We have explored how we change our inner world, but what can we do about our outer world – the one where we have to deal with other people and how they affect us? This is a challenge in itself, and very important for alcoholics, who can easily get caught up with other people’s dramas and be affected by their behaviour. In my experience there is really only one way to deal with other people, and it is by accepting them as they are, not as we would have them be. It is something I continue to practise every day, especially with the people closest to me.
Acceptance of others is really the only way to have peace. We can’t change people. We can’t get them to do what we want them to do, when we want them to do it. They just won’t. They just do what they want to do, how they want to do it.
But it can drive a person crazy, constantly running around trying to get the world to behave as they wish it would. I don’t mean that we should sit by and passively accept behaviour that is clearly unacceptable. If someone is abusive, for example, we can’t just accept that. We can remove ourselves from that experience and we should use whatever lawful means are necessary to ensure that the behaviour isn’t continued.
The point I am making here is that we don’t have to tolerate what is unacceptable, although we can accept that a person or circumstance may not change. What we can’t afford to do is get twisted up in knots about it. Once we have accepted that the person may not change, we are free of the person and the behaviour. This is the goal of accepting others as they are. We become free from them. When we are trying to change them we are enslaved by them.
If I’m OK with me, I don’t have to make you wrong.
This is what it boils down to. If I can’t accept you just the way you are, it’s usually because there is something wrong with me. I’d prefer you to change rather than to change myself because, frankly, that’s easier. Most problems are caused because so many people are interfering with other people’s behaviour. They don’t like ‘how they’re doing it’.
Apply this in particular to your immediate family. You love them, right, but don’t they drive you crazy with their behaviour? Can’t they see that if they just saw things your way, or did things your way, everything would be so much easier? But it never works, does it? What usually happens when we try to sort out the world is that the world starts behaving even more badly than it did before, resulting in our feeling frustrated and resentful. Just imagine if you stopped focusing on other people’s faults, and only focused on your own self-improvement. And everyone else did the same…
Practise accepting them – see what happens – see how you feel.
This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.’
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