Learn how to Accept your Feelings instead of Fight Them

accept your feelings

You should have learned a little about acceptance and how it can help your with your feelings in the page before this, and my hope is that you refine some of your  knowledge by browsing through these videos and stories. I use these to teach about acceptance, a tough concept to grasp, in my office.

The strategies below are mindfulness strategies I teach my clients. They are essentially ways to handle emotions and challenging situations in life. Acceptance is one of the cornerstones I teach in all of my therapy sessions whether my clients are suffering from anxiety or depression.

Buddhism and the Parable of the Two arrows:
Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional.

So much of what is being incorporated into the third wave therapy these days is adapted from Buddhism, and the concept of acceptance is definitely one such example.

In order to understand this concept, we can do it best by looking back directly to Buddha’s teachings of the Pali Cannon. These Suttas, are considered the most direct, authentic  and original teachings.

It’s fascinating to me that an  teaching from over 2000 years ago can be so relevant to modern day psychology. But research is showing that these concepts and ideas when applied in a psychotherapist’s office are matching our best therapy to date CBT in many studies!

This is part of the lengthy Sallatha Sutta the teaching that we are now calling the second arrow:

The Blessed One said, “When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental. Just as if 
they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, were to shoot him with another one, so that he would feel the pains of two arrows; in the same way, when touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructedrun-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental.

Think about how you respond to  angersadness or  anxiety.

  • What things do you  say and do to get rid of it shame or shame yourself?
  • Do you  fight  the experience rather than accept your feelings?

This is the resistance that often complicates your ability to  process and skillfully move through the emotion.

The reaction to our  painful emotions is so often to inflict more pain on ourselves! The Buddha  compares this phenomena to the idea of our  being shot with an arrow ( the thing that causes us the difficult emotion) and
then  responding by shooting ourselves with another arrow.

Here is a simple video illustration of this concept:

Here is a more complex one:

Marsha Linehan and her View Of Acceptance

Marsha Linehan, who developed Dialectal Behavior Therapy(DBT) ,also speaks a lot about acceptance. DBT  has been lifesaving and life changing for a tremendous amount of individuals. In the video below, she talks about how she developed her therapy and she says “suppressing what you want is not the way to go but not getting what you want in any given moment is not a catastrophe.” This idea is helpful for practicing acceptance, I think. She is brilliant.

In a series of steps and skills DBT teaches people to recognize that suffering is created in their lives by non acceptance of reality and that there are steps they can take to get out of it. These steps include practicing what she calls: radical acceptance, turning the mind, and willingness.

This is a different but also very effective approach to learning acceptance but not an area I specialize in. You can learn all about it by searching around the internet.

Tara Brach

Tara Brach is a therapist who has done a lot of work in the area of acceptance in psychology and her philosophy of radical acceptance combines techniques of meditation, self compassion, gratitude and somatic therapy to help acknowledge and process emotions. She often uses the acronym RAIN to help teach her clients to process difficult emotions with acceptance and self compassion and thus avoid the two arrows. My clients love this strategy to help them accept their feelings and remember it easily because of the acronym. RAIN stands for:

Recognize what is happening.

Allow the experience to be there, just as it is.

Investigate with interest and care.

Nurture with self-compassion.

Click here to check out her website. I use a lot of her ideas with my clients.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
( ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is another popular type of mindfulness  based therapy, that I am trained in and practice. In ACT we use metaphors to help a client understand how counterproductive non acceptance is, although it is something we all do.  I’m including some videos of metaphors to explain  these ideas below in hopes they will illuminate the concept for you.

The Unwelcome Party Guest Metaphor

The Struggle Switch Metaphor

The Quicksand Metaphor

The Passengers on a Bus Metaphor. This metaphor has to do with acceptance and tolerance of thoughts and memories too.

The Chinese Finger Trap metaphor. This metaphor has to do with aspects of accepting a situation and focusing on controlling what you can.


In addition to these metaphors other I also at times will use meditations in my office that illustrate how to relate to difficult emotions. Kristen Neff, who has spearheaded all of the recent research on self compassion has many linked here.  I recently have begun the process of becoming trained as a self compassion teacher, self compassion is a practice that has changed the life of most of my clients and it fits well with other mindful practices.

In this page, I’ve tried to include a  broad outline of therapies that use acceptance, a link to some metaphors and videos that explain it, and a page of meditations to help you practice it. I hope this has been helpful in understanding and working on the idea of acceptance. Remember there is a worksheet here.

You may also be interested in these other pages on self compassion, how to be more self compassionate, mindfulness and self compassion, what is mindfulness meditation, and more about acceptance. mindfulness in therapy

Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.