The Four Agreements and the “power of acceptance”

The Four Agreements and the “power of acceptance”

by Leo Van Warmerdam

The basis of the 12 Step Program is to bring about a “vital spiritual experience.” The Four Agreements and the teachings of don Miguel Ruiz offer a complimentary method and point of view that are also designed to bring about a spiritual experience. This occurs through a profound ever-expanding awareness of self.

I have taught the 12 Steps and The Four Agreements to many groups in residential addiction treatment centers, and an issue that often comes up for people in recovery from drugs and alcohol is their resistance to the word “Surrender” as a spiritual practice.

For anyone who is trying to create change in their life, “surrender” is one of the hardest things to do. The meaning of “surrender” brings up so many agreements that we have in our head:

  • I give up
  • I don’t have control
  • I have to give up control
  • I am powerless
  • If I surrender how am I going to get anything to change?

Our whole lives, we learned that the more control we have, the safer we will be.  Every time we were hurt or disappointed, we learned to trust ourselves and others less. We made an agreement to protect ourselves by being more in control of our lives. We learned to believe that if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one will.

To many of us, “surrender” means we are giving up our safety, and who would be willing to give that up? Rather than use the word “surrender,” which is loaded with so many definitions from our personal belief systems, I like to suggest that we use the word “acceptance.”

Unlike “surrender,” which is viewed as disempowering, “acceptance” is an act of  personal choice and power. Acceptance represents a powerful first step toward internal change; it is the tool that accesses all of the power of your life force to propel you forward.

So you say, “Okay, I can accept being empowered, and if “acceptance” is going to get me where I want to go, then I am willing to use it. But how do I begin to use the tool of acceptance?  What do I practice accepting?”

The short answer is to practice accepting the truth. This means recognizing what is really happening in your life – the truth about the way you have learned to think, feel, and behave.  When you accept the truth about the way you really are, the truth about what your belief system is creating, you have the power to access the doorway to change.  When you are in denial or non-acceptance, when you resist the way things really are and the way you have learned to be, nothing can change.

It’s the great catch 22 conundrum of transformation. The moment we stop trying so hard to get things to change, and accept the truth of what is and who we are in the present moment, we are in the place of transformation.

Unfortunately, the way we learned to go about changing ourselves is exactly the opposite of how internal change happens. We learned through our domestication that we have to do the “right” thing in order to get the outcome we want — we have to control ourselves, and control all the variables in our lives. But it’s when we accept who we are and accept the circumstances we have created in this moment, that the power to change ourselves is activated. When we change our internal world, the circumstances in our lives reconfigure themselves to reflect the change within us.

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