by Dr. Kendra A. O’Hora, LCMFT
Have you ever heard someone say “you just need to accept it.”
Oof. I think acceptance is a hair-standing-straight-up word for me. I do not like to hear it. You’ll learn more about why next week on the blog (I’ve got a personal story to share with ya’ll).
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about this term acceptance.
Often in the mental health world acceptance means peace, allowing something, consenting to, or coming to terms with something. Hm…
I wasn’t satisfied with this concept so I decided to give it one more shot. I learned that acceptance is close in meaning to the Latin term acquiescere, or acquiescence, which means to find rest in.
Still. Not. Lovin’. It.
Let me ask you this: why do we have to find rest in brutality? Why do we have to find rest in child labor? Why do we have to find rest in our partner suddenly leaving us? Why do we have to find rest in miscarriages and stillbirths? Why do we have to find rest in our children never speaking to us again? Why do we have to find rest in murder?
I’ve worked with client after client who is trying to force themselves to: get over a mother who put them up for adoption, get over a husband who has slept with thirty prostitutes, get over a child who died of cancer, or get over an accident that led to amputation.
Ugh – these are not things you “rest” in or “get over.”
I remember when my cousin died of an overdose a few years ago I felt like I needed to: grieve, accept, and move on.
No, no, no.
We need better language. We need better narratives. We need attunement – a word I’ve come to loveeee.
Attunement has taken on many layers over the years in practical definitions but here’s what I’ve found:
Attunement is often used in a relational or energetic sense.
But what about within? Here’s where attunement is WORLDS better than acceptance.
We cannot ever begin to accept that a child has died, or a parent has psychologically abused us, or a partner has suddenly left. Instead, we can attune.
We can notice how our life experiences show up. We can pay attention to how these experiences influence us. We can honor their importance and consider their impact.
That last part is key.
When we attune, we can consider, at any given moment, how something we have experienced impacts us. And then, we can navigate the impact.
Some days we may navigate that impact by pausing, looking within, and allowing ourselves to cry. Other days we may decide to notice and continue on with our day. Even still, we may acknowledge the impact and choose to advocate or act.
To me, making peace is about allowing ourselves to experience and honor our humanity, not deny it.
We do not need to recover from the tragic overdose of a loved one. Instead, we need to consider how this loss impacted us as well as how it continues to surface and show up.
This requires openness, listening, courage, patience, and yep, attunement.
We are not here to “recover” from the brokenness of life. We are here to experience it and remain present all the same.
If that’s acceptance then fine but I’m still going to call it attunement 🙂