This is an opening talk by Dick to a group starting
a four day workshop. A Self Acceptance Workshop would usually
start with drumming. This included all kinds of ways to make sounds
including clapping and use of the human voice without words. There
would be a circle of people and when Dick felt a shift to a deeper
or right brain level had been achieved, he would give an introductory
talk, like the one that follows. This would be followed by a go-around,
where each person would give their first name, what they wanted
to get out of the group and how they were feeling in their body
at that moment. Dick would often do a short piece of work with
the person or just acknowledge where they were at. The rest of
the workshop resulted from one person after another taking the
"hot seat" and working one-on-one with Dick. All the
other participants worked in empathy and later shared what came
up for them. If it was a professional workshop, there was more
time for questions about how the miraculous changes came about
as Dick did what he did.
Dick: This work I call Self Acceptance Training. And the way I came to that name was somewhere around 1970 or 1971, I forgot just when. I was at that time doing the work with people that I felt competent to do. There are all kinds of modalities that I don't feel competent in, so I don't do them. But I was doing Gestalt Therapy and I was doing Hypnosis, and I was doing Bioenergetic work and I was doing something that could be loosely called Guided Imagery. Which I realized was my own movement into Eidetic Imagery, although I didn't have any idea of the rationale that there is with Eidetic Imagery.
What would happen would be, I would be working with someone and at some point, if it was a good session, they would experience what I would call a point of resolution. I would see the person's face change, the basic skin tone would change, the eyes would change, voice would change, gestures would change, all the signs that said to me that the person, from feeling like this, was feeling differently, more positively. The person experiencing it would say, "I feel relieved, or I feel better, or I feel as if a weight had been lifted, or sometimes they would even say, "I feel happy." So in other words, in one way or another, they would verify what I was seeing. And I never knew whether it was Gestalt Therapy or Hypnosis, or Bioenergetic Movement that was bringing this about.
And then one day someone made a remark, just a remark in passing that just opened everything up. This was a Gestalt therapist who said, "I spend 80% of my time when I am doing Gestalt Therapy just trying to get people to accept where they are at." And Bammmm. I knew that was it! What was happening when I would see the point of resolution was that people were accepting themselves.
Now it would be great if they would accept themselves and stay accepted for the rest of their lives but it doesn't work that way. They would be accepted then and it might last a day and it might last a week, but sooner or later it would be gone again. I realized that and it totally changed the work I was doing.
Because all of a sudden, these things, you know, here you are doing hypnotic work, here you are doing imagery work, here you are Bioenergetic stuff, very much with the body, here you are doing Gestalt Therapy, talking to an empty chair. or something like that. I suddenly realized that those things didn't matter. What mattered is that I tried to help people to move, that I tried to facilitate them in the direction of that moment of acceptance.
I began to think Self Acceptance, I began to talk Self Acceptance to people I was talking with, I didn't talk to people on the outside. I began to talk about it with some of my friends and colleagues at Cambridge House. But I was still in the closet. It wasn't until about 1974, something happened. The Graduate School of Education at the University (of Wisconsin) wanted to make a film, and they did make a film of my work. They called it Image and Reality. They wanted it for teaching purposes. And they sold it and rented it all over the country. I haven't heard anything about it recently but I used to get royalties on it, believe it or not, I used to get $2000/year. Amazing how many of those they sold or rented. But in that film, I said, "My work, which I have come to call Self Acceptance Training;" that is the way I put it, and then I talked about the work. And from there on, I would say to everybody, "I do Self Acceptance Training, that is what my work is called."
Now what is it like? What do I mean by Self Acceptance? Let me give you the definition that I came up with years ago, although the application of it and my understanding of it has deepened and changed and shifted a great deal. It has not remained static. It has become more and more inclusive and broadened. This is the definition: Self Acceptance is experiencing myself as I am in a given moment without the inhibition of self criticism, self judgment or self evaluation, Period. That's it.
Now if you look at that definition, you will notice several things that are very important. Self Acceptance is experiencing myself, and that word experiencing, in your mind underline it. Self Acceptance is not, as many people think, liking myself or approving of myself. It has nothing to do with approving myself. As a matter of fact, approving of myself is the death of self acceptance. Because when I approve, there is the approver and the approved. And which one am I? So it is not approving of myself, it is not liking myself. It is experiencing myself. It is not understanding myself. Self Acceptance is not self understanding. And so people often say, I want to know why I do something. And I say, "Well, that is fine if you learn why you are doing it, I have no opposition, that's great, but that is not really what matters." What matters is that you experience what you are doing. Actual experience, as opposed to just the understanding. So Self Acceptance is experiencing, not understanding; and finally, Self Acceptance is not resignation. Because resignation is a passive form of self denial. Resignation is saying, "I don't approve of myself, but since I can't change it, I am just going to resign myself and not struggle. It is not that.
It is simply experiencing myself, but not as I have been for the last twenty years or anything like that. It is experiencing myself as I am now. in any given moment. It is always now. So it is experiencing myself right now. And without, and this is the all important without, without self evaluation of any kind. Without self criticism, without condemnation; judgment either positive or negative. It is experiencing myself just as I am. And that is not a tacit approval, any more than it is a tacit disapproval. You have to move out of that.
And I am going to talk about all this a great deal more. But this is the background. And that definition has not changed in more than twenty years. It is really the same.
I use the words for the work, Self acceptance training. Training, underline the word, underscore it, that you are not able to accept yourself and then remain in that state indefinitely. To underscore that you are a process. This is a chair. And although at some molecular level it is changing, as far as we see it, it is exactly the way it was yesterday. It certainly is the way it was an hour ago. None of us are the same as we were a minute ago. This is literally true. Because you all know that physically speaking, with every breath, thousands of cells die and thousands of cells are born. And you know that. So you are not the same person who walked into this room physically. And you are not the same person energetically. And you are not the same person emotionally. And you are not the same person intellectually. You are a process. You are like a flowing river.
I think it was Heraclitus who said, years ago before Socrates, "You can never step into the same river twice." And look at that. Watch yourself step into the river. You step in with your left foot. Left, right, that's the right order, isn't it? You step in with your left foot and immediately step in with your right foot. Are you stepping into the same river? No, because the water has flowed by. In just that second. So it is a different river. Now someone will say, "Come on, come on, it is the same river. Don't be silly. This river hasn't changed. Sure the water has shifted, but it is the same river that it always has been". No it is not! The thing that is unchanged is your concept of the river. And I have a concept of the Mississippi River and I have had it for many, many years and that concept has remained pretty much the same, but the Mississippi River changes with every second. That is what you and I are like. We change every single second.
And it is in trying to identify and experience this process which exists outside of time. It cannot exist in time because you see, there is no time. Time is that which does not exist. The past is that which by definition has gone out of existence. So it doesn't exist. The future, by definition, is that which is not yet come into existence, so it doesn't exist either. And then there is that other part of time which we call the present, which is between the past and the future. How can that exist? How can you define something by saying it is the place between two things that don't exist. Try that one on your intellect. That is what the present is. It is that which exists between two things that don't exist. So that is the definition.
But NOW is out of time, but right now. And the thing about NOW is that it is continually changing. So what I am calling Self Acceptance Training aims at liberating me from time, bringing me into the now. Liberating me from time. Liberating me from a lot of other things. Making me feel alive and real. Not just thinking that I am alive and real, because I can see my hand moving around and I can come to the conclusion that I must be alive and real. One time, about twenty years ago, I was doing a group on the East Coast and there was a Gestalt Therapist and I was sitting there and he was tapping his foot quickly and I said, "What are you feeling right now?" And he leaned over and looked at his foot which was jiggling and looked at me very sharply and then he said, "I'm jiggling my foot, I must be nervous." He was thinking, in other words, he was figuring out that he must be nervous, but that is not the experience. That is the intellectual conclusion.
And so much we live in the world of concepts and intellectual conclusions. To liberate us from being enslaved in that state and never able to get out of it, that is the goal of Self Acceptance Training. To come into the experience of NOW, which is the experience of reality.
Another way of saying it is, the goal of Self Acceptance Training is to wake up out of the bad dream that I have been in for years. And if I said, "How many of you have the feeling that a lot of your life is a bad dream?" some of you would raise your hands, and I would know that others would not raise your hands but nevertheless you would be saying to yourself, "Yeah, That's true." So some of you have the awareness that in some way your life is a bad dream. My life is a bad dream when I dream that I am something that I am not. That I am something that I don't like. So to wake up. This is not a new idea, let me hasten to say that none of my ideas are new. All my ideas are very, very very old. They are thousands of years old. I never have had an original idea in my life. :I have always picked it up somewhere. From somewhere or something. Even if I put two things together, in my own mind I am putting two things together that I got from somebody else. So let me hasten to say there is nothing original about any of this. But to wake up, and I used to do groups called Waking Up, I still do, sometimes just call the group, Waking Up. Just as I would sometimes do groups called Feeling Alive and Real. And to wake up out of the bad dream that I am my self image, that I am what I think I am. And of course I am not talking about the self image that I might carry in consciousness, because that is not by self image, that is part of my facade. And it may be a reaction against my real self image which is in the unconscious. And that is the self image that really works. Because it is unconscious, it presses all the buttons and I don't even know they are being pressed. To me this is just the way it is! And the way I am!
So that is the bad dream. The Sufis were the ones who talked a great deal, over the last five or six, or eight hundred years, or maybe longer. Some Sufis say that the dates of Sufism and the coming of the prophet, Mohammed, may he rest in peace, they talk about this very thing: Waking Up. And many of you, if you have read Rumi or people like that, you know about that again and again and again. And waking up is what the Sufis always compare it to. Drinking wine is forbidden by the Koran in Islam. And so a lot of Sufi poets talk about getting drunk, and you all know that. You know the famous quatrains translated by Fitzgerald of Omar Kayam,
A book of verses underneath the bough,
a loaf of bread, a flask of wine, and Thou,
beside me singing in the wilderness.
Ah wilderness, where paradise is NOW.
Well the wine that Omar is talking about there is the wine of reality, of union with God, and "Thou" is not an earthly soulmate, but is God. So they talk about getting drunk. And Rumi says, talking to himself,
Be very careful now
Because you are sitting
right at the edge of the roof,
and you are very drunk!
meaning that you are right on the edge of God intoxication. So waking up is the goal of Self Acceptance. And to Wake Up is to stop identifying with your self image. So we can say the goal of Self Acceptance is to stop identifying with your self image. And that is waking up. And that is coming into the eternal NOW. And that is getting in touch with reality rather than the dream. All of those things.
And still another way of saying it, because my identification with my self image leads me into all kinds of crazy thinking, about myself, and about others, and about the world. And so I sometimes do workshops called Thinking In Other Categories. And the goal of Self Acceptance Training is to train myself to think in other categories. In other Categories. There is a whole litany of other categories: "I am unlovable." "Because I was abused as a child, I can never have a good relationship." "I am ugly." "I'm stupid." A nice one is, nice because it is so general: "I am incomplete." Or, "I am inadequate." We can go on and on and on and on and on. Down the line with categories which condemn us, because when you are in a category, that is your definition of yourself, just as your self image is your definition. Well your self image leads to certain kinds of thinking, so you are bound by that thinking. I often illustrate this by telling this story of Ouspensky, who was a student of Gurgieff. Many of you have read some of Ouspensky. He was working with mind altering drugs and he would take a drug at night and then have a drug experience where he would have these marvelous insights and then he would fall asleep and then when he woke up in the morning, he couldn't remember what the insights were. So after doing that for awhile, seeing what the pattern was, he put a pad of paper and a pencil on his desk, and then took the drug. Sure enough, everything happened, insights came flooding in, and he went over to his desk, and he started to write laboriously until he fell asleep. In the morning, still true to form, he woke up, remembered having these glorious insights, couldn't remember a one of them, but also remembered the pad. He went over to his desk, and what had he written? He thought he had written pages and pages. He had written four words: Think In Other Categories.
That is kind of an anticlimactic ending, people often smile or laugh. It is amusing because it is ironic and anticlimactic. To me it is mind-blowing. If you want all these marvelous insights. If you want to be in that place where they flow like that, you indeed must think in other categories. So these things all go together. If you wake up from the bad dream, you stop identifying with your self image, you feel alive and real and you think in other categories. So it is all the same thing. It is as if you had a stone with different facets. They throw off different light. What we call reality or essence is like a stone with many facets. And one facet is truth, and one is beauty, and one is love, and one is compassion, and one is something else and the other is peace, and so on. But they are all just reflections of one stone. And we are in touch with one facet of it. So that is what Self Acceptance Training is. That is what it's goal is.
And just a few words about how we work. Now I spent years with this one single goal that I saw. To learn to accept myself. And believe me, I work on it myself every day and every night, and I have not come to the point where I am accepted and can let it go. I slip right back into the mud after every experience of experiencing what I call essence or reality or truth or beauty. It comes and it goes. There is no such thing as getting it and holding it in your fist and holding in forever. Maybe you can get hold of 100 shares of General Motors Stock and hold that for a good many years before you have to let it go when you die. But Self Acceptance, you can't hold for years and years. It is NOW, and as soon as you lose NOW, and slip back into time, then you slip back out of direct experience, and into semantic reality. Direct experience is this, and you are experiencing it right now, or at least it is there for you to experience. As opposed to experiencing concepts, concepts, concepts.
So some of the things that I do that you will notice is a lot of imagery. Because I believe the image comes before the word. I think that the part of ourselves which we call our ancestors, because our ancestors are not all those people who died 50,000 years ago, they are not the ancestors. The ancestors are sitting here right now. We are the ancestors. We literally are, I mean it the way we say this is literally is a chair and the seat is made of cane, that is the way I mean it when I say we are the ancestors. Because you are not your self image, you are the life force, which we say animates this body. You have a body but you are not the body. You are the life force that animates it. You have a lot of other things, like emotions and thoughts, but you are not your emotions or thoughts, you are the life force. Which can only be expressed like this: Shhhhhh.
To facilitate that experience, almost paradoxically, there is a tremendous emphasis on body sensation. And that seems paradoxical, but one of the sutras in Buddhist thinking, one of the things that we are told, is "No sensation; no experience." You see: no sensation; no experience of nirvana, which is what we are all looking for. So there is a tremendous emphasis on body sensations. If you say, "I'm angry" or "I'm frightened," I will probably not say, "What are you angry about?" or I probably not say "Why are you frightened?" I will probably say, "Where do you feel that in your body?" And that in itself is a departure from a lot of work. My teacher Fritz Perls seldom would say, "Where do you feel that in your body?". He would say, "Does that fit?" "Is it true?" in other words. Do you see that as being true for you? I am not likely to ask that question. I am more likely to ask, "Where do you feel it in your body?" And in a lot of other ways. And so you will simply observe, there is a tremendous emphasis on body sensation. That comes from my debt to Charlotte Selver, and also my debt to Al Lowen, my teacher in Bioenergetics. There was a great emphasis on that, there also. So there is this emphasis on the body. You will notice when I am working with images, that I sort of play back and forth through the image as you see it, and as you sense it, or hear it or smell it. Because images are not just visual, they can also be olfactory, gustatory, tactile, kinesthetic, any of these things, and often they are a combination of them. But we focus between the image and the body sensation, playing back and forth. And I will talk about that problem, and how that gives rise to meaning. So you will notice that. You will notice another thing that I do a great deal of. I will ask you to repeat a sentence that I say. It will be a short sentence. And sometimes it will be a surprise and sometimes it won't. And when I repeat a sentence like that, I will probably say, "What happens with your body when you say that?" As opposed to saying, "Is that true?" or "What does that mean?" or something like that. Asking you to say a sentence and not going to the meaning and the association, but going instead to what happens in the body. And when I feed those sentences, I am not psyching you out, and telling you what you are supposed to be experiencing.
It is just testing the amoebae, you know, a little
prick with a pin on the amoebae to see if it will turn this way
or that way. And through those little movements, that is the way
we progress. Because I do not approach people, look at them, talk
a little bit, and then have them all figured out, diagnose them
in my head and then I've got their treatment. I don't do that
at all. The work that I do with people is work that we do hand
in hand. We walk in to the river, down the descending bottom until
it gets deeper and deeper until the water closes over our heads.
And it is a two way street. Believe me, it is a two way street.
So it is not a matter of psyching you out and then assigning you
an Rx. Fritz Perls used to say that the only things he needs to
be a therapist is his eyes and ears, instead of his head. Instead
of psyching people out. Just looking, and listening, and going
from there, and then to be completely honest. And then to frustrate
every attempt the person makes to reinforce their old pattern,
which is the old pattern that is bothering them. That is what
you frustrate. There is a lot of misunderstanding about Fritz.
Fritz was great at frustrating people. But there is a whole school
of Gestalt therapists who just frustrated for the sake of frustrating,
as if that is a good thing for a person. Well, maybe it is. But
what he really meant is frustrate, frustrate, frustrate the
neurotic pattern from which the client would try to relate
to him. One client would try to challenge him all the time. This
person would try to be over pleasant and over pleasing. This person
would pretend helplessness. Whatever it was. They would always
come to him in the session with whatever was the pattern all their
life that was bothering them. So that is about where we stand
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