A longtime friend called last week. The insights of our conversation seemed important to share.
We began by discussing an initiative she had heard about for people who are experiencing a long challenge with alcohol. A Centre has opened which serves alcohol twice a day to their residents as a part of their strategy to offer a non-judgmental context for people sharing this challenge. People there are welcomed to encounter and explore their personal journey away from alcohol without having to find a way to get it, and without having to defend themselves from active measures to condemn and fix them.
As we reflected on the impact of unconditional acceptance for the personhood of each of us as individuals, we recognized a growing strong hope and respect for the potential impact and profound possibility of the strategies of listening and acceptance within the context of unconditional acceptance. They offer people opportunity to accept themselves in their own starting points, and to move forward ‘from the inside’.
She also had recently witnessed a psychologist on television who introduced his guest for that segment as ‘a woman who has a powerful story to tell which ‘would give her listeners understanding’ about ways to take their own lives forward. She began by setting a small cage on a table and retold how when she was a little girl, she used to be kept in such a cage and was fed by adults through a door in the cage.
Our conversation led us to consider the impact of asking a person to repeat again and again their story of their past … How does being asked to continue to rehearse your story to people you do not know impact your ability to move forward?
A wise volunteer once stated: “My story is NOT my past, it is the way I have moved forward from that past.”
Unconditional acceptance does not require a story of the past. It starts with now and requires a continuing effort to listen and support forward. This is belief in another person. Its outcome is a growing trust.
Two more questions arise from the original conversation:
How is it that ‘the story’ is still the basis of what produces the degree of willingness to support and donate toward solutions and care for people? Why do we need to ‘know’ the details? Could it be possible we are seeking evidence of our difference?
And even more critically, what is the personal impact on persons who are repeatedly required to tell and retell their ‘story’ every time they seek an avenue of ‘help’ in their journey to manage their lives? [Children and young people are repeatedly asked to ‘retell’ the experiences they have lived through.]
Stories provide content for our analytical brains to identify any person as an ‘other’ because they are not like me. This knowledge can position my presence as a barrier to the ‘safety of choice’ they require to accomplish their goals. They focus on their ‘otherness’ as defined by me, rather than their belief in themselves.