Acceptance is a mindfulness 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 can't 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 oppositional reaction to situations that are unchangeable in the moment, to one that is less resistant. Some other ways to describe acceptance are: 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 no idea how much judgement of our emotional state exacerbates the difficulty of our experience. If you are angry, sad and anxious, and you resist it and judge yourself, it will take much longer for you to return to a balanced and calm state.
Below is a form I use with my clients to help them to learn how to practice acceptance when they are stuck. An image of page one of the form is shown below.
Not arguing with reality is, essentially, not causing yourself more distress when something is happening or has happened 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
Some people confuse acceptance with giving up. Acceptance is not resignation. Acceptance does not mean that you just “ accept” that you are overweight, or in an unhappy marriage, or depressed. It merely means that you honestly appraise the situation and stop expending all your energy insisting it should be different when it isn’t.
Marsha Linehan uses the example of a car to illustrate the concept. If you go to a mechanic because your brakes have been squeaking and not working correctly and the mechanic says you need new brakes, what would happen if you spent the entire time insisting it shouldn’t be the case? 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 us drop the resistance and unskillful feelings that can keep us trapped. It then helps us move to a logical place of making a skillful decision about how to solve something in our lives that is not working.
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