Since When Is â€œAcceptanceâ€ Required?
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Below.
Gah! Â Iâ€™veÂ Â heardÂ Â itÂ Â aÂ Â gazillionÂ Â timesÂ Â nowâ€” someone misapplying the â€œFive Stages of Grief.â€ But this time, itâ€™s being said to someone else and I get a chance to see it and its effect objectively.
The walls are thin and Iâ€™m waiting outside someoneâ€™s
office while two women talk behind the closed door of another office. Iâ€™d almost have to plug my fingers into my ears and sing, â€œLa, la, la, la, laâ€ to block out the words.
â€œYou need to accept that you will always be fat,â€ one woman says over the lame protests of the other. Then she goes on to explain that the woman has been through all the other â€œstages of acceptance,â€ as she calls Â them. Denial, anger, bargaining, Â depression. Â The only thing left is acceptance of her situation as permanent Â and unchangeable.
Well, _I_ wonâ€™t deny it: it makes me angry to hear this pseudo-counselor spouting misinformation. Â Iâ€™m tempted to bust down the closed door and yell, â€œStop!â€
The Kubler-Ross Â model of the â€œ5 Stages of Griefâ€ was, as I Â understand it, originally meant to describe the likely phases of dealing with a catastrophic personal loss, such as a death of a loved one or a divorce. The counsel- ors and professionals Iâ€™ve talked to have generally applied it to a permanent event in the past that wasnâ€™t going to change, Â though some have used it in counseling Â terminally ill patients with only a few months to live and in a couple of cases, felons who were losing their freedom in- definitely. I donâ€™t have a big argument with those applications.
Where Iâ€™m so strongly annoyed is the bastardization of the model Â by people who just love to give advice. I myself have had way too many people give me advice on my love life, suggesting I might be going Â through the 5 stages and telling me what I â€œneed to accept.â€ Not about things in the past that could not be changed but about things in the present and in the future. Iâ€™m glad I didnâ€™t accept Â many Â of the things Â I Â was counseled Â to. Acceptance, to them, was the same as giving up. Because I didnâ€™t give up my standards, Iâ€™m in a much better place.
I had a good dose of almost giving up a decade ago with my back injury. I ran the gamut of all the stages during those Â 27 months of Â agony, Â but I never Â gave up. I came close, though. The point of pulling myself out of it was when my neurologistâ€”who Â couldnâ€™t remember the slightest thing about my case from one visit to the next a couple of weeks laterâ€”told me Iâ€™d have to live with my pain, that Iâ€™d been through the denial, the anger, the negotiations, the despair, and that I needed to resign myself to my fate as someone who would always have this problem and to move on to the last stage, acceptance. Â Why? Because he couldnâ€™t figure out what was wrong. He was willing to accept that Iâ€™d be a cripple for the rest of my life. I wasnâ€™t.
At so many other medical appointments for my back injury, Iâ€™d hobbled out in tears, weary and frustrated. But not this time. This time, I hobbled out in a mixture of anger, denial, and determination. I would not accept the fate he was handing me.
Had I tumbled Â into Â the Â acceptance Â phase, Â I would now likely be in a wheelchair and on disability. I certainly never would have taken the steps (metaphorically Â speaking) to finally get the help that was out there and I didnâ€™t know it. I no longer look at myself as someone with a back injury, though there are certain things Iâ€™ll remember not to lift that I probably shouldnâ€™t lift anyway. But I no longer Â regard Â myself Â as Â damaged Â goods because Â of my back injury, and I consider my recovery to be complete.
I know that not every illness or accident can be re- solved with mere positive thinking. I do believe, however, that positive thinking is a â€œforce multiplierâ€ Â to regaining health and just â€œacceptingâ€ that your Â future Â will be dim will hasten the effects of the illness or accident. Heaven knows, Iâ€™ve seen plenty of family members Â just give up. Sometimes, when they talk about how happy theyâ€™ll be to get back to Heaven, I think theyâ€™re anxious for an excuse.
But meanwhile too many people urge others who are in transition to accept something that may or may not be the outcome. Itâ€™s not done. Itâ€™s not an event in the past to be grieved. Itâ€™s just a turning point, a fork in the proverbial road.
The overweight Â woman Â behind Â the Â door Â is Â at Â that fork in the Â road. If she wants to accept that sheâ€™s been overweight all her life (and I donâ€™t know that thatâ€™s true), then so be it. Itâ€™s a done deal. But that doesnâ€™t mean that being overweight is a guarantee Â in her future or that itâ€™s the last of â€œ5 stages of acceptance.â€ Sheesh. If she denies that future and takes action to make that possibility a different one, then her future Â has another option open to her. But if she accepts the future her advisor sees and believes it, itâ€™s very likely to be true.