6 Jan 2016 |  for trainees | by Bill, writer at UK & Ireland Counsellor Directory

Acceptance, sometimes called Unconditional Positive Regard or UPR, is an attitude of non-judgemental warmth.

It means having acceptance of the other person, exactly as they are, as a separate person entitled to their own feelings and experiences. It means having a willingness to let the person be in touch with whatever feeling is going on for them in the moment – fear, pride, anger, hostility, confusion.

Having Unconditional Positive Regard towards another person doesn’t mean that we are free of values and beliefs of our own. That would be impossible, and to pretend so would be phoney. So acceptance of a person shouldn’t be confused with always finding their behaviour acceptable. It simply means that you see them as a human being of intrinsic value. It means being able to believe that each person is all right deep-down.

This is comparable with the situation early in life, where a parent may say to a child “I don’t like what you’re doing, but I still love you.” Unfortunately many of us have the opposite experience as children, and can grow up with the sense that our acceptance by others is conditional on us behaving a certain way, expressing certain views, hiding aspects of ourselves that we have been conditioned to be ashamed of, or to deny, even to ourselves. When people experience unconditional positive regard from others, they tend to become more accepting of themselves, more at ease with themselves, and more confident in their own abilities to cope.

"the attitudes towards others and towards ourselves, far from being contradictory, are basically conjunctive ... this means: love for others and love for ourselves are not alternatives." - Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving

As practitioners who cultivate an attitude of acceptance towards others, it’s very important that we also cultivate an attitude of acceptance towards ourselves. If we cannot say to ourselves “I don’t like what you’re doing but I accept you just as you are” then we may struggle to be able to say the same, honestly, to others. If there are aspects of ourselves that we find unacceptable, we are likely to communicate unacceptability, consciously or unconsciously, when we encounter those same aspects in others. If we feel ashamed of who we really are, then we are likely to be perceived as incongruent, not genuine.

“I have found it highly rewarding when I can accept another person. I have found that truly accepting another person and his feeling is by no means an easy thing, any more than is understanding. Can I really permit another person to feel hostile towards me? Can I accept his anger as a real and legitimate part of himself? Can I accept him when he views life and its problems in a way quite different from mine? Can I accept him when he feels very positively towards me, admiring me, and wanting to model himself after me? All this is involved in acceptance, and it does not come easy.”             – Carl Rogers

Where you find it difficult to accept someone, ask yourself what is it that I don’t know yet about this person, that means I am failing to understand them empathically?

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