Recently, I’ve been seeing a psychotherapist to deal with some phobias (I have a fear of flying, and speaking on stages) and more general anxiety problems I have. They’ve been an ongoing problem for me, since my early teens. They’re not what I’m writing about today, but something the therapist said.
On first meeting with him, we discussed usual housekeeping rules of the building, before explaining my treatment: we’re about to start a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) both with his leading and my home practice. After we were agreed and understood each other, he said something to me that at first made me feel quite awkward, and a bit, well, hippy. It felt out of place in this scientific style form of treatment. He said, "Thayer, I need you to know that I accept you unconditionally, and no matter what the outcome of the treatment, or whether you do your homework, that will always remain the case".
I want to leave that hanging there, as it did in the room.
"I accept you unconditionally".
I left the session slightly weirded out by this statement from a stranger, and thought about the practicalities of what I needed to do next (there’s reading, and some thought control exercises), and after a week passed, I went back.
I was having an anxiety attack at the time of the session, and after he brought me back to a normal state of (rather embarrassed) being, those words came out again, "I accept you, unconditionally". We discussed relationships in general at length that session, and this time, something different happened. I believed him. I understood that he was offering me complete acceptance, from the get go. I didn’t need to earn it, prove myself, or let time build our relationship. It was a very powerful feeling.
It’s been making me think about who I accept unconditionally, and what that means. How hard (and easy) it can be to give and to gain, and to consider how understanding it may make some of my relationships easier to understand. It’s something very powerful, and I can’t quite articulate what understanding this phrase means to me, but I wanted to share it.
I have never thought much about unconditional acceptance. I’ve thought about unconditional love, and unconditional friendship, but I think unconditional acceptance is a step beyond that. It feels more grounded, more stable, more honest. It’s more realistic. It’s accepting, nothing else. It allows all emotion, positive, negative, neutral; something unconditional love could never. It’s been fascinating me to wonder about it.
So, my challenge to you is this: who (or maybe even, what) do you accept unconditionally, and who accepts you unconditionally? It’s worth five minutes of your time, you may be surprised to acknowledge how powerful that statement is to you too.
Or you might just think I’m a great big hippy.