Everything is OK exactly as it is!
Now, I don’t mean that you don’t want (or need) certain aspects of yourself and your life to change, I simply mean that however you feel, whatever’s happened in your past, and whatever your current situation, is perfectly fine as it is right now.
The first stage, I have found, in pretty much anything – whether it be an emotion, a financial situation, a bodily ache or pain or an emotional block – involves awareness, acknowledgement and acceptance. Before you can change anything, you have to be aware of the current situation, acknowledge it, and accept it. Only then are you in a strong position to be able to change. If you neglect these three A’s – if you push on to change something before you’ve really completed this ‘A’ stage, you’re setting yourself up for a fall sooner or later. If you do skip straight to ‘change’ it’s kind of like building a house on really unstable, rocky, sandy land that you didn’t know was unstable, rocky and sandy. Sure, you might have a decent house for a while, but eventually the fact that you built it on dodgy ground is going to catch up with you in a dramatic, house-falling-down kinda way! If, however, you had been AWARE of the ground and its characteristics, ACKNOWLEDGED it for being there and ACCEPTED IT it as it is, you’d probably come to the conclusion that it’d be best to CHANGE where you built your house. It’s a bit of a silly example but I hope it gets my point across!
I’ll give you a practical example (assuming you weren’t planning on building a house on dodgy ground…) to get your teeth into. As you read, please try and spot the principles I’m trying to get across, and don’t get too bogged down by the specifics (unless they’re relevant to you of course). Let’s imagine you’re having problems with anger. And let’s suppose that you don’t know how to deal with anger in a constructive way – which is very common in people, myself included. Here are a few thoughts that might naturally come up when we feel angry, that aggravate the situation; these are ones that come up for me – I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to some of mine, as well as having some of your own.
- “Why me?!”
- “I shouldn’t be feeling this way!”
- “Anger is so bad! I don’t want to feel angry!”
- “I can’t express my anger because I’ll hurt people or they’ll think bad of me”
- “I want to punch something!”
What happens when these thoughts come in we put ourselves into a negative spiral. The anger (the feeling) comes up, and we talk ourselves into ways to feel more angry! Not helpful in the slightest. The more we fight against the anger, the more angry we feel, and the more damage it can do to us because it’s not being expressed in a healthy way. The cycle continues. So what’s the alternative? Here’s an example of how to AAA formula might play out in this scenario to help us deal with the anger more quickly and more effectively:
- Awareness: Become aware of the anger. This is probably done automatically already – you normally ‘know’ you’re angry. If you don’t – if you feel like something’s wrong but you don’t know what it is – spend more time on this stage to become aware of what the issue is.
- Acknowledgement: Admit to yourself that you’re feeling angry. This is an important step – if you don’t acknowledge the presence of the emotion, that’s when it can take hold and you end up fighting with it, resisting it and when it can cause you some damage.
- Acceptance: Be OK with it being there – you can’t change the fact that you’re angry with a switch, so surrender to the fact that it is there. This is probably the hardest step – it is for me, anyway. This is where you have to try to resist resistance! Try not to resist the anger – let it flow. As I said at the top of the page, this does not mean that you think the anger (or whatever emotion or situation it is you’re dealing with) is good and you want loads more of it in your life, it just means that you realise you can’t change the situation immediately, so you’re accepting it as so that you ARE able to change it. Remember that the three A’s are the foundation for change.
Now, all of that might sound easy (there’s also a high chance it might not too!), and I’m not suggesting that this is a quick fix – nothing worthwhile is – but hopefully the AAA method will help you to at least start becoming more healthy – emotionally healthy in the example I’ve given. I’ll be talking more about emotions in an upcoming post – for now, please try to see through the example to see the underlying principles of the AAA tool.
So from now on, AAA isn’t a small battery that you put in your mini remote control helicopter, it’s your cue to be Aware and Acknowledge and Accept the situation exactly as it is!