When your child has been stuck with an eating disorder for a while, it’s natural to long for a leap forward. So the moment my family got its breakthrough is permanently etched in my mind. The remarkable thing is that the change wasn’t in my kid. It was in me.
We were a year into my daughter’s anorexia, and I knew a lot about what I ‘should’ be doing to support her. But it was hard to do, and things were looking bleak. One afternoon, I sunk into an armchair and flipped open a book on the subject of acceptance. A few words in, and everything fell into place. It was one of these exciting ‘aha’ moment. From then on, I was strong, I was compassionate, I helped my daughter to eat one difficult food after another, and I got close to her again. For us, it worked. She got better, fast.
Have you noticed that all real learning hits us in the face in the form of a paradox? The paradox about acceptance and letting go is that the best way – in my experience the only way – of making change happen, is to accept that it might not. You may have heard of people who discovered this after hitting rock bottom.
But we don’t need to wait for extremes of despair: we can accept and let go right now. We can do it in one big emotional, tearful sitting, and we can do it on a minute-to-minute basis, while we’re supporting a difficult mealtime or giving our hysterical child our compassionate presence
So what does acceptance and letting go actually mean?
My ‘aha’ moment came from realising what it doesn’t mean, so let me start with that:
· It doesn’t mean that I am resigned or fatalistic.
· It doesn’t mean that I condone what is going on.
· It doesn’t mean that I will do nothing.
Acceptance means this:
· I face the reality of life at this present moment. It is what it is.
· I face the fact that I cannot fix the future (“Que sera, sera”).
· I accept, with compassion, what life has done, what my child has done, and what I have done or not done.
· This provides me with data and a clear view of reality that is not muddied by judgements.
· In short, acceptance is when you say, “Shit happens” (if possible without the judgemental undertone).
Which leads me to the ‘letting go’ bit:
· I let go of my fight against reality. That way my ideas and efforts can go into being for something, not against something else.
· I let go of my “What ifs”, my “If onlys”, my “It’s not fair”, and “He/she shouldn’t have done that”. My internal chatterbox will pound on the door of my consciousness, but I let go of believing its stories.
· I let go of outcomes.
Letting go of outcomes can be extremely frightening. After all, when it comes to our children’s lives, there are some outcomes we really, really care about.
I’d love to hear how the concept of acceptance works for you. I’m interested to know of your ‘aha’ moments. You never know what will help another family, so do share.
*Eva joined Around the Dinner Table in 2011.