As we've discussed in the earlier parts of this series, to practice full acceptance means that we sometimes have to accept our failure to accept - and the 'negative' emotions which go along with that (see part 1). But what is really good is that if we can truly accept the way we're feeling, those emotions can be fully expressed and so released. Through acceptance, we can be free of those unwanted emotions for ever (see part 2).
Which sounds like it's worth a try, you might say, but how do we do it? How can we come to fully accept whatever unwanted emotions we might be feeling?
First of all, we may want to check if we really need to experience whatever we're feeling. Often, we experience negative emotions out of sheer habit. Take reactive depression, for instance. Something can happen which sets this off, but a year later, we're still stuck in the dumps, perhaps having even forgotten how we got down there in the first place. The anchoring technique (from NLP - neurolinguistic programming) can be useful for dealing with this kind of stuck emotion. I'll do a post about it one day but it should be easy enough to research on the net. I just found a good article about it here.
Habit can also cause us to have knee-jerk reactions to certain events, for instance always getting annoyed by the same people or similar situations. We get annoyed at such times because we always get annoyed. It's what we do. Here again, anchoring can be useful, or perhaps we need to simply become aware of what's happening and ask ourselves if we really need to be angry. If someone has pushed in front of us in a queue, for instance, does it matter? Are we really in a hurry or are we just getting annoyed because that has become our habit?
There's lots more information around about how to get out of a crabby mood - some of the excellent blogs in my mini-directory are good places to look for info on how to be happy if you're not. Creative activity has been a popular choice when we've discussed this subject before, then there's good old-fashioned endorphin-promoting exercise of course, and don't forget emotional freedom technique, which I described in a recent post.
The reason I'm going into all this is to make it plain that in encouraging you to fully accept negative emotions, I'm not promoting feeling miserable for the sake of it. But what I find is that there comes a time when you've tried everything you know and you're still left with strong unwelcome emotions. Either that or you've used the techniques and they've worked, but the emotions keep on returning nevertheless. This is when it can help to practice acceptance.
We may be feeling negative emotions because something really substantially unpleasant has happened in our lives, in which case it is only natural to feel the way we do. In this instance, we can't necessarily expect that acceptance will 'magic away' our emotions. There are times when it is simply natural to feel 'bad'. Even so, if we are willing to fully accept what we are feeling and allow ourselves to fully experience it, the process of working through these emotions will be accelerated.
Alternatively, we may be feeling an unwelcome emotion for no very good reason. We may have become habituated to feeling this way, or perhaps something has come along which has triggered some emotions we have previously suppressed. In this case, the emotions we are feeling will usually be out of proportion to whatever has happened.
This is where acceptance can really work its magic, and emotions can actually disappear instantaneously (as I described in the previous post).
But how exactly do we put the technique into practice? How do you practice total acceptance? How can you get into the kind of mindset where you can fully accept your unwanted emotions?
You might think that one good way would be to bear in mind what I've just said: that accepting your unwelcome emotions is a good way to get rid of them. But unfortunately this doesn't work. In order to truly accept your emotions, you have to be willing to accept them staying around. If you're only 'accepting' the emotions in the expectation of getting rid of them, it isn't really accepting at all - it's just pretending.
So we need to have another think: what reasons are there to really accept having those negative emotions?
These are the reasons I use myself:
1) Bear in mind that as long as you feel these emotions, you're alive. Try to really get into this idea. Uncomfortable sensations are a part of life on Earth. We're here to experience.
2) Remember that you need to feel these negative emotions in order to feel positive ones. Darkness is needed here in this world in order for there to be light - otherwise you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. In order for us to feel happy, we sometimes have to feel sad.
3) These emotions have surfaced in order to be released. They are on their way out... Notice that this is subtly different from expecting them to immediately disappear. You have to willing to accept that the process of release may take a long time...
Like I say, I use all of these (though number 3 is my favorite). Then, when I have convinced myself that I am prepared to accept, I go a bit over the top. I welcome the emotion. I feel it with all my being. I take a deep breath and hold it for as long as is comfortable. (Please note that turning blue isn't part of the process.) I imagine that I am breathing in the emotion so that it surrounds me like a fog. It may help to imagine going for a walk by the sea on a cold blustery day. We think of the cold and damp as being unpleasant but there is also something very stimulating about this. It makes you feel alive. Think of that emotion like a cold mist all around you. Allow it to be there. When you feel the need, take another deep breath. Keep on doing this for as long as you wish. I find that it doesn't take very long until the emotion fades, to be replaced by a kind of heady, peaceful feeling. But don't anticipate this happening. Simply allow the emotion to surround you...
I used to call this technique EBT, emotional breathing technique, which was kind of a pun on EFT - but I decided it would be less confusing to call it 'the welcome breath' instead. I find it works best when the emotion you're focusing on is strong, simply because that makes it easier to totally surrender and imagine it all around you.
Right then, now it's over to you. I'd be interested to know if this works for you. The specific breathing process, the welcome breath, is something I've developed myself, so I'll be very interested to know if it works for anyone other than me! Please leave a comment if you try it - even if it's a long time after I've posted this. After all, you may not have an unwelcome emotion to try it out on right now...
Next time, in the fourth and final part of this series, I'll talk a bit more about some alternative ways to get rid of emotions - and I'll also get further into the reason I've called these posts 'The Ultimate Truth'.