|Tool #2: Unconditional Self-Acceptance (USA)
Unconditional Other Acceptance (UOA)
Home page Tool #3
Here's another way to approach USA and UOA. My
daughter recently read a college text on develop- mental
psychology. Based on what her text said, you could create
NATURE + NURTURE = YOU (PERSONALITY)
With YOU meaning who you are, and what you think, feel,
say and do. In other words your PERSONALITY.
Remember the algebraic formula: a + b = c Where a is
a constant, and b is a variable. If a stays the same and you
change b, c changes.
NATURE involves genetic inheritance. It also involves all
those things that happen as a result of a developing brain
|Nurture makes a big difference
|Unconditional Other Acceptance (UOA)
Unconditional Other Acceptance (UOA) comes from looking
at what other people think, feel, say or do the same way.
Seeing what others think, feel, say and do as
understandable has many pluses for both us and them.
1) You are less likely to take what others say
and do personally
Everything we think, feel, say or do is really the product of
connections made, or pathways created between nerve
cells or neurons in our brains. As these connections get
made, and pathways get created, we become able to think,
feel, say and do more things. If these connections get
destroyed through trauma of some type, we loose the
ability to think, feel, say or do whatever those connections
or pathways allowed us to.
What happens with these connections and pathways is
much like what happens when we walk across a lawn or
field the same way over and over again. A well-worn path,
and maybe even a "rut" forms. We are more likely to take
that path again in the future, rather than create a new one.
That's especially true if we are in a hurry to get across the
lawn or field. We start taking that pathway automatically,
without much contemplation.
Many people also know what it's like to drive a dirt road
with deep tire ruts in it. It's easy to slip into those ruts, hard
to stay out of them, and hard to get out of them once you're
When we practice a thought, feeling, or action, we create
cognitive, emotional and behavioral "ruts" in our brains. It
becomes automatic to think, feel, say or do certain things.
As noted earlier, that's why some simple opinions can start
to feel like facts. That can be a good or bad thing. If a
thought, feeling or behavior makes our lives easier or better
When people believe they haven't lived up to their own or
others expectations, they feel SHAME. There are always
plenty of expectations. That means plenty of opportunities to
feel shame. Our most troubled and troublesome children
and teenagers have usually had a lifetime of believing, and
being told in many ways that they don't live up to peoples'
Shame is an important feeling to discuss for a number of
reasons. It's often the primary emotional disturbance that
people seek relief from by drinking or using and
abusing drugs, or even attempting suicide. It can also be a
secondary disturbance in that:
1) It makes people want to keep what they think and
feel, or even do a secret
2) It makes deny there's anything wrong, and pretend
there isn't a problem
3) It makes people less likely to accept or ask for help
that is available
Dr. Albert Ellis said, "Shame blocks change".
Keeping secrets can lead to a lot of problems. Keeping what
they think and feel a secret allows people to rehearse and
practice irrational beliefs and simple opinions about
themselves, others and life. These beliefs and opinions can
be ones others gave them. Or, they can be ones they came
up with on their own because of what others say and do,
and what happened. This rehearsal and practice causes
such thought to become rutted in their brains. That makes
them automatic. When they become automatic, simple
opinions start to feel like facts. These "facts" can become the
irrational logic behind unhealthy, self-defeating behavior of all
kinds. That means what people do is often irrational - it
makes their lives worse - but makes sense to them because
of what they think and feel.
Low self-esteem is often cited as the cause of much
unhealthy, self-defeating behavior. It also causes people to
avoid doing things that might make their lives better. Low
self-esteem is really just:
1) Shame about past and current performances or
2) Anxiety about future ones because of the past
If we have shame about past performances and behavior, it's
easy to generate anxiety about future ones.
Shame also often plays out as anger. It's a way people try to
protect themselves from feeling ashamed when reminded by
others that they don't live up to expectations. When people
generate a lot of shame, you get either "turtles" or
"rattlesnakes". "Turtles" because the shame plays out as
anxiety. "Rattlesnakes" when the shave plays out as anger.
Both reactions are purely defensive, just like they are in the
real animals. Anger gives people a false sense of power,
righteousness, permission and protection. As long as they
stay angry, they don't have to feel ashamed.
Unfortunately, teachers and parents often react to, and take
offense at anger in young people. They don't recognize it
as a way the young person is trying to protect him/herself
against shame. Teachers sometimes even wrongly conclude
that, "The problem with some of these kids is they have no
shame". Actually, it's usually the exact opposite. They have
Some adults will even tell young people, "You should be
ashamed of yourself". Young people often generate a
dysfunctional amount of shame on their own. They don't need
any encouragement from adults. We never know when
shame might reach a morbid level.
The best way to combat shame, and low self-esteem, is to
teach and encourage people to have USA or Unconditional
Self-Acceptance. We can do that by encouraging them to
Anything they think, feel, say or do, have in the
past, or might in the future, is perfectly
understandable given what their life experiences
That doesn't mean it's helpful, healthy or acceptable to
others. What people think, feel, say and do often is not.
Understandable simply means:
If we put anyone else through exactly what we
have each been through, others would probably
end up thinking, feeling, saying and doing much
the same things, and maybe even worse
If we measure any attribute or ability in human beings, we
often find a bell curve. For example, strength. There will be
some really strong people, some really weak people, and a
whole bunch in between those two extremes. The same
would probably happen if we measured peoples' ability to
cope or deal with life events. Now imagine that on the day
we were each born, we took 100 other newborns and put
them through every single life event we each have been
through. What would they think, feel, say and do today?
Probably much the same as we do. Some might have fared
better, others worse, but most would probably think, feel,
say and do much the same as we do. Is it possible that we
might even have ended up at the top of such a class, but
just don't recognize how well we've actually done? Any real
comparisons we make are going to be like comparing apples
Understandable also means:
1) We'll never be the first person in human
history to think, feel, say or do something
2) And we'll never be the last either
3) We'll always have a lot of company
This would hopefully help people logically realize that
whatever they think, feel, say or do is simply part of being
human. Understandable also means:
No one's perfect, everyone makes mistakes
It's why we have so many emergency rooms, paramedics,
police, and therapists. It's why we need laws and
consequences. Understandable also means:
We all do the best we can at the time, given
what our lives have been like before we
find ourselves in situations
We could have done better, but...
We're all what Dr. Ellis used to call Fallible Human
Beings (FHBs) who at times think, feel, say and do
things that make our lives worse instead of better
Hopefully, people would come to the logical conclusion that
whatever they think, feel, say or do is nothing to be ashamed
of. Even if it is unhealthy, self-defeating and unacceptable to
others. However, how people look at themselves and what
they think, feel, say or do is a product of cognitive choices
they make. These are choices that they alone can make. No
one can make people look at themselves these ways. It's their
brand nervous system. Those are all constants in many ways.
People don't have any control over such things. NURTURE
involves all the life experiences people have. These
experiences can vary from one person to another a great
deal. They are a major variable.
Therefore, whatever YOU end up thinking, feeling, saying or
doing is a product of NATURE plus NURTURE. It's
understandable given the constants of human development,
and the life experiences YOU have had, both helpful and
unhelpful. So is whatever others might think, feel, say or do.
That's true regardless of how much you might dislike what
they think, feel, say or do. It's your right as a human being to
not like such things.
2) You are less likely to generate emotion
3) You'll be freer to respond to what others say
and do that you don't like
4) It will feel safer for them to reach out to you,
tell you things
5) They are more likely to come to you
6) You'll be able to hang in there longer for them
way, that's good. However, if a thought, feeling or behavior
makes our lives worse, it can be a curse. "Ruts" are why
people recreate their pasts, and why their histories often
become their destinies. That can be a good or bad thing as
well. The important point is that once these connections,
pathways and "ruts" get created, we can't get rid of them.
We can only make new ones.
To change the way we think, feel, say and do things, we
1) Make a new connection or pathway for
thinking, feeling, saying and doing things
2) Then we need to practice that new way of
thinking, feeling, saying and doing something
until it becomes a "rut" and can compete with
our old ones for use.
However, we can always slip back into our old "ruts" at any
time, even years later. Most people will do that sooner or
later. It's understandable given that we can't ever get rid of
old cognitive, emotional or behavioral "ruts". Knowing,
accepting and reminding ourselves of this helps us have
Unconditional Self-Acceptance for ourselves when we
struggle to change for the better, or revert to old unhealthy,
self-defeating ways. It's helps us have Unconditional Other
Acceptance when others think, feel, say or do things we
don't like, and struggle to change, or revert to their old ways.