Not fighting what is and moving towards acceptance is freeing. Resistance is a force of nature. The good thing is that force is totally within our control. We can choose to either combat our experiences or accept them. Often, rejecting the event doesn’t change our reality, it just adds to the pain.
It’s fair to say that suffering often determines whether we label an experience as good or bad, right? Well, while we may not be able to control every situation, you might be happy to learn that we can control our level of suffering. There is a Buddhist philosophy that “Suffering = pain x resistance.” Essentially, accepting the “pain” (or reality, or experience) causes less anguish than struggling against it. And when our suffering is minimized, then the situation is easier to just accept – and not classify as good or bad. There is power in suspending judgment. This hardship may be the burden before the blessing. It’s important to remain hopeful that there is something to be gained from this discomfort.
We can’t see the entire perspective of our lives. Whatever we are experiencing right now is only a small part of the bigger picture. Recognizing this can be empowering. It doesn’t mean that one day in the future we will make perfect sense of everything that we have experienced, but with time and space, it becomes easier to look back and figure out why – giving the experiences of our life meaning. We spend a lot of time discussing this concept with our clients who are struggling to see that there is life after a DUI arrest.
Life is designed to give us all of the experiences, the ups and the downs. Nobody gets only good times. As society we try to avoid feeling uncomfortable and talking about the hard times and our mistakes. But trying to minimize the hard times only brings more pain when things feel tough or we make mistakes. We feel more ashamed and we feel alone in our misstep, when the reality is that plenty of people have gone through the same thing as you.
Now, making the decision to adopt the ‘acceptance doctrine’ is definitely easier said than done. While the word on its surface seems rather simple, there are some important things to acknowledge to help you find success with it. This great article by Mondbodygreen, helps to unpack what acceptance really means. Below, we will summarize the author’s five points to help you better understand the concept:
1. Acceptance does not mean liking, wanting, choosing, or supporting the “pain”.
It doesn’t mean that you’ve chosen or endorse what you’re accepting. Rather, you’re choosing to allow it to be there when you can’t change it in that moment. To make space for it. To give yourself permission to be as you are, feel what you feel, or have experienced what you’ve experienced without creating unproductive shame or anxiety.
2. Acceptance is an active process. It must be practiced.
Remember that “accept” is a verb. It’s an active process, one that must be practiced consciously. It’s rare that we one day choose to accept our emotional or physical pain, our bodies, our difficult relationships, or our pasts, and never think about it again. It can require effort at times. It can be frustrating at times.
3. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you can’t work on changing things.
Many people believe that acceptance is a sign of apathy. Passivity. Giving up. Relinquishing agency. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Acceptance can be practiced alongside action. You can accept your body and still change it, accept your emotions and acknowledge their impermanence, and accept your behavior one day when you might change it tomorrow.
4. Acceptance doesn’t mean you’re accepting is going to be that way forever.
Acceptance doesn’t always mean whatever you’re accepting will be that way forever. Try to focus your acceptance on the present, alongside an open and realistic gaze at the future.
5. We can practice acceptance toward our experience, people, appearance, emotions, ideas, and more.
Acceptance can be practiced in all areas of your life: You can exercise it toward your current experience or reality, others’ beliefs or ideas, your appearance, your emotions, your health, your past, your thoughts, or other people.
So, in sum, try not to judge what happens to you. Instead, believe that everything happens for a reason. You already feel the initial pain of the hard time, so why add to your suffering by dwelling on it. Rather than lamenting and over-thinking it, choose to live with the reality and move forward. That’s the beginning of true acceptance.