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Acceptance Isn't for the Faint of Heart

Learning how to live with difficulty.

Key points

  • The first step toward acceptance is to be aware of how angry and unaccepting you may be.
  • The second is to stop judging yourself and others.
  • Forgive others, or the world, for whatever haunts you. You're not doing it for them; you're doing it to help yourself.

One thing has been bothering me for years: How do people cope emotionally with their health challenges? I consult the digital health industry, so I have an insider's view on existing solutions. What can I say; they just aren't good enough.

So I reached out to people who live a full, successful life while coping with a medical condition, to learn how they do this.

One such person is Angela Marie Christian, personal development and business coach, who also teaches mindfulness. But her life wasn't always quite so serene.

I asked her, "Tell me about your medical challenges, and how you've dealt with them."

Angela Marie was very generous in responding. "In 2015 I had a toxic mold issue that left my children and me very sick and homeless. While extremely difficult, it actually ended up being the fork in the road I needed. When Western medicine wasn't working, I began seeking alternative forms of healing, which led me to my life's purpose: shamanism, energy work, and mindfulness. While going through the actual experience, at first I was beyond angry, but then...once I accepted the situation for what it was and saw the "gift" in the circumstance, I was able to find an inner peace that got me through and helped me heal faster."

So, this was great, but almost too good to be true. I probed further. I asked: "I'm intrigued. Acceptance is one of the topics I explore, as a means of dealing with medical conditions. So I asked her to elaborate, because this was not obvious. You were in a hard place, and she chose acceptance. How? What facilitated this?"

Angela Marie's answer blew my mind:

Christopher Campbell / Unsplash
Is it rain or gold flecks? Depends on your outlook
Source: Christopher Campbell / Unsplash

"Acceptance is not for the faint of heart. Acceptance is hard work. It does not just happen. It is a conscious effort to control the degree to which external circumstances control you. I'm grateful for my years of mindfulness studies, which provided me with the grit required to accept such drastic situations. If it weren't for my years of practicing meditation, breathwork, and energy healing, I surely would've let it destroy me, which it almost did.

"In my situation, I 'heard' the calling for peace when I would meditate. My higher self would shine through and remind me of what "gifts" these hard knocks provided. I certainly couldn't connect the dots looking forward, but I can connect them now looking back. My 'mess' became my message and my hope is that others will choose acceptance instead of living a life of pain, fear, and hatred.

"Here's how I chose to accept:

  1. I decided I could either allow the anger to win (which was ultimately a loss) or I could have faith that there was a bigger plan in place in which this had to happen first. I could feel deep inside that I had a bigger calling and couldn't allow this to get in my way.
  2. I wanted to be a good role model for my kids and teach them how to overcome obstacles, not let them destroy their life. I watched my mother be a victim her whole life and decided one day to release victimhood. I fell to my knees and prayed: 'I don't want to be the one people feel sorry for anymore. I want to step into my power and release the shackles of shame and defeat.' The very next day I felt like a different person. I was energetically lighter and felt genuinely happy.
  3. With the urging of my therapist and shaman, we wrote out all the 'benefits' and 'gifts' that came from the disasters.
  4. I went through a positive intelligence coaching program and then became a positive intelligence coach myself once I saw how much it helped me quiet the negative self-talk in my brain, turn up the voice of my higher self, and then find the 'gift' in my hardships. This has been key to maintaining acceptance and peace.
  5. I understood that I could use these obstacles as 'my story' to help others with similar situations of anger and rage. I felt like that was a calling and felt like that was bigger than the pain I was experiencing, so I let it guide me."

There are no easy fixes, this much was clear from her responses. And in fact, it made a lot of sense. For many years now I've been studying medical decision making, all too often finding that people do not choose to engage in health behaviors that would benefit them. Good health choices require awareness, determination, and the discipline to persist with them. Not for the faint of heart, as she said. But still, I asked her to provide a road map so that others could follow: "Can you outline the principles you used, so others can apply them?"

Angela Marie had them quickly lined up:

  1. "Awareness
  2. Non-Judgement (of self, others, circumstances)
  3. Forgiveness
  4. Acceptance
  5. Peace."

Words of wisdom from Angela Marie Christian.

Peace is a wonderful destination to arrive at, especially if you are making peace with a medical condition you cannot shake off. This does not mean you are happy with it. This does not mean you are not doing your best to get better. It just means you are not adding emotional agony to the physical pain.

This is a new journey I'm exploring. I'd love to hear what you think about it, and whatever you'd like to share.