I talk about how our perception or interpretation of events is more important than the event itself ALL THE TIME. I talk about it because I believe it and I have seen huge shifts in my own life as a result of challenging my perceptions and interpretations.
Often what we consider to be reality is really just our perception. It's how we see the outside world based on our beliefs, our past, our mood, and our level of self-awareness. When something happens in our outer world we put our own spin on the event, we create stories about what something means and whether or not it is good or bad.
That being said, when life throws you really big curveballs, it takes epic commitment to be willing to see things differently. It’s one thing to walk the talk when you get cut off by another driver--it’s quite another when you’re facing a major health crisis, or your house has burned down, or you’ve lost someone you love.
These type of events will knock you down, make you feel like there’s no hope in the world, and that life is capricious and cruel. It takes courage and trust to pick yourself back up again…courage to practice acceptance when the circumstance is unwanted and trust that you are ultimately going to be okay.
I’ve been working with a client, I'll call him Gary, who was recently diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease. Understandably, Gary's initial reaction to the diagnosis was one of hopelessness and despair. He could only see a future in which he was doomed to become more and more helpless and reliant on others.
Gary and I started looking at a ways that he could loosen the feeling of being trapped by seeing things from a different perspective. It wasn’t a case of *thinking positive* in which he tried to convince himself that the disease wasn't having a negative impact on his life. That wasn’t true and no amount of saying so could make it true.
Instead he saw how the diagnosis had caused him to reevaluate EVERYTHING in his life—his career, his marriage, his friendships, his purpose, and his spiritual beliefs. It caused him to start living his life more authentically.
In a matter of weeks, Gary got really honest with himself and with other people in his life. He started telling the truth about how he felt and being really transparent with those around him. Gary willingly confronted a lot of his own fears.
And do you know what happened? Things in his life started to change at a rapid pace. He felt genuinely hopeful as he reconnected with his work, reconnected with his wife, reconnected with his closest friends, and reconnected to his sense of purpose.
He started to see his disease differently. He became acutely aware of the things that he could control and focused his energy there. He cleaned up his diet, started working out, got into therapy, and pursued an alternative and promising treatment for his disease.
As Gary began feeling better, both physically and emotionally, he realized he wanted to share his experience with others who had a similar diagnosis. He wanted to tell them that there was hope and that there were things that could be done to slow down (and maybe even reverse) the progression of the disease.
This is acceptance. Acceptance is not resignation or apathy—this client is doing everything in his power to manage his disease. And yet the deepest healing has been in seeing that while this disease has clashed with many of his hopes and dreams and plans, it may be offering him something greater.