“Accept The Unacceptable”
I was watching an animated movie about Doctor Strange, the Marvel Comics creation. It was my first introduction to the character and I was fascinated by the world of sorcery portrayed in the story. The movie depicts how Dr Stephen Strange, a successful surgeon, who after injuring his hands in an accident finds his way to a monastery in Tibet where he is trained by The Ancient One to be a powerful sorcerer. Lots of spiritual lessons reflected in the movie, especially in the doctor’s early training when he has to move past the pain of his loss, guilt and shame to recover a sense of purpose in his life.
Embittered by the loss of the use of his hands as he knew it, Doctor Strange destroys his life by wallowing in self-pity and anger. By the time he reaches Tibet, he has lost his career, reputation, wealth and home. The Ancient One shows him all kinds of supernatural tricks, and eventually he learns that he can still heal people and do other marvelous things even without his hands. To reach this stage, however, he has to learn to “accept the unacceptable”.
In the midst of having lost everything he valued, as well as his identity which was formed around all that is lost, The Ancient One’s constant call for him to “accept the unacceptable” only triggers anger and confusion. How does one accept something that is so painful? Even if he wanted to, how does one actually do it?
The energy that gets in the way of accepting the unacceptable is resistance. It comes from there being conflict between what you desire (an attachment to a certain outcome) and what is. When you resist what is happening, you refuse to see any other way. You are unable to see that there are possibilities out of your pain. Your perception is closed off to something else that is more positive – a gift that is revealed only when you have let go of your desire.
Accepting the reality of something can be very painful. Yet the pain is prolonged and kept in place by your reluctance to ease your grip on wanting to right the wrong. The outrage of injustice is what keeps us stuck. Accepting doesn’t necessarily mean that we must accept the injustice, but to allow that feeling of injustice to flow freely through you. In other words, do not resist the pain of it. Once you allow the feeling to flow freely, you begin to see doors out of that pain, whereas by resisting it you can only see one path – the path of loss and hopelessness.
Accepting means allowing what is happening to happen. Whilst it may feel as though you are stuck in that outcome, no outcome is ever the end. Life is ever flowing, evolving and changing all the time. This outcome you find yourself faced with is only the outcome for now. It has the potential to change into something else, even if our minds cannot see what that change can be or how it may look in the future. That is to say, do not give up – not in the sense of wanting it to change to a specific outcome we want but in maintaining hope for something different out of the present outcome. But you need to accept that this is what it is for now, with the potential for your life to evolve into new experiences. What these new experiences are, you have to accept that right now you do not know.
One of the greatest paradoxes in spiritual learning is the art of remaining hopeful while accepting a present situation that does not fit into what you desire. The very act of allowing a situation to be can kill off any sense of hope for a bright future, as the loss of something we hold dear means losing what has made our life worth living. This is especially true for those who tend to invest all their resources into one single thing, whether it is a business, a relationship, an idea, a belief, etc. to the exclusion of everything else. Since there is no such thing as guaranteed security, everything we have is at risk of being taken away from us. To invest all our resources into one thing puts us at risk of some day finding ourselves with nothing when that thing is gone.
Of course, it is an illusion that we have nothing apart from this thing on which we’d placed so much importance. We have simply turned a blind eye to what else there is in our process of putting everything into one basket. Putting energy into a cause, project or relationship can yield great results but when we do so with obsession and fixatedly, it becomes unhealthy as our lives become unbalanced. Before Dr Strange’s hands were crushed, he had placed his entire emphasis on his career and neglected having people close to him. What happens when he finds himself no longer able to perform as a surgeon is, he has no one to turn to for support. Eventually, he turns to his ex-girlfriend to ask for money to travel to Tibet to find a cure for his hands – a rather humiliating thing since he had treated her badly in the past.
So as a preemptive measure, examine your life right now to see if you are putting all your energy into one single thing and neglecting other things that are important to you (but perhaps you take for granted). Vary your interests, your social life, your investment of time and attention.
Returning to the lesson of accepting the unacceptable, is there anything in your past which you find difficult to accept? Look for bodily signals of refusal to let things be – e.g. a feeling of contraction somewhere in your body or a sick feeling as you think about an event. Is there something which you think is unacceptable?
Forgiveness has the power to liberate you from your pain once and for all. Decide to forgive everyone who has ever wronged you, no matter what they have done. We never really know what another person is going through, just as no one can really know what you are going through. Opening your mind to consider a different perspective will break up the energy of hatred stored in your heart. It elevates you from the place of being stuck in your angry judgements, churning out its poison against you as long as you are in that place, to a higher place where you can gain a greater understanding of what has happened. That greater understanding will heal you and free you from the illusion of being trapped in your pain.
Sometimes, forgiving yourself is even more difficult than forgiving others. Accept that what’s happened has happened. Focus on how it has made you a better person now because you have recognised the ill-effects of certain actions you used to take and you are aware of having new choices, not on beating yourself up. Learn to grow from it. Forgiveness is a step towards being able to accept what you saw as unacceptable.
The idea of accepting the unacceptable may fill us with dread and horror, as if by allowing that energy to come closer we may go mad. Yet that energy is made more intense by our efforts to push it away. Once we’ve let go of resisting and allow ourselves to receive the flush of energy, the intensity will lessen as an even, free flow of energy is restored. Without our resistance, that intense energy which passes through us can awaken us to a new level of truth about who we are. Allowing and accepting that which had been too painful to allow and accept will expand you to a new level of being – one where you are more in touch with your true personal power. In the world of sorcery, you would open doors to the realm of magical powers, when your mind has relieved itself of its scepticism about what is possible.
Hi Amyra – good post – it reminds me very strongly of the work of Victor Frankl and his therapeutic concept of Logotherapy. Accepting the unacceptable, finding (new) meaning… I have read a fair bit about logotherapy and find it a extremely valuable way of looking at life. For your work at Channah, I think it may be of a big benefit to the clients if logotherapy would be integrated into the therapy in a way. After all, many clients (like me) are trying to fill voids where meaning should be…… Apart from that I send you warmest greetings from a lovely autumn Sydney – in great spirits these days – Daniel XXX
Wonderful to hear that you are well.
Thanks for your comment. Finding meaning in life is one of my fave topics. I’ve written about this topic in previous posts
(Making Meaning Out Of Life ) (A Symbol Of Healing )
Excellent article – I am currently coming to terms with having to grieve for the loss of the relationships with my 4 adult children – they’re still alive and thriving but from a young age their mother programmed them to see me as someone to be kept at a distance from their lives and I’ve been stuck in emotional limbo, with my children occasionally turning up years apart when they want something but quickly becoming abusive and rejecting once they’d received support from me.
They learned how to treat me as ‘useful’ by watching their mother’s behaviour towards me. I had a very powerful dream of us being a happy, settled family (even though their mother and I split 18 years ago after a 13 year marriage) and a few months ago my oldest son reappeared and finally I thought I’d got some portion of the ‘dream’ but it just died again through his indifference – and now I’ve started to enter the full grieving process.
Although it hurts like hell I feel a sense of relief because I just haven’t been able to move on with my life – I have now accepted my original dream was a fine dream to have but it’s gone and I need to move on to develop another fine dream. I’ve observed my journey through accepting the unacceptable and your article describes it well.
Carl – Thank you for sharing. I couldn’t help but appreciate what an empowered position you’re in right now. Moving forward from an old dream can be painful but you’ll soon find that a greater dream is available once you drop the old agenda. The old agenda is one that says you can only be happy if things occur in a certain way. Yet when you free yourself of this trap, you’ll open your eyes to beauty and joys that you weren’t able to see while you were so invested in this one particular outcome. I have seen miracles happen when the heart takes a courageous step to trust: a deeper and greater love is revealed from the healing of your heart and soul.
Blessings, with respect,
Hello, my name is Chris and im 17 years old these ideas interest me such as Doctor Strange i need help i can not do it alone as well Doctor Strange needed a little help as do i need to accept the unacceptable if it is ok talk to me on firstname.lastname@example.org email me
This is a well-written article, and I read it with interest. I, however, cannot make myself accept the unacceptable. Every single day, I am either ignored or dismissed by the people I interact with–either people who know me, or total strangers. I was raised to be considerate of others, and despite everything, I can’t stop being aware every minute of every day of how my actions affect others, and I can’t stop making an effort to be as little of a disturbance to others as I can possibly be. Yet every day, I’m treated as if I don’t exist–as if my cares and concerns don’t matter.
I have dealt with this every day of my life–I try to see things from the other people’s perspectives, and I try to understand. But in the end, there IS no excuse. Rudeness is rudeness, and it doesn’t matter that you’ve had a bad day–you have no right to take it out on someone else! I can’t sleep at night because I have an entire neighborhood of people who own dogs and don’t care enough about them to keep them entertained so that they don’t bark, and they don’t care that the constant barking is a disturbance to others. I work in an office where my career goals are completely dismissed, and I only exist to further my bosses’ careers. I have friends who vent to me every single night, but the moment I complain about something, they dismiss me and tell me I need to let it go.
I CAN’T let it go–it’s WRONG, and by me just saying “oh well” and ignoring it all, I’m teaching others that it’s OK to treat me like crap, because they’re more important than I am. This is why we live in the crappy world we live in–because so many people teach themselves that they have to just accept being treated like crap, so the jerks learn to become tyrants. By accepting the unacceptable, I’m allowing people to treat me like crap, and I can’t do it.
Thank you for writing and the opportunity for me to respond.
Firstly, I do not believe that we should tolerate being treated badly. If people are showing a lack of respect and consideration to you, then it is healthy for you to let them know how their behaviours are affecting you. Sometimes, people are just unaware of the effects of their behaviours, and by you not letting them know they will simply continue with what they’re used to doing. Is it possible that you might be feeling a certain way but showing a different response outwardly?
I know a lot of times I’m feeling pissed off about someone’s behaviour but outwardly I’m smiling or unperturbed (and then I may act out in ‘passive aggressive’ ways!). If I don’t start showing how I’m really feeling, I will end up being very resentful about people and the world in general – yet I have created the whole “the world sucks” reality. The other choice I have is to work on the way I react.
The concept of “accepting the unacceptable” is really more about accepting something in us which we have resisted because it causes us much pain. The strangers, neighbours, bosses etc – or rather, your reaction towards their behaviours – are merely pointing you towards somewhere deeper in you where a resolution is needed. This resolution is between you and yourself.
When this conflict is unreconciled, you will somehow create it in your external world. What happens then is that the intensity of your reactions become exaggerated – for instance, your neighbour’s dog barking can send you into a rage, or an off-handed remark by a colleague can fill you with bitterness for days – because you are projecting a deeper disturbance from inside you to what’s going on outside you.
Use your reactions in your everyday life to find out where your real pain lies. What is it that you’re really pissed off about? Take some slow breaths and reflect on it. What does the feeling remind you of? Don’t worry if you can’t find an answer immediately. By acknowledging that your annoyance may have little to do with your neighbour or colleague, you’re taking the first step in reclaiming your Power. You’re letting your self-inquiry to take you to the place where your true power lies.
Where there is unresolved pain in us, therein lies our Power. Your power does not come from other people giving you respect or consideration – that is what I call ‘false power’ because it is an illusion created by our mind-ego. True power is when we reconcile within ourselves, such that other people have no power over us.
You will likely find that when you accept the unacceptable within yourself, eventually other people will stop behaving in ways that make you feel the way you felt before. Or you don’t notice it or react in the same way you did. And if they do, you can merely assert yourself, without emotion. It becomes a simple act of necessity rather than a mission to win your personal war against Injustice.
I hope this gives you some pointers to move in the direction of finding more peace.
Hi Amyra, your writings in particular are the trees I clutch to in order to survive as I go through the tsunami of my pain due to finally fully facing the reality and repercussions of my bad decisions. My daughter and your writings are the reasons I am not losing my mind and enduring life right now. Thank you for this and know that you are saving my life right now.
Layla, I am glad that my writings are helping you in such a big way. Thank you for letting me know; this is the reason why I write and your words inspire me to keep writing. I will be posting an article on self-forgiveness in a couple of weeks. Stay strong in your journey, and know that you are guided and supported, now and always. Love and Blessings, Amyra