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How to “Accept” a Bad Situation

griffin and his coachThe photo to the right is Griffin with his coach after another great game last Saturday.

I really appreciate Coach Chris because he manages to be unfailingly positive and supportive as he inspires his players to stretch and grow.

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to coach – and to parent – effectively.

It’s interesting that in the process of coaching and/or parenting we have the opportunity to receive the encouragement and support we may not have gotten as children.

When we become parents, we can also learn how challenging it can be to offer the perfect words of encouragement and support when our own frustrations or disappointments get in the way.

(Incidentally, in seeing my struggle to parent “perfectly,” I’ve developed a lot compassion for my own parents!)

Whenever I find myself unable to shield Griffin from frustration and disappointment, it can be very challenging. I try to remind myself that all I can do is offer the tools that have worked for me when I am frustrated and disappointed.

And when I do offer those tools I often remember that I can apply them to the stress I feel about my child’s situation. If you don’t follow me, continue reading as I show how a mother’s concern about her daughter eventually allowed the mother to find her own peace.

One of my coaching clients recently went through a divorce. She has worked hard to get to a place where she can appreciate all the good that came from the relationship.

Her teen-aged daughter is foremost in her appreciation. But it is also in relation to her daughter that she struggles with the most persistent difficult feelings related to her ex.

You see, the ex is now withholding emotional and financial support from his daughter. My client sees that her daughter is hurting as a result of her father’s neglect and she wants to know how to best support her.

Although on the surface it may look like the problem is the no-good ex and the daughter’s hurt feelings, the solution lies deeper. In any event, we probably won’t be able to “fix” the ex’s behavior or the daughter’s hurt feelings.

letting go of disappointmentGranted, it is wonderful when people do the right thing at the right time, but if they don’t, it is our responsibility to make peace with the present situation. The way to do this becomes clearer when we appreciate that circumstances don’t determine our happiness, but our thoughts about the circumstances do.

Byron Katie’s Loving What Is provided me with the tools (what she calls “Inquiry”, or the “Work”) that became a key for me in identifying and letting go of my stressful thoughts. I have learned that I can be happy or, at the very least, peaceful in any conditions.

I still have stressful thoughts but I know that it is my thinking that is the problem, and not some unpleasant person or situation.

To do the “Work” you ask yourself four questions.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do I react when I think that thought?
  4. Who would I be without that thought?

And then you do what Katie calls the “Turnaround.” You try to imagine yourself in the position of the person you have judged, or whose situation causes you distress.

It is sometimes challenging to do this, but you will have huge awakenings when you can. In fact, you will often find that you have also transgressed—or are also suffering—in some manner similar to people or situations you have judged.

In this instance I encouraged my client to do the Work on the stressful thought, “My daughter is wounded because her dad will not be ‘there’ for her—emotionally, psychologically, financially—as other dads are for their kids. She does not get how he can be so detached and unavailable. She is hurting.”

I asked my client to investigate those thoughts by applying the turnaround. Suddenly “My daughter is hurting” became “I am hurting…I can’t get how he can be so unavailable to our daughter.”

I know that even if you see the truth in this realization, you may be wondering how it helps my client to see her own suffering in this situation—and especially how it helps her daughter.

It helped because seeing her own suffering allowed her to exert control over her own feelings. She now had the power to find a better-feeling thought, or do the Work again to explore her own feelings toward the ex, or even talk things over with a trusted friend.

In all of these ways she could come to accept the situation without judgment. And whenever we accept a situation without judgment, we experience more peace and we can offer greater emotional support to those who are suffering.

In short, by recognizing and letting go of her own negative feelings for her ex, my client will have more energy to care for her own needs and those of her daughter.

She will be able to validate her daughter’s feelings—whatever she says is troubling her—and say “I know this is really hard right now. You and I both wish your dad “got” what an amazing person you are and wanted to celebrate and support you in every way.”

When her daughter’s feelings were validated she could then say, “I know you will find your way. You have everything you need inside you to be happy no matter what the conditions and this is more important than anything else. And I’m here for you, no matter what.”

Her support would come from a completely authentic place because she has found this to be true for herself.

Of course, maybe none of this will take away her daughter’s hurt. But again, we really can’t “fix” anything for anyone else. We can only let go of our own stressful thoughts and hope that by doing so we are more present and available to help others in their suffering.

We can shine a light for others on their path only after we have done the same for ourselves.

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