Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician with experience working with adults, couples, families, adolescents and older children since 1976. His aim
Before actions, before feelings, before thoughts, before urges and before intentions are sensory perceptions. Acceptance percolates across all these aspects of living, yet ultimately begins with perceptions. Heal your perceptions and you heal your life. These following two levels of pre-acceptance and four levels of acceptance are like stages of development, each requiring the ones below it to functionally come “on-line”. Since the ego is non-acceptance and resistance, consciously moving up these levels is precisely taking the essential steps to help get the ego out of the way and reveal the ever-present True Self, our soul’s way. As each level is built in deepening maturity, there is “less than meets the I” or ego-mind. Anything you can honestly and authentically accept transcends all ego considerations and ego animation, a non-issue and non-problem. Anything you can cognitively and emotionally accept is gone beyond or transcended. It no longer blocks you being who you truly are expressing the One.
-1. Destructive, dishonest, disloyal, untrustworthy, mean-spirited and immoral or amoral behaviors, words and attitudes: This least developed, most immature pre-acceptance level is one of acting out ruin upon oneself and others that does not allow true friendships or relationships to take root and grow. At this deeply asleep, oblivious and unaware level the person is simply not cognizant of how their actions, words and attitudes impact others, nor do they typically care. Ego-driven inner shame, fear and self-hatred often take the form of projected criticisms and condemnations along with “deserved” punishments. This unconscious pattern is usually wrapped in outward self-righteousness, self-centeredness, “wanting” greed, narcissism and grandiosity.
Most importantly, people operating inside this pre-acceptance level know not what they do, are essentially walled off and impervious to listening to anyone that has a different point-of-view and are unavailable for critical questioning, challenges assumptions or mentioning facts that are contrary to their “certain” beliefs. With an open, compassionate heart, their behavior can be seen most accurately as a deafening cry for help, acceptance, understanding, assistance, connection, affiliation, compassion and love.
0. Harmful, resistant, conflict-oriented and fighting the realities of what is pre-acceptance: This is the pre-acceptance level in which you actively oppose, resist and fight what reality brings you which is driven by fear and results in harm. At this “asleep” level you exist on the level of regular emotional reactivity, behavioral acting out and having no-choice, along with being positional, impulsive, out of control. This level is one of being defeating and destructive to oneself, others and your environment. This thumbnail description may help illuminate an understanding and compassion for the great majority of humans.
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1. Harmless, non-resistant, non-conflict and non-fighting acceptance: At this level you barely get on the acceptance map by simply not actively opposing, resisting and fighting what reality brings you. In other words, you stand in relative non-reactivity, neutrality and harmlessness. It’s an admission of not knowing, not blaming and not condemning, although you really do not appreciate, like or understand what you found.
2. Helpful sheer acceptance: At this second level you go beyond simply not reacting and you say, “okay, it is what it is, isn’t it,” as a way of acknowledging what is, without really feeling with someone else or having much awareness, understanding or compassion.
3. Empowering empathetic acceptance: For most people the high watermark of acceptance, at this level you do feel with or empathize with another and acknowledge their situation, hardships and challenges. Even here though, human compassion or feeling with another’s suffering may be in fairly limited supply. Shallow streams are notable for making great noise, while deep rivers are remarkable for their almost infinite silence.
4. Healing compassionate acceptance: At this relatively rare level for anyone, you have fully engaged your heart to deeply be aware, awake and present to fully empathize in a knowledgeable, kind and compassionate fashion with another’s plight, situation, past history and humanity, even amidst the shared pain, misery and suffering so evidently at hand (and at other times joy, bliss and fulfillment). Offering this deep compassionate acceptance with Spirit is experienced as a healing gift. Mythologist Joseph Campbell sees this level of acceptance as “to participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.”
In his second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln invoked deep compassion fitting to this level in saying, “With malice toward none, with charity for all. . . ” The mythologist Joseph Campbell draws upon Buddhism in understanding this level as meaning “joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.” Campbell refers to finding the Christ inside of you as Christ consciousness and all beings being “Buddha beings” as Buddha consciousness. This is precisely what Mother Theresa did in lovingly tending to “Christ in his distressing disguise.” Her work was service to the suffering-the starving, poor, sick and homeless. Mother Theresa reportedly told her nuns, “Let them eat you up.”
Compassionate acceptance is available in everyday life. When you take the time and concern to reach out for another facing hardships, you can stretch onto this level. William Shakespeare knew acceptance on the highest of levels to be cleaving unto what cannot be avoided. He wrote: “What cannot be eschewed must be embraced.” [Merry Wives of Windsor, Act V, Scene V]
Not so remarkably and quite predictably, whenever one person is around another person the set-up is for each to influence the other to join him or her at their level of pre-acceptance or acceptance. Further, it is easier to join someone at lower levels of pre-acceptance / acceptance than to rise to higher levels. Thus if you present at the pre-acceptance level of actively resisting and fighting what reality brings you and your mate is at sheer acceptance, your mate will be drawn to join you at level zero instead of you rising to their level two. Of course, if your mate absolutely refuses to lower to level zero, you will be pulled to rise to their level.
You cannot directly pull another out of the quicksand or rescue a person overboard because the person fighting for their survival will unintentionally and non-consciously pull you in the quicksand or water to your demise. At very best you can extend a rope, stick or board and help pull the struggling person to safety. They’re just aiming to save their life, even at the cost of yours. The lower can rise through clear-eyed influence and the higher can lower by manipulation to the set-up when the person allows or permits this. The real opportunity is to operate on a less reactive and more proactive, empathetic level by consciously bringing a rock-solid commitment to refuse to “take a hand down,” while kindly, firmly and solidly “extending a hand up.” What a wonderful world that is in this present moment as each one of us lives and embodies this.
The real value of this hierarchy of levels or stages of acceptance is to be able to honestly observe and recognize in any human transaction just what level or stage you are operating on as well as obtain a “read out” on just how awake you are at this moment. Thereupon you are now informed and free to take that current level as your springboard to reach one further rung up on the ladder of your emotional evolution and be even more fully human. Until you can honestly acknowledge the level you are operating on, just how will you progress onto the next level? The Medieval philosopher St. Augustine honored the admission of the truth when he advised, “Confession is good for the soul.” As the optical illusion or hocus pocus false self is seen through, shed and outgrown, there is even less than meets the I (or ego-mind) and more of our True Nature, who you truly are.
As much as we would like to believe that it is the great, sublime, ecstatic and most exquisite times that are what’s life about, it’s actually the rotten, sucky, difficult and most horrible times that bond us together as human beings in one family. If you stand by me—”have my back”—during my most challenging times, then I can count on you—”have your back”—as my friend and comrade throughout life.
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