There are two paths to transformation: The Fixing Method and The Acceptance Method.
The former is what you’ll get from any self-help book or life coaching. And while it might work for a short burst of time, it creates even more mental chaos down the road.
The latter is the approach IFS therapy uses. And it creates lasting change through radical self-acceptance (even aspects of your personality that humiliate you).
In this episode, you’ll discover how radical self-acceptance leads to more success with women, a happier life, and a more fulfilling career.
Show highlights include:
- The 3-step process for making your inner critic shut up (5:05)
- The “Allowing Approach” to self-improvement (without secretly despising aspects of your personality) (6:58)
- The counterintuitive way listening to your inner critic helps it go away faster (7:12)
- How self-help books actually slow down your journey to self-improvement (7:42)
- The weird way saying “hello” to yourself helps you heal from your traumatic past (13:11)
- Why self-therapy sabotages the benefits of real therapy before you even begin (20:09)
- How having more willpower and discipline can backfire and slow your healing process to a grinding halt (27:04)
Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to check out my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at https://www.davidtianphd.com/masterclass/ now.
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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host.
In the last episode, we looked at the life-coaching lie and the self-help trap, and the one big concept that would help you to avoid falling into these traps and falling for these lies, the one big concept that if you were to understand it and adopt it, and integrate into your life philosophy, how you approach yourself and life, and this one big concept, understanding it is necessary for long-term and consistent happiness, fulfillment and success in life. What’s this concept? Radical acceptance. [00:59.4]
Without radical acceptance, any success that you get in life will ultimately be unsustainable and will lead to burnout. Without radical acceptance of yourself, radical self-acceptance, any success pursued without radical self-acceptance is, in the long term, unhealthy, and over the long term, also going to be toxic.
In this episode and the next episode, I’m going to be unpacking what this concept actually means, what it actually is and entails, radical self-acceptance. I’m going to be covering quite a lot in this episode, in the next one, so let’s just get right into it.
There are two, broadly speaking, two big paths to transformation. One is the fixing method and the other is the allowing method. The fixing method assumes that you have something to change, that you must make it change, and you must do something to it to make it change. The allowing method, on the other hand, assumes that or believes that change is natural, so when something seems not to change, what it needs first isn’t forcing or fixing. What it needs first is attention and awareness. [02:13.6]
In the allowing method, the attitude is of allowing it to be as it is, but open to its natural next steps. For example, you might have this fear that might transform into something different if it’s just given interested attention. Hopefully, you can recognize that a lot of life-coaching and self-help takes the fixing method, and a lot of modern psychotherapy or psychiatric styles or interventions also assume the fixing method. Again, the fixing method assumes that there’s something that you have to change, that you must make a change and that you must do something to it to make it change. [02:56.0]
Because a lot of my clientele are achievers and are used to striving, and are still caught up in this sort of neurotic need to achieve and strive or they feel like they’re not enough or not good enough, I’m going to be focusing on an inner critic, our inner critics, the inner critic part as a major case study.
Now, we have many parts in us and we have a higher self. I’ve spent a lot of episodes and a lot of videos on YouTube and elsewhere, breaking down what is called the IFS therapy approach, IFS standing for Internal Family Systems therapy, an empirically-validated, evidence-based therapeutic approach, which I think is the best overall therapeutic out there right now, and is still developing. It’s really cutting-edge.
I’m going to assume some knowledge of that and we’re far enough along in this podcast series, I think, to do that, but I’ve made other episodes just on breaking down IFS. If this is your first episode, you’re kind of jumping in not quite at the deep end, but you’re not entering down the ladder, so to speak. You’re just kind of jumping in. [04:04.3]
But I’m going to do that just so we can get moving and skip a bunch of steps so that we can get to what’s different here, and I’m going to be looking at radical acceptance in relation to our inner-critic parts, and our inner-critic parts are always criticizing other parts, so already you have an assumption of a polarization, the one that criticizes and the one that is being criticized.
Then I will point out that there is a middle way. There’s a middle position, which, if you are able to take that position and come to your parts, you’re inner-critic parts, the one being criticized or ones being criticized in you, you’re getting closer to or even in the state of your higher self, which is the requirement for healing and unburdening and growth. So, I’m looking more closely at how we apply radical acceptance as the necessary elements and the beginning step to working with our inner-critic parts. [05:03.7]
The standard method for dealing with our inner-critic parts is three steps. The first is to ask it to step aside, and if it doesn’t step aside, then we work to discover its positive purpose, and step three, to then uncover its fear or worries or concerns. Why is it doing this criticism or this job or role of protecting? It’s protecting from something happening and that’s its fear. What is it afraid might happen if it were to stop doing its job of criticizing in this case?
Now, the allowing method helps you to attune to the feeling or emotion of the inner critic. It’s not just, Hey, I don’t like you, inner critic, and go away, which is the wrong approach. Instead, you’re bringing radical acceptance to all of your parts and this includes the inner critic, of course.
You still can go through that three-step process of discovering its positive purpose, which is protection, and uncovering its fear, which is likely some painful emotions that would erupt if it doesn’t do its job of being perfect or something along those lines. [06:12.7]
But the most important thing is the attitude that you bring to it, which would lead you closer to your higher self, which is the attitude of now we’re going to attune to the inner critic, to the feelings or emotions of the inner critic, and just be with that part of us, just being with the emotional quality of that part of us. The assumption here is that there are no enemies ourselves; there are no enemies in our inner world; and this flies in the face of almost all life-coaching and self-help, which, in a lot of directive therapy styles, which assumes that there is a demon inside or evil within, and you need to banish those or overcome them, or kill or exile them. [06:57.4]
Radical acceptance in the allowing method or the allowing approach is the opposite of that. The assumption is that there are no bad parts within us. There are no enemies in our inner world. Instead, one of the first things we need to do with any of our parts, including the inner critic, is to form positive relationships, and that happens through listening and acceptance with whatever comes up, even or especially the parts of us that we find hard to accept.
Now, the common assumption in life-coaching and self-help in the fixing approach is this trap to think that we have to do something. We have to fix what’s wrong. We have to solve the problem. But, actually, this doing, this fixing, actually delays the natural process, the natural process of transformation. Transformation and change is natural, once you remove the obstacles. [07:58.0]
In our inner world, this need to fix parts of us doesn’t come from our highest or higher self. It comes from other parts of us, for example, our inner-critic parts or our manager parts, or super-managerial parts or protective parts, or perfectionist parts. The parts of us that are feeling this urgent need to fix us or fix parts of ourselves, these parts also need to be acknowledged and accepted, and not acted upon, but acknowledged and accepted.
Action in itself is not the problem. Our higher self can take flowing, effective, transformative action naturally, without any effort. Fixing becomes a problem when one part tries to fix another part of us out of fear of having the feelings, the painful feelings, that would otherwise erupt or be felt, and this leads to polarization and resistance with one part trying to get another part of us to change, while that other part is resisting. [09:04.5]
As achievers or strivers, we’ve lived with this polarization and this resistance for most of our lives, and if you’re a successful achiever, your achieving parts have succeeded in overpowering the parts that are resisting. This is what life-coaching tries to help people to do, to repress or suppress the parts in ourselves that are resisting the change.
Imagine if there were no parts resisting the change. Then you would just get to work without any resistance. You’d just go and do it. You’d just get it done. This is like that classic Shia LaBeouf acting against a green screen, the exercise of when he is copying or parodying a life coach. “Just get it. Just do it. Just do it.” And it would just be [accurate]. I mean, a lot of life-coaching and self-help boils down to that and boils down to a lot of productivity hacks, trying to be more efficient, and all of that is there because there is resistance, because there are parts. There’s the fear that you’re going to be lazy and a total bum, if you don’t work really, really hard. [10:11.3]
Yet, if the hard work, the thing you’re trying to work really hard at, was really enjoyable, then it wouldn’t even feel like work and you wouldn’t need to apply all of this effort to doing it. You’d just go ahead and do it. No one is paying for coaching to help them eat the foods that they really enjoy.
Imagine that. Imagine you needed a coach and a bunch of cheerleaders motivating you with a community and a membership, just so that you could enjoy, I don’t know, so that you can eat whatever you enjoy. You wouldn’t need that. It would be ridiculous to pay for that because the definition of food you enjoy means that you enjoy it, and so you wouldn’t need help to eat it. You would need help resisting eating it, in case it’s bad for you, but you wouldn’t need any help doing something you naturally already enjoy. The assumption in life-coaching or in self-help for it to even get off the ground is that there is resistance within you to doing it. [11:02.6]
This is where good therapy steps in and fills this gap, and actually detoxifies that approach of fixing. First we come to ourselves noticing that we already have parts of ourselves that we’ve exiled, that we suppressed way back when and have been suppressing so long that they’re repressed into our unconscious. We’re not even aware that we’re suppressing them because we’ve suppressed them for so long.
When aspects of ourselves are exiled, they don’t just disappear quietly. They resist underneath, underground. They sabotage. They block us. They remain unchanged. But they, too, have a contribution to make to our lives, to our internal systems, and when they are suppressed, and exiled and repressed, the result is we end up being less than fully ourselves and our exiled parts cannot grow or develop. You’re stuck back then in the past. [12:03.3]
In fact, all of our parts, including our repressed and suppressed parts, need the loving attention of our higher self. When our higher self turns towards our parts and acknowledges them and accepts them, then the healing and growth begins. Our highest self or our higher self, or our true self in IFS therapy parlance, doesn’t have to try. It doesn’t even have to train to be kind, compassionate, gentle, strong, connecting, creative, and all of the [Cs].
I’ve covered the IFS therapy concept of the true self and the eight Cs, and all of those qualities of confidence and courage, those are there naturally when you access your higher self or when you are your higher self, because it already is. These are already qualities of you, of your higher self, without having to try or to put in any effort to become that way. That’s, your higher self is. [13:03.3]
There is this process of radical acceptance and let me break down for you the steps of this process and how it works. First, you turn toward whatever is there with the kind of interested curiosity. The word “hello” is a good way to begin things. Just “Hello. Hey, there,” like approaching a scared horse. I’m thinking like the horse whisperer or something. You’re just slowly approaching it with interested curiosity, and then you just be with or stay with whatever is there. Not forcing it to change or be some way that it is not, but simply being curious and interested from a place of care and compassion, an interested curiosity.
Notice also the difference between the attitude “I want it to change” versus “Some part of me wants it to change,” and as soon as you’re able to make that distinction between “I want it to change” versus “Hmm, some part of me wants it to change,” you’re now unblending. You’re now separating from that part of you that is the fixer or the one that’s trying to fix, or maybe the critic. [14:13.5]
Being blended with our parts or identified with our parts that are in pain, or that are in fear or anxiety, is the cause of all psychological suffering. Being blended or identified with, or being overwhelmed by parts of ourselves that are in pain or in fear or anxiety, this being blended, identified and overwhelmed by is the root cause of all psychological suffering.
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To undo this, you’ve got to go through this process of radical acceptance, but even before acceptance, it’s just acknowledging. Acknowledging is coming from a neutral stance where you’re doing nothing to make it change, so if you are having trouble accepting that part of you, you can begin with acknowledging. You can even acknowledge not being able to acknowledge. That’s there. Then after acknowledging comes being with the felt experience, just being with it, and that will ease you into the radical acceptance down the road. [16:05.2]
Let’s take a case of a polarization where there are two parts at odds with each other, right? The ones we’ve been working with in terms of a case study are the critic and the one being criticized as an example, but there could be all kinds of polarizations.
Whenever you identify or notice that there are two or more parts that are at odds with each other, what I’ve been calling a polarization like two polls, what you do is to say hello to each of those parts and allow both to be there so that you can enter a position of seeing them both there and being okay with them both being there, not taking one of the sides, but seeing both sides there.
Then as you see them both there, sense how it feels in your body and mind to have, for example, fear and excitement being there, and practice staying present with both of these parts or both sides of the polarization. Then, when you’re able to be present with both sides, then you can explore one or the other side. [17:17.7]
The first step is to recognize that there are two parts or two groups of parts that there is a polarization. You’re blended when you are struggling with, pushing away or trying to fix or rescue a part of yourself. The radical acceptance attitude is, no matter how the parts are, you love them the way they are that you don’t need them to change in order for you to love them.
But if they’re in distress or in pain, or feeling a way that they don’t like, you, of course, can help them and alleviate that pain for them, but you don’t need them to feel or be different for you to love them. You’re doing it because they’re asking you to or they want you to, and it’s about them. [18:05.0]
But notice in a polarization, especially with inner critics, it’s a part wanting to change another part, and that’s when it’s really important for you to be able to take that position of your higher self and see both sides there, both the one who is trying to do the fixing and the victim, so to speak the, the one being criticized.
Okay, so the first step is just to recognize that there are two sides, two parts, and then the second step is to acknowledge both sides of the polarization. The third step is to allow both parts, both sides of the polarization, both poles, to be there without taking sides or without pushing to any decision or resolution.
Once you’re able to do that, you can move on to the fourth step, which is to sense into each part with compassion and empathy, and listen to each part, allowing each part of the polarization to reveal more about its point of view and then to sense into how each part feels from its point of view. [19:12.7]
The way I like to do it is we start with the victim. Start with the one that is being acted on. Right, so generally speaking, I like to side with the one that’s getting the shorter end of the stick, so to speak, the one that’s getting beaten down on, to kind of shore that part up, and then move on to is the one that’s more aggressive.
But it’s really just a feel kind of thing, and, of course, this is the sort of advice you would give to a therapist, because if this is your first time encountering your polarization inside, it is almost impossible for you to do it alone. I know lots of people, because they want to save money, they’re doing self-therapy, and if it’s really a money issue, I totally empathize with that and it’s an imperfect world where we don’t have enough trained and skilled therapists to scale to everybody cheaply enough—for now, anyway. Something I’m working on. [20:08.5]
But if you are relying on self-therapy, just be careful because I have yet met, and I’ve met dozens, several dozens, of people who have been trying to do an IFS therapy or parts-work process on themselves, without ever having had a professional therapist work with them one on one for any length of time, and it has actually made things more complicated and there have been a lot of things that have had to be undone, because almost always what happens is that a super-managerial part or a manager part is driving things, is running the show, and this actually creates all kinds of further problems.
So, I highly recommend that, if this is something that you are interested in, that you find a good therapist, and I recommend IFS therapy. You can also try focusing therapy or Gestalt therapy, certain types of Gestalt therapy. These are all modalities that include a major element of radical acceptance and can walk you through these different steps of unpacking the polarization between your parts. [21:14.0]
I’d just want to caution anyone who is trying to do it on their own that this is tough to do. I’ve not yet met anyone who has been able to successfully do this properly on their own without having had experience already with a professional guide to lead them through the process with their eyes closed and really feeling into each of these parts.
Again, the first step is to recognize that there are two parts, or two or more parts, in the polarization. The second step is to acknowledge both sides of the polarization. The third is to allow both parts to be there without taking sides or pushing to any decision or resolution, and the fourth step is to sense into each part with compassion and empathy, and really listen to them, allowing each part of you to reveal more about its point of view and sensing how each part feels from its point of view. [22:06.6]
You’ll notice, I’ve already mentioned that there is this sort of middle position, so let me say a bit more about that. There’s a blended position where you’re overwhelmed or fully identified with a part, and then it becomes almost impossible to help the part, if you are the part. Then you also can’t see the whole polarization for all of that it is. You’re now siding with one of the sides and you’re just adding on to the conflict. That’s a blended position.
Then there’s a disassociated position where you’re completely detached from it. This is common for achievers as well when they start to do therapy. They can’t access any feelings, because as they’re just dissociated from it, they might have as a kind of background feeling, “I just want this to be over” or “I just want this to be done,” and “I want to be perfect and good enough finally, so I can rest.” But, really, when they’re being with these parts, they don’t really feel anything and they’re completely removed from it. [23:05.2]
So, there’s you’re too close; that’s blended. You’re too far away from them; that’s dissociated. Then there’s the middle way, this middle position, where you are able to be with the parts and feel how they’re feeling, yet not get completely overwhelmed by them, but also not so far away that you can’t even feel what they’re feeling.
You can notice this middle position that, when you’re in it and you’re able to sincerely say things like, “A part of me is afraid and another part of me is excited,” for instance, taking fear and excitement again as the example. “A part of me is X and another part of me feels Y,” and you’re able to feel both X and Y at the same time, from this middle position, you can actually stand anything.
From the place of your higher self, you are not overwhelmed. You’re not denying. You’re present to the truth of how you are in the present moment, because you’re able to be with all of the parts involved fully and yet not be blended or overwhelmed by them. Right? And then, of course, not so far away that you’re not with them, but to be in this middle position, that’s where your higher self would be. [24:14.8]
Okay, notice that whenever we have a fixer, we also have the part that resists the fixing, right? Otherwise, you would have to apply zero effort to doing the thing that you want to do, again, the example being eating the foods you enjoy. Generally, by the very definition of them being food you enjoy, you don’t have to exert extra effort to eat them, because you’re already motivated because you enjoy them, your favorite foods.
You notice that whenever there’s a need for things like motivational speaking or self-help and that kind of thing, there is already a resistance there, but we don’t notice the resistance because we’re so afraid of giving into the resistance and we don’t understand the resistance. We see it in a very superficial way, like, Oh, it’s just being lazy, or something along those lines, and as a result, they continually sabotage us. We call that self-sabotage, but they’re down there under the surface, kind of like a gorilla force sabotaging your manager parts’ best interests and best-laid plans. [25:16.0]
Okay, let’s look at the resistance, our little inner rebels. The resistance is the part or parts that don’t want to. They don’t want to. That’s the energy. The inner rebel may be feeling passed over or pushed around or ignored and doesn’t like that. They may feel stubborn and determined.
Our inner rebels are often polarized with parts that say, “You have to.” Our rebellious parts need, actually, instead of exiling or repression, or being fought against, the rebellious parts, actually what they need is respect and understanding of their point of view. [25:57.1]
The existence of a rebellious part indicates a breach of trust in the inner relationship, a history of dishonoring or discounting these parts of ourselves, and very often, and this pattern started, this treatment already started in childhood and it might have been vis-à-vis our parents or our schools, or our peers or our community.
Healing this relationship between your higher self and your rebellious parts will take a longer time than with many other parts, for example, just normal protector parts. The rebellious parts are already polarized against any kind of swooping in and saving them or fixing them or changing them, or exiling them or killing them off. They’ve already been resisting this kind of underground resistance for many years or decades.
What they really need and what all parts really need, but especially our rebellious parts, is patience and gentleness, and acknowledging and then moving into acceptance. Once you’re able to acknowledge and accept them for how they are, they will already naturally shift. You don’t need to force them to be a certain way or in any particular way. [27:17.4]
That’s the energy that a lot of schools and discipline and willpower that approach takes to our parts that are resisting, or we trick them and we lull them into sleep and we do a runaround on them. The fact is they’re still there, and maybe you trick them that one time, but they are not going to be so easily passed over, pushed around, and ignored. They are stubborn and determined, and you actually can’t kill them off, and so all you’re doing is causing them more pain. The first thing they need is for you to just turn towards them with acknowledgement first and then move into acceptance. [28:00.0]
Once you begin that process of acceptance of these parts of yourself that you wish weren’t there and you really attend to them with loving curiosity, then they already begin to shift. They naturally are going to move into a more powerful and empowered and loving, and positioned in a job that feels in a role that feels good to them. But they’ve been forced into these roles because of these neurotic patterns from way back when.
I’m going to be going further into unpacking this in the next episode, so this is really a two-parter, kind of stopping things in the middle just for time, and I just want to point that out. Make sure that you come back for the next episode as I explain the second half off of all of this and really conclude it.
But I just want to take a moment to point out that I’ve gone through it all. I’ve made all these mistakes that I’ve been pointing out, siding with one side of a polarization, using tons of discipline and willpower, and over-relying on systems of habits and routines to bypass my inner resistance, instead of attending to them and listening to them. [29:11.3]
It takes a tremendous amount of energy to do that that you may not notice at first. You may not notice for the first several years, but if you’ve been an achiever for three decades or more, then I know you know how exhausting and tiring it is.
There is a better way. There is an effortless way. There is a way when your parts are listened to and they realign, and are fully integrated with each other and you in this inner system of you. Then this achievement, the success, and more importantly, the happiness, fulfillment, love and joy in your life will come almost naturally and flow. It will unfold effortlessly. [29:54.0]
The hard part isn’t the actual unfolding of it. The hard part is that those first steps of switching gears, which is what this is all about, switching gears from forcing or fixing, or getting in there and changing them, and instead, moving into shifting gears, into acknowledging, paying attention to them, and bringing loving, interested curiosity, moving into then radical acceptance of them.
Then moving further into full compassion and care for them, so that that will allow them and will basically take off all the forcing that we’ve been doing, and the fears—attending to their fears and their worries and concerns, because this is how they became this way because of these fears—and attending to these fears and helping them with those to let go of them. Then they will move naturally into positions that are going to feel a lot better, positions that they enjoy in your life and that they are naturally good at and this will feel powerful for you.
Okay, this is the only way to long-term and consistent good stuff, happiness, fulfillment, love, joy, all that good stuff. Come back to the next episode where I unpack this even further as we go even deeper into radical acceptance, and until then David Tian, signing out. [31:15.0]
Thank you so much for listening to this, and leave a like or comment. I’d love to hear from you and any kind of ratings on Apple Podcasts. That always helps. Share with anyone you think would benefit from it. Hope to see you in the next episode. David Tian, signing out.
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