this will be their understanding of what ‘love’ and relationships should look like. When they see that one partner in a relationship looks like they are accepting their poor treatment, this creates the boundaries within which these children will live their lives. They may unconsciously seek out such relationships in their future and try to replicate their childhood experiences and memories even though they may look undesirable to others and even themselves. They may not be able to understand their own self-defeating behaviours and choices in later life. Similarly, children will see how you treat yourself and speak about others, even if you are not aware of it. All of these experiences in childhood impact adulthood. Accepting yourself, positive self-talk, forgiving yourself and showing children how you are doing this is one of the strongest messages of love that you can give as a care giver. Love and acceptance originate from within.
In the late 19th century the Japanese psychiatrist and philosopher, Shoma Morita developed a psychotherapeutic therapy that aimed to treat people suffering from Shinkeishitsu or anxiety-based disorders. Morita therapy was designed to reduce the debilitating effects of anxiety rather than rid the sufferer of the symptoms. A week of bed rest and total isolation from outside stimulation is recommended and while this is perhaps not entirely practicable, this form of response to treating anxiety encourages the sufferer to accept reality and avoid self-deception. Morita believed that anxiety sufferers sought sympathy from those around them and sought out acknowledgment for their emotions from others. The philosophy behind this therapy is that when anxiety sufferers allow their mind to create facts from akuchi or misplaced intellect, sufferers create a new subjective reality from which they derive their self-worth and understanding of their situation. When we decentralise ourselves and become aware of what is really going on around us, looking at the world and our lives objectively, we can, according to Morita, set ourselves free. Acknowledging our pain, accepting it, but then committing to personal action to make fundamental changes, is the Morita way through psychological pain.
The therapy advocates a state of mindlessness where the anxiety-sufferer voluntarily and willingly focuses on losing awareness of the attention they once placed on negative thoughts. Morita likens this to traveling by train where we are not aware that our body is moving because it moves at the same speed as the train. When the anxiety sufferer is fixated on his or her symptoms, they cannot experience anything else. This is unhealthy attention. Morita suggests that the sufferer should focus on mushoju-shin, or healthy attention to arrive at a point of greater inner strength. In this sense, Morita therapy (which has influenced Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT)) aims to re-mould the anxiety sufferer’s thought processes by noticing the world around them, being present in the current moment, accepting a true reality, developing personal values and taking committed action. I believe that this philosophy of wellbeing is hugely relevant and valuable to a person experiencing anxiety, stress or depression.
The thing about acceptance is that it is an active choice: you either choose to accept your reality/emotions/past trauma etc. or you don’t. One brings release and peace whereas the other builds suffering and pains. If you choose to accept how you feel – perhaps you feel stressed – it doesn’t mean that you like it, it simply means that in that moment, you will allow it to exist but you understand that you can take action to allow such negative feelings to pass.
Journal writing can be a very effective strategy when trying to accept our emotions. Noting down how we feel in one moment can be a powerful exercise to bring about an awareness of our situation. Being able to see how we feel can allow us to accept and then take action to try to alleviate our current mental state. Writing down your negative feelings and then throwing them away can be visually quite powerful and emotionally cathartic. Try following the journalling prompts in bold that follow to help organise your thoughts and mental and physical committed actions. I have provided an example of how this could work:
How do I feel right now?
Anxious and fearful about a social situation I have been invited to.
How would I like to feel?
Relaxed and excited to go out.
What thoughtful action can I take to make this my reality?
1.Place my feet on the floor and take five deep breaths.
2. Notice and identify my fears. Imagine I am standing on a train platform. A train is passing me by, each carriage is labelled with my fears. I watch it pass through the station. I can see it and I acknowledge and accept that it exists in that fleeting moment but I am not getting on this train.
3. Write down the things I could I gain if I faced my anxious fears, such as making new connections with others, laughter, etc.
4. Think about what means the most to me in the world. How could attending this event bring me closer to what I value?
5. I will lay out the clothes that make me feel good and confident. I will put them on.
6. I will repeat the positive affirmations, ‘I know that I am not my anxiety’ and ‘I am courageous and can make it through’, three times in a mirror. I will accept this as my reality and smile in the mirror.