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Acceptance is a mindulness technique that I practice with and teach to my clients. Essentially, acceptance is about learning how to live in harmony with conditions that we cannot change, rather than expending a great deal of energy struggling with anger and resistance when things surprise us or don't go our way.
Using the strategy of acceptance in life to deal with depression and anxiety is a technique that is helpful for people who suffer from unhappiness of any kind.
Our goal with acceptance of reality is to learn to engage and cooperate with reality and say to ourselves " This is the way things are right now." Instead of " I cant stand the way things are right now and I won't allow it."
I like this quote and believe it is helpful in illustrating this idea of acceptance, the way we use it in therapy.
“Acceptance is observation of life and suspension of judgment about whether what is happening is good or bad, right or wrong.”
Anytime you are in a state of struggle against reality,or you are harshly judging an experience you create distress and cloud your problem solving ability.
Dropping judgement assists you in being able to eventually evaluate situations and also to make decisions about how to handle them effectively.
Evaluating situations, actions, feelings, or thoughts as "good or bad" and "right or wrong" often triggers feelings of guilt and shame or conflict that are overwhelming.
The use of acceptance is a strategy of changing your reaction to situations that are unavoidable, to one that is less resistant. Another way to define acceptance is not arguing with reality, dropping the struggle with what is, or dropping resistance to your experience.
Acceptance of emotions is a truly powerful thing. We often have not idea how much judgement of our emotional state exacerbates the diffiuclty of our experience. If you are angry, sad and anxious, and rather than accept that you are in that emotional state you resist it and judge yourself, it will take much longer for you to return to balanced and equanimous state.
Not arguing with reality, is essentially, not causing yourself more distress when there is something that is happening or has happened that that you don’t like.
Some examples of non acceptance are focusing on thinking how:
This focus in your thinking generates anger, jealousy, insecurity, and unhappiness. Also, it does not help you to solve relationship or life problems but causes you to get stuck in an emotional state that is not comfortable.
When you are in a state of non acceptance, you get stuck in the place of resistance, rather than being able to problem solve effective ways to deal with things.
Check out acceptance on the mindful website
You ate a choclate bar last night and were on a diet. You focus on how you shouldn’t have eaten a chocolate bar last night, that will begin to stir up feelings of guilt and shame about emotional eating. You can easily get stuck there rather than moving on.
You say: "Why did I do that? I shouldn't have! Whats wrong with me? Why won't I ever make a good food decision? I am bad and my eating habits are wrong."
Strategy 2 Acceptance
Acknowledging that you ate the chocolate bar, and that it is something that you don’t want to happen in the future, because you are trying to be healthy , is a nonjudgemental accepting way to approach the problem. This will enable you to get curious about what led to the chocolate bar eating incident and move forward so it doesn’t happen again.
Calling yourself bad, or insisting what you did you shouldn’t have done has a different effect on how you approach the problem, doesn’t it?
Another example of acceptance follows.
Let’s say you are sitting in traffic. You did not anticipate the traffic and you will now be late to work. You become agitated and angry in such a situation. You may say in your head over and over how it shouldn’t be the way it is or how you should have done something differently to avoid the traffic. You may work yourself up into and angry and agitated state, at others or at yourself for your perceived failure to predict and outsmart the traffic.
In this situation, how will you feel? Likely angry, depressed, worried, distressed, stressed or even guilty. Yet you haven’t changed the fact that you are stuck in traffic.
Strategy 2 Acceptance
If you can practice acceptance, you reduce the stress that you cause yourself ( in the form of your thoughts and insistence that things be other than how they are). You many say, I don't like this, but it is the way it is. May as well strategize a way for it to not happen next time, and also enjoy the moment by listening to some music or making a phone call to a friend.
It’s a subtle difference between acknowledging and moving forward, or getting stuck in resistance or non acceptance.
Acceptance is not resignation. Acceptance does not mean that you give up and just “ accept” that you are overweight, or in an unhappy marriage, or depressed. It merely means that you honestly appraise the situation and stop insisting it should be different when it isn’t. From that point of acceptance, you are able to logically strategize how to address the issue to change it, rather than getting stuck in the negative emotions of thinking it should be different.
Marsha Linehan uses the example of a car to illustrate the concept. If you go to a mechanic, your breaks have been squeaking and not working correctly and he says you need new breaks. What would happen if you would spend time insisting it shouldn’t be the case. Arguing with the mechanic, and then refusing to fix the problem because “ it shouldn’t be that way?.” Well likely you would get in a car accident!
The concept of acceptance in life really functions the same way, even though we can’t see quite so clearly how it holds us back. Acceptance helps you drop the resistance and unskillful feelings that can keep your trapped. It then helps you move to a logical place of making a skillful decision about how to solve something in your life that is not working.
Leave acceptance in life for information on mindfulness meditation