By Denise Jorgensen, LPC
I love to read. Finding a fun, lighthearted book to curl up with in the evenings is one of my favorite ways to turn my brain off and wrap up a long day. One evening I was reading the third book A Court of Wings and Ruin in the popular series A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. At this point in the novel the main character, Feyre, is fighting to save the world as she knows it and everyone she loves. Things are looking dire and Feyre is keenly aware that they will not survive, let alone win this war without the help of a creature known as the Bone Carver. She makes the courageous decision to seek its help. The Bone Carver agrees to help Feyre, but on the condition that she brings him a possession he deeply desires, the Ourosboros mirror. She is warned that in order, “to take the Ourosboros, to claim it, you must first look into it….. And everyone who has attempted to do so has either gone mad or been broken beyond repair…” pg. 272. Upon hearing this, she chooses to still go after it. Much to the surprise of the Bone Carver, she returns with the mirror and he agrees to help her. Ultimately, they win the war. Later on when she is asked about what she saw in the mirror, she replies with:
“Myself. I saw myself. Trembling at every horrific and cruel and selfish thing I’d beheld with that monster- with me. But I had to kept watching. I did not turn from it. And when my shaking stopped, I studied it. All of those wretched things. The pride and the hypocrisy and the shame. The rage and cowardice and the hurt. Then I began to see other things. More important things- more vital…..I think I loved it. Forgave it- me. All of it…. It was only in that moment when I knew- I’d understood… that only I could allow the bad to break me. Only I could own it, embrace it. And when I’d learned that… the Ourosboros had yielded to me.” pg. 618
Forget sleep, my brain was fully alert after reading this passage. I have never in my life highlighted a single line, let alone a passage from a fictional book. I don’t know the author or what her intent was in writing this. I don’t know if any of the other 100,000+ people who have read this series were impacted by this part of the story like I was. I thought it was brilliant and a powerful analogy of the healing power of radical acceptance in three major ways:
- Nonjudgemental Observation – “I studied it”: The character Feyre had not only tolerated looking at the difficult and shame-filled parts of herself, she then chose to study them. It was in this process of nonjudgmentally observing herself that she was then able to see ALL of herself, including the more important things about her. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to get honest about all of the different parts of us. So often we run ourselves ragged in an attempt to hide, compensate and despise these parts of us that we aren’t proud of. What would we discover inside all of us if we would lean into those parts that feel tainted with a heart of radical acceptance?
- Self-Love and Forgiveness – “I think I loved it. Forgave it-me. All of it”: So many of us are walking around feeling broken because we are only willing at best to offer conditional love for ourselves. Self-loathing, shame, regret, and unforgiveness are just a few things eating away our peace, joy, self-compassion, and essentially our hope. Radical acceptance opens up the door to unconditional love. This love is something so many spend a lifetime trying to earn and yet it must first come from within. What would it be like to finally experience it?
- Owning our Narrative – “Only I could allow the bad to break me. I could own it, embrace it. When I’d learned that, the Ourosboros had yielded to me”: Feyre has suffered deeply. Her suffering was in some ways caused by the choices of those who were enlisted to protect her and in other ways by the burden of regret. Feyre decides to embrace all of these things rather than let them consume her. This radical acceptance changes the game. It gives her access to the power of the mirror, which releases the power of the Bone Carver, which ultimately gives her the pathway to victory. I can’t help but to wonder, what great power is lying dormant inside each of us just waiting to be released and lead us to victories of our own, if we would finally be willing to accept all that we are?
While I admire the character of Feyre, obviously I realize that she is the figment of the author’s imagination. Nonetheless, I think her make-believe story provides a meaningful lesson for us to learn from. All of us have battle scars from the human experience. Some are bigger than others. Some are the result of our own doing, while others were put there against our will at the hands of another. Pain is an inevitable part of life, and there is great grief that comes with that. At the same time, we don’t have to be weighed down by these things either. Radical acceptance allows us to honestly acknowledge the good, bad and ugly parts of our souls and learn to not only tolerate them, but thrive with them. It frees us to be us. What could we run towards, if we weren’t so busy running away from ourselves? It’s never too late and I can imagine the adventure and potential awaiting those who dare to try it.