Although it is important to learn loving self-care practices and to incorporate those practices into as much of waking life as possible, it would not be effective to bypass full acceptance of your bodily experiences of unpleasant thoughts and feelings. Recognition and acceptance of troublesome thoughts and feelings is an essential starting place.

As described in chapter fifteen of my book, it is important to learn how to tune in to emotional states of mind as they are experienced in your body. Throughout history, it has been common to attempt, albeit unsuccessfully, to suppress unwanted thoughts and feelings. This is certainly understandable, but the problem is that suppression produces a paradoxical effect. This is sometimes expressed as: What you resist persists. There is another expression: If you don’t want it, you’ll have it.

It is important to accept all bodily sensations. Much of our emotional life goes unnoticed because the sensations are too subtle to notice during the course of a busy day. Then, there are other emotions that are strongly felt in the body, such as shame, rage, grief, and anxiety. The self-acceptance I advocate involves allowing yourself to have the full body experience of those feelings and states of mind.

One challenge to this practice is the fear that allowing yourself to fully experience shame, rage, or any other strongly felt emotion or state of mind will cause additional suffering. It sounds logical, but nothing could be further from the truth. All the mindfulness research data prove that acceptance of our most uncomfortable emotions and concomitant sensations actually serve to reduce suffering. For example, try suppressing shame next time you experience it and you will notice that those sensations get magnified. The same is true with rage. Allowing yourself to embrace your bodily, felt experience of a strong emotion with acceptance serves to immediately diminish it.

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