Self-acceptance is liberation. If you can accept yourself, you are free.
Something put me into a state of complete terror today. It was so frightening that I don’t want to allude to what it is. Then I saw I had made a mistake, and felt relief. I wept like a child. I wanted someone to hear me. I would share about it on social media. Or I would phone the Samaritans, to say this had happened, and I felt terror. Then I realised I did not need to. I could accept the feeling myself. I was terrified, and I understood that I was terrified, accepted that terror was completely the right reaction, and felt the terror. As a result I did not need to tell anyone. I am only telling you now to show how self-acceptance makes feelings so much more bearable and useful, not to process the terror. I don’t know how I would be if my initial impression, which terrified me so, had been correct.
Had I been unable to accept the feeling in myself I would have needed validation from someone else. “Yes,” she would say. “I can see why that might make someone feel like that. I would have been terrified too.” And I would feel validated. This might cause problems if she was bored with validating me, and did not want to, or even worse was controlling me and using intermittent validation as a way of maintaining control. It might have been different if the terror could have been used, in fight or flight, but as so often it could not. I envy my friend, who reports that for her anger is usually an instant thing. She responds to the provocation and the anger ends, its job done.
I am glad to discuss these things. When you agree with me I trust my perception better. It seemed to me that I am not properly alone with my computer. I scroll through social media or news media, and feel the appropriate thing, which society dictates. I read about masks, and I feel resentment of those bad people who refuse to wear them. Or I read about Brexit and feel fear. There are socially acceptable feelings. I am plugged into society, and feel those feelings.
In worship it is completely different. I sit in silence, and whatever comes up comes up. Then I am with my own bespoke feeling, as it is, not some off-the-peg feeling I “ought to feel”. I do not want to be alone with myself. Difficult feelings may come up. I far prefer to plug myself into the television or computer and feel feelings which are safe, because they are prescribed.
It had seemed to me that when fear is not accepted or processed, it remains, and curdles into anxiety. Anxiety is fear from the past, and it makes up horrible things which might happen, but won’t, to explain why I feel fear when I ought to feel safe. (That ought may be introjected.) Then it seemed that sorrow is curdled sadness. What was curdled anger? A conversation with a friend revealed it is Resentment.
anxiety is congealed fear
sorrow is congealed sadness
resentment is congealed anger
With time, courage and acceptance, these ancient feelings may be processed. Anger and sadness are two sides of the same coin- anger is appropriate when a quick flash of action will correct the problem, sadness when it will not. With practice, perhaps a balance of anger and sadness would help with the conundrum of the serenity prayer- “knowing the difference” is difficult.
As so often, Artemisia takes the standard female subject and makes her a woman with power and agency. Here is St Lucy with the palm of martyrdom and two eyes in a goblet.