It started with goosebumps on the forearms. Soon the whole arms began to tremble and the trembling eventually turned into shaking and spread to the shoulders and the upper body. It lasted for about 20 minutes and then began to subside. In the end, it was just like an unnoticeable vibration and then it seemed to stop. But when I brought my jaws together, my teeth started to chatter – I was still trembling inside. And it continued during the rest of the conversation.
This event occurred a few years ago when I was participating in Euro Life, a two-year NVC program led by Robert Gonzales. Between the week-long workshops, we met our empathy buddies and this evening I had a conversation with one of the participants via Zoom. What I described above began about half an hour into our talk. I have had similar experiences earlier in life – though not as powerful – so I was not worried in any way.
My interpretation is that I experienced old fears that were released through the shaking. You who read this post probably recognize that fear can be expressed by this kind of body reactions. During that talk I found myself experiencing complete freedom in how I expressed myself. The woman who listened to me was totally present and I couldn’t sense any trace of judgements. I had no thoughts of how she might perceive anything I said.
I became aware that in my daily life I constantly, more or less unconsciously, spend energy on trying to figure out how what I do and say is perceived by other people. Suddenly I realised what was happening with my body was an experience of complete acceptance.
In the past, when I thought about the need for acceptance, I wasn’t treating it seriously. My thoughts were like: “Of course I’m ok! I do not need any external confirmation that I’m ok. To seek acceptance is to act out of victimhood. I can manage on my own and don’t have to ask others for acceptance!” And on and on…
Acceptance as a need
When I think back about my previous attitude toward acceptance, I can partly agree that seeking acceptance from others goes in the direction of a strategy. For me, acceptance is rather a bodily experience within me, or sometimes something that arises in an energy flow between me and others. This inner or interpersonal experience can of course occur when others do things in my surroundings. However, I am not dependent on others or myself performing specific actions in order for my need to be met.
As I described in the story above, I experienced the need for acceptance when my habitual practice of trying to figure out how I am perceived was absent. In a perfect world, the attempt of trying to control my behaviour to be more accepted might not exist, but at this moment I was painfully and, at the same time, wonderfully reminded of how important this need is to me. Fundamentally I am ok. And how amazing it is when my body and my cognition is aware of this!
Some feelings connected to acceptance
Some feelings I connect to acceptance being fulfilled are calmness, relaxation, peacefulness, happiness, satisfaction and confidence. When I do not experience acceptance, I might feel sad, discouraged, nervous, anxious, tense and melancholic.
What are your feelings in connection to acceptance?
When I look back at my life, I can see many behaviours where I have tried to satisfy the need for acceptance. This has often been at the expense of other needs. That is probably why I previously associated acceptance with being needy or not being assertive. Some of my past strategies were:
- to agree with others, or not to disagree, although I had a different opinion;
- listening to the same music, reading the same books and consuming the same kind of “culture” as my friends in general;
- drinking alcohol;
- not starting to smoke tobacco;
- smoking marijuana.
Throughout history, we have seen people trying to meet the need for acceptance by performing actions that can be described as both heroic or horrifying. People have the ability to both step up in times of hardship and to fall for peer pressure. It is quite easy to judge the actions of others both when looking in the rearview mirror and standing outside the situation itself. You can look at these past events and use them as an invitation to a practice – imagine yourself in the same situations:
- What do you think you would have done?
- What do you think would have happened if you would have done something else?
My current strategies
Some of my current strategies of fulfilling the need of acceptance are:
- washing up the dishes at home, even though I’m going to be late for something else;
- talking with a friend past my preferred time of going to bed;
- avoid eating meat in certain contexts;
- listening to someone who has done something they are ashamed of;
- responding to messages.
Some of them are contributing to my well being, and some of them I would like to improve, so they include more of my other needs.
What strategies do you use to meet your need for acceptance?
Share your strategies in the comment below or, if you are a Premium subscriber of “The Needs’ Year”, at the online platform here: https://empathiceurope.com/online/courses/the-needs-year/modules/week-1/.
Joachim Berggren (CNVC Certified Trainer)
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On Thursday (6 January 2022 at 19:00), there was a Zoom Talk with me and Eva Rambala where we talked about the need for acceptance. If you woud like to watch the recording, become a premium subscriber of the Needs’ Year. Check the details HERE.