On Monday, November 18, 2013, PsychCentral pulled together three innovators in the field of mental health to discuss their views on self-acceptance in an educational presentation titled “The Heart of Self-Acceptance.” Noah Rubinstein, founder and CEO of GoodTherapy.org, was one of the presenters, along with Mike Bundrant, founder of iNLP Center, and Francine Shapiro, clinical psychologist and creator of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. The combined insights shared by these experts offer intriguing and helpful strategies for accepting who we are, as we are, thereby facilitating healing and nurturing the growth of more positive and desirable traits and experiences.
Mike Bundrant: ‘Self-Acceptance versus Self-Sabotage’
According to Bundrant, an established expert in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), “A self-accepting attitude faces the joys and sorrows of life while avoiding self-sabotage.” In other words, he spoke of how a person who is self-accepting will embrace feeling happy without hiding it or wondering when the happiness will run out; likewise, he or she will embrace feeling sad or afraid as a temporary state and refrain from shaming or berating himself or herself for it.
Bundrant went on to describe the thoughts and perspectives that lead to self-sabotaging decisions and actions. Whether it’s because of family issues and childhood neglect, or because we are “subconsciously drawn toward negativity and pain,” self-sabotage prevents us from living full, productive lives. Considering that so many people seem to be programmed to sabotage their chances at happiness, Bundrant further examined the explanations for the mysterious allure of self-sabotage. He also discussed the “A-H-A! solution to end self-sabotage,” which incorporates “expanded self-awareness” in the process of rising above the strangely attractive and vicious cycle of personal misery so many people fall into.
Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC: ‘Self-Compassion’
In his presentation, Rubinstein broke down what self-compassion is and what it is not; most importantly, he said, it cannot be forced. He distinguished self-compassion from self-esteem, which is more focused on how we feel about what we do and achieve; and ultimately, he described self-compassion as a “warm, lovely, soft internal experience and a deep sense of feeling okay about yourself.”
Rubinstein continued with a discussion of how people with self-compassion tend to have successful coping strategies in place for dealing with life’s many challenges. And in general, they tend to be emotionally connected to those around them in an authentic way, which deepens relationships and increases overall happiness and contentment.
As far as developing self-compassion goes, Rubinstein pointed out that at its core is self-acceptance. Once we embrace ourselves as we are, limitations and all, we can begin to experience the benefits of self-directed compassion. Based on his experience as a marriage and family therapist, he said, “Most people come into therapy hating some part of themselves,” so it is important for the therapist to help a person, not to amputate the parts of themselves they don’t like, but instead to bring them closer, be curious, and find the positive intention behind the behavior. Once the self-critical thoughts subside, he said, people can relax into who they are and “witness” their fearful, protective parts with a sense of appreciation and gratitude instead of contempt.
Francine Shapiro, PhD: ‘EMDR Therapy: The Heart of Self-Acceptance’
Shapiro, who has years of experience in helping people recover from trauma through EMDR therapy, focused her portion of the talk on “releasing the neurophysiological and psychological blocks” to positive experiences such as emotional healing, forgiveness, self-acceptance, and loving relationships.
She shared the idea that “negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are the result of unprocessed memories.” EMDR centers on working through these past events to let go of fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, and problematic behaviors. She explained how these unpleasant feelings and associations are imprinted, and how identifying and processing these memories is essential to recovering from experiences of trauma and moving forward with our lives.
Shapiro further detailed how common conditions such as anxiety as well as the posttraumatic stress experienced by combat veterans and victims of rape and sexual assault can be alleviated by EMDR therapy, which is essentially rooted in unconditional self-acceptance of all that has transpired in a person’s life. Particular attention is paid to letting go of any guilt and shame attached to negative experiences that were out of a person’s control.
Viewers can watch “The Heart of Self-Acceptance” on YouTube (or in the video posted above), which lasts just over one hour and includes a question-and-answer period at the end.
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