We’re not really on an alphabetical kick here (starting with all the As), but this week’s topic is Acceptance.
Many of you may be familiar with what is commonly called the ‘Serenity Prayer’. There are many versions out there (and its full history is still being uncovered), but here is an approximation for our purposes:
Help us accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, to have courage to change the things which should be changed, and to have enough wisdom to distinguish the difference.
The most common version of the above lines is attributed to Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), part of a longer piece that continues living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.
The popularity of these words lie in their universality. Each of us has something in our lives, about ourselves, that we’d like to change – something about ourselves, our situation, our environment. Often the things we focus on are those over which we can have the least influence, or the influence we have it not always clear. Family, tradition, and culture can, at times, be stifling, constricting, limiting. We hear every day that the world contains a multitude of serious problems, many of which seem totally beyond our ability to effect. Work’s challenges can be burdensome, politically arduous, frustrating, even emasculating. The subtle nuances of emotion, love, and relationships can elude us. Our sense of self inevitably contains some element of frustration with our body and our physical expectations. These and other troubles can cause us to question our courage, our strength of character, even our masculinity. Just when we start to feel we might be reaching a point of balance, age steps in and changes all the rules.
It is also said that the only constant in life is change, yet clearly there are things that we cannot (and should not) change. Wrestling with this distinction is the final part of the above quote. These words are also about control – what and when. Many studies have shown a healthy human requires some sense of purpose or control over their life, yet fate and circumstance often seem to conspire to leave us feeling powerless. Dr. James Hollis, author and Jungian Analyst, states that In moments of powerlessness, we may paradoxically find a terrible freedom, and thereby wrest our spirits away from delimiting Ananke*, or necessity (What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life, 2009). He is referring to the opportunity to abandon our usual management systems (denial, projection onto others, addiction, frenetic activity) and choose new, more appropriate models.
* Ananke (Greek myth) – primeval goddess of destiny, necessity, and fate
I look forward to meeting and discussing the above.