Can we accept that some people won’t get better? Can we accept that issues like addiction and homelessness aren’t going away? Can we accept that our government won’t change? Can we accept the bottomless pit of consumerism? Can I accept that my client isn’t getting better? Can we truly accept the suffering of another or our own?
The name of my column is Falling Forward. My focus has been leaning into our lives, moving through fear, and engaging a sense of calling that pulls us forward to the edge of our existence in this world. While I believe that in order to get the most out of life we must live at the edge of who we are, we also move through other ways-of-being at times. Sometimes we are stuck and sometimes we are in a dark night of the soul. We also live in a society that has issues. Cultures move through ways-of-being too but that movement is much slower. How do we respond?
While it is important to not sit on our hands and watch the world go by and struggle through issues with no help from us, I wonder if there are moments, long or short, for us to step back and accept the world the way it is. Can you accept the world as it is today with the idea that it just might not get better in your lifetime? I’m not talking about settling or giving up or stopping your work to change things. But sometimes our rush to change, fix, and make things better, misses the soul-expression of the world. What might the world, our culture, our community, our locale, be saying in its struggle?
We point to things like corruption, oppressive governments, power, consumerism, racism, gender and sexual inequality as problems in and of themselves. We fixate on the problematic nature of that single problem and get tunnel vision. I know this is necessary for things to be done about these problems, but to bring another perspective and way of addressing our lives, our communities, and our world, I wonder what it looks like to be less reactive and have compassionate curiosity towards the problems in the world that we hate. Maybe our solutions aren’t working. Maybe we are fixated on something that doesn’t exist in the way we think it does.
It is my sense that in order to birth humanity through the canal of pain and suffering and dysfunction, we must step back and allow the pain and suffering to be there. Can we accept it? Carl Rogers, a prominent psychologist who valued unconditional positive regard believed that a person can only change once they have accepted the way they are right now. It is the irony of change. For me, as a therapist, I have to create space for both myself and the person in front of me to sit with uncertainty, pain, and suffering. It’s not that we do nothing, but we must accept what is first.
I want to know what it would look like to accept our world first. Do any of us do that? Do we always react to what seems bad? Do we try and understand the deeper implications? Do we try and understand the context and greater systems at play? Are those we point fingers toward in government and in corporate all bad people? Are they caught up in a system and culture influencing them in ways they don’t even notice? Might something like racism be less about individual ignorant people that need to change and more of a larger ideology that is hard to shake and should be called a “racystem.” I’m not removing responsibility from the actions of those that might be acting unconsiously, but we sometimes need to look deeper to understand the nature of things.
I’d like to encourage you to try and accept fully the problem with which you have a lot of anger or energy or frustration when it comes to society. Fully accept and embrace. What might it look like to step back and be willing for it to never change? What is that like? Does it shift anything? What do you need in order to live in that world? Does it help you to possibly approach it differently? Maybe it does nothing for you, but it is my sense that not until we fully accept things can we free up the emotionally reactive space we have been inhabiting so that creativity and love can arise.