Acceptance: The Chessboard Metaphor
Updated: Jun 19
We all know the game of chess. We can picture the board with 32 pieces on it: 16 pieces white, 16 black. Dating back 1500 years, the game of chess has continued to teach us topics such as logic, strategy and planning. Now let’s get metaphorical and let it teach us about acceptance. Imagine that the game of chess is life. Now imagine that your negative feelings are the white pieces: emotions like anger, shame and sadness. These, of course, are the feelings we want to eliminate. On the other side of the board are the black pieces which represent positive feelings and thoughts such as: emotions like joy, pride and awe. We love these feelings and we want to hold onto them.
The Immortal Nature of Negative Feelings
Consider each game of chess to be a time in our lives, perhaps a short moment or maybe a longer period. The white pieces battle the black pieces in a game of strategy and planning. At different game stages there might be more white pieces than black or visa versa, other times one team wins over the other. However, all the pieces must always remain in the box in order to play chess, and the same is true of life. You need the white pieces in your life. You can’t live a life free of pain, and for good reason. We need those negative feelings as warnings. We need to feel pain when we break our arm to inform us that we need to go to the hospital and the same is true for less physical feelings such as guilt. We need to feel guilt when we do something wrong, so we can correct our mistake and not do it again. But sometimes we feel like we’re losing a battle when we feel negative emotions. We live in a society where everyone should be happy and nobody should be sad. As a result, we might be putting ourselves under pressure to push any negative feelings away. However, we come to learn that the white pieces cannot be eliminated but we still continue to try. The result is mental exhaustion. But what if I told you that it’s not the white pieces or negative feelings that are the issue here. What if instead, I told you that you're playing the wrong role in this game of chess?
So Who are you in the Game of Chess?
Now take a moment to think about who you are in this game. You’re not the pieces, as they’re just your feelings. Nor are you the player, because we can’t control our emotions, we can’t stop these feelings from appearing. The players represent our experiences: situations that provoke emotion. So there’s only one thing left that you could be and that is the board. Sounds strange I know but think about it. The board is where the white and black pieces battle, just like your mind is where you experience both positive and negative feelings. As you are not the player, you can’t control which feelings are dominating, but you can look up and observe. You can take notice of how you are feeling at any particular time and be reassured that you, the board, are not your feelings. You experience those feelings, they happen within you. You can observe them, you can manage your reaction to them, and you can emerge unchanged for the next game.
So What does this Metaphor Actually Mean?
We can exhaust ourselves trying to remove all negative feelings in an attempt to have positive feelings all the time despite clear evidence demonstrating that it's impossible. But rather than gearing up for an exhausting combat, we can learn to simply enjoy the process. We can accept the negative feelings for what they are: feelings. We experience them, but they are not us. We are the board, we can simply look up and observe, and there is ease in that. The pieces are a fundamental to the game of chess, just as all our emotions are fundamental to our lives. As the board, whether a game is taking place, or we are sitting in the box, those pieces/emotions stay with us. Just as the board is unfixed, we too can of course still progress with anything in our lives or change direction, regardless of what the pieces are doing at any given time. Learn to live with your negative emotions and you learn to live better.
So in conclusion, remember that you’re not the pieces. Your emotions influence you but they do not control you. Instead, be the board. Accept that your feelings, both positive and negative, are here to stay.
Yours Sincerely, The Motus Movement. Now click here and learn how to manage your reaction to these feelings.