The first time the term “acceptance” was really brought to my attention was in personal therapy 10 years ago. We were discussing my illness and recent diagnosis, my therapist suggested I “accept” my illness. I remember rejecting her suggestion and becoming resistant and defensive. My critical inner voice was shouting out “No I won’t”. I think when we are initially shocked by terrible news we think that not accepting it will mean it is not happening, but we all know that life does not work like this.
I have since learnt that wanting to change something that is out of my control was causing me more pain and suffering than accepting it for what it is. I needed to learn how to adapt.
Acceptance does not mean that you like something or choose something you do not want to, but by resisting and rejecting things we create more pain and suffering. It doesn’t mean we have to endorse our anxiety, depression, illness, chronic pain or loss rather when you are not able to change the situation, allow it space to be there, give yourself permission to feel the experience without creating unhealthy thoughts and emotions around it. The pain will still be there, but some of the sufferings will be alleviated.
Acceptance is a process, that has to be practised, it requires time and effort and can seem impossible, daunting and overwhelming. We don’t wake up one day and suddenly choose to accept our emotional and physical pain, our difficult relationships, our past and our losses. However,r the more we practise acceptance we can eventually create and strengthen the neural pathways in our brain, a bit like walking a new path across a field in time we create a new pathway.
Acceptance, it is not a sign of giving up or apathy. It does not mean you’re accepting that a situation will be that way forever. We can all still adapt and make changes to our thoughts, emotions and well being by acknowledging their impermanence. Focus your acceptance on the present but also be realistic about the future, Do not be under the pretence that things will magically change, acceptance involves letting go of magical thinking. It’s natural to oscillate between feelings of acceptance and feelings of resistance but persevere and in time you will notice your internal critical voice becoming quieter.
Acceptance can be practised in all areas of life and I encourage all of us to practice it in these challenging and unprecedented times that we find ourselves in. Start gently using the exercises towards your current experience, your thoughts, your emotions, your past. Recognise, that you can’t always change the current nature of your situation, but learning the art of sitting with discomfort, focusing on your breath, feeling it, naming the emotion, journalling it, with practice these exercises help us to manage our anxiety and help us to turn down the intensity of our resistance.
I would love to hear how acceptance has benefited or been detrimental to areas in your life.
Stay safe and be well Pip x
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;