Self-Acceptance: An Ace Up Your Sleeve
By Dick Levon - 08/24/2001 - 01:51 PM EDT
What would you say if I told you that there is one single golden key to psychological health and strength? It is as common as dirt. Yet it is one of the best-kept secrets of the modern psychological age. That key is self-acceptance because it generates energy and vitality. I say it’s a “best-kept secret” because I really don’t hear my collegues talking much about it. I hear a lot of talking around it. Self-acceptance is to psychology as the wheel is to technology. Lets see how this very basic and beautiful idea applies to songwriters.
Only songwriters know how much it really “costs” to write songs. It is time and labor intensive to say the least. How often have you played the same line over and over again making subtle changes, one note here, a word there, a different chord only to go back to the chord you started with? Of course you have experienced or heard about the times when a song just flows out like tap water from beginning to end. Melody and lyrics simply appear on the page. This is the exception, not the rule.
Typically, you begin and its 10:05 pm and when you stop its 2:37 am. Time has slipped away. You have been burnin’ serious creative energy. I know for a fact that this process takes a whole lot of energy: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual strength. Energy, vitality, and “inner” strength are required to create or build anything. I believe that self-acceptance is the single most important factor in really getting our hands on our talents and capabilities as songwriters and as human beings.
Imagine that you are sitting on a small peninsula of a vast landmass that juts out into a wide river. The river slowly rolls by as light prisms dance upon this ole stage. You can see the bank on the other side. Simple, peaceful, familiar. All of your senses are activated. You can taste the river. Its temperature mixes with air moving in and out of your lungs. The moisture on your skin cools and sooths you. Everything around you hisses with the wind like an old vinyl 33 as you await that first rhythm to fill this space. It’s like flying through an infinite ebony expanse amongst the stars when you hear that first chord that fills up the entire universe. The river mirrors the night sky as you see things slowly floating by. You begin to notice that this buoyant stuff is all part of you. You see and watch and notice. “Oh, yes. That’s a part of me too, and that, and that, and that.” You sit by the river and simply and clearly see what floats by.
Self-acceptance is the ability to see and recognize all our parts without judgment either positive or negative. Self-acceptance is not about liking or approving of one’s self. It is simply about being aware of all of the parts of the self. It is about being “awake” and fully conscious.
Here is a good example of what I am talking about. Imagine that you are a great circle or wheel with a center hub and spokes radiating out from the center. On one far end of a spoke you see a quality about yourself, say, generosity. On the other extreme end you see the polar opposite quality, selfishness. We might say one is good the other bad. That is fine. But to only recognize one and not the other limits the vital energy available to you. You might think that most people would tend to “deny” that they are selfish and only “accept” being generous, for example. My experience has shown me that is certainly true. Many people deny that they are generous while readily believing that they are only selfish. Most people really have both. Recognition of both is self-acceptance and that makes a balance possible. Like the old Hebrew Proverb, “If I am not for myself who will be? If I am only for myself what am I? If not now, when?” I love that. Am I a “sinner or saint”? The truth is I am a human being and both are “part” of me, not all of me, but part.
This is paramount for artists and songwriters. I believe that the raw material that we work with is our life experiences. I write from my life experience, even the very few times have had an opportunity to write commercially. I always dig into my life. I only know to excavate the ground of my own life. I believe as we increase our self-acceptance we increase the raw materials at our disposal to create with. It is about adding and expanding.
I love songs of all kinds but I love love songs. What makes a love song so powerful is actually the presence of love’s absence. Both exist side-by-side, absence and presence. Yearning for love and its presence (or the wish, hope, or dream of its fulfillment) sets up a polarity of both.
It is the contrasts, conflicts, inconsistencies, and polarities in life that make it interesting and awesome. Lets face it, its more interesting and energizing to paint with a full color palette; black, white, and gray; all the shapes, or sounds, or aspects and possibilities of our inner life. That’s all we have. It is better to have the “whole” self at our disposal than not.
As an artist and songwriter I believe I narrow the possibilities in creating a song. I am saying, “here, look at this slice of life for now”. So I must start with the whole of my experience and narrow it down to the parts I choose to give shape to and show others. If we cut off parts of ourselves psychologically we do damage to the whole self. If you cut off your hand it does not just affect your hand. It affects the whole of your life. We greatly limit what is possible to create with by denying parts of our selves, good or bad. I believe I cannot write about the darkness in life, or the light in life unless I am fully “awake” to the light and darkness within myself.
Self-acceptance is the password that gets you beyond the fierce bouncer who unlocks the formidable doorway that leads to that smoke filled back room. It will get you into that gamblin’ game. You are in very interesting company no doubt. A little nervous? Or a little excited? Look around and see their faces. Each one part of you, not all of you just parts of you. Just remember now you are playing with all 52 plus that extra “ace up your sleeve” .
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