Accept Them as They Are

Accept Them as They Are

Who are you resisting?

The Practice:
Accept them as they are.

Why?

I admit it: whether close to home or far away, I wish some people were different. Depending on who they are, I wish they’d stop doing things like leaving cabinet doors open in our kitchen, sending me spam emails, or turning a blind eye to global warming. And I wish they’d start doing things like being friendlier toward me or spending more money on public education. Even if it doesn’t affect me directly, for their own sake I do wish that various people I care about were more energetic, less anxious, or less self-critical.

In what ways do you wish that people were different? Think about the people close to you – friends, family, mates – as well co-workers, drivers on the highway, business-people, media types, politicians, and world leaders. Think about people who are not doing their share of housework, not getting you the healthcare you need, promoting political policies that you dislike if not despise, etc., etc.

It’s normal to wish that others were different, just like it’s normal to wish that you, yourself, were different (e.g., thinner, richer, wiser). It’s fine to try to influence others in skillful, ethical ways.

But problems come when we tip into righteousness, resistance, anger, fault-finding, badgering, or any other kind of struggle.

“Opening out” – my current focus – means relaxing into growing sense of connection, even oneness, with all things. This is hard to do when we’re struggling with other people!

Instead, we could accept them for who they are and for who they are not.

Accepting people does not itself mean agreeing with them, approving of them, waiving your own rights, or downplaying their impact upon you. You can still take appropriate actions to protect or support yourself or others. Or you can simply let people be. Either way, you accept the reality of the other person. You may not like it, you may not prefer it, you may feel sad or angry about it, but at a deeper level, you are at peace with it. That alone is a blessing. And sometimes, your shift to acceptance can help things get better.

How?

Pick someone who is important to you. (You can do this practice with multiple people.) In your mind, out loud, or in writing, say things like these and see how you feel: “I accept you completely. Countless causes, large and small, have led you to think, speak, and act the way you do. You are who you are. I let it be. You are a fact and I accept the facts in my life. You and I are part of a larger whole that is what it is, and I accept it, too.”

If you like, be more specific, naming aspects of this person that particularly bother you, such as: “I accept that you . . . snore . . . leave your clothes on the floor . . . are still angry with me . . . have little natural interest in sex . . . are fighting me tooth-and-nail in this divorce . . . don’t really understand me . . . are not a good teacher for my child . . . break the law . . . hurt people on a large scale . . . “ (And remember that you can still disagree with, make requests of, or stand up to other people – while accepting them fully.)

See if you can tolerate what comes up for you when you soften into acceptance. Often we avoid accepting other people as a way to avoid the feelings we’d have if we opened wide to everything they are and everything they’re not.

Consider how you have gotten tangled up with this other person, struggling to change them. When I do this myself, I become aware of my own rightness, positionality, judgments, pushiness, irritability, narrow views, hurts, longings, grievances, or remorse. See if you can let go of some, even all of these entanglements. Open to the easing, relief, and peace that can come when you do.

Also consider how much you like it when you feel that another person accepts you completely. It’s a beautiful gift – and we can give it ourselves to others when we accept them. Imagine how it might improve your relationship with someone if that person felt you accepted him or her fully. Acceptance is a gift that gives back.



Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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