Acceptance is the challenge of the day. While life always has an element of uncertainty, the unknown now seems amplified both in terms of quantity and duration in everyday life. We have adjusted, adapted, morphed, and pretzeled our minds and bodies in ways we had no way of imagining. Our global experience affects us deeply at a personal level. Our collective stress from the fear of relentless uncertainty is high. Acceptance can bring respite if we let it.
Acceptance is the process of acknowledging the reality of an event or situation, the unadulterated version, what really happened. Acceptance helps create space for the energy to move forward. How we frame our experiences affects our response to them.
All events and encounters carry opportunities for personal growth and self-care. The path of acceptance is individually unique. But, for everyone, it is an active, conscious choice. It offers relief and freedom derived from a willingness to see a circumstance with a sense of curiosity. Acceptance offers ways to make a beneficial difference in difficult conditions by changing the things you can, first within yourself, then sharing your transformation with others.
Acceptance is looking at the reality of the issue's existence with strength to seek options. When you can admit the incident as a statement of fact, you invite the peace and, sometimes, the resolution and closure, that comes with clarity. The grief, the resentment, the despair, the fear of the next moment fade, if only for a brief time. You then know what peace feels like and can draw upon that experience later.
Acceptance can be hard, particularly when an experience is fresh. The message and the wisdom that dwell underneath the distress may seem unfathomable. Separating the situation from the desire for a particular outcome seems daunting. Attempts to diminish or reverse the reality bring on more angst. You may fear that acceptance will take away your ability to recognize that something is not okay or to protect yourself, which could make you more vulnerable. Acceptance is neither resignation nor acquiescence. It does not equal inaction and is not a substitute for holding others accountable. Rather, it offers you clarity so you can move forward with renewed strength and conviction. A useful technique is to state an experience in as simple terms as possible. “The reality is that I cannot change today’s rain. But I can take my umbrella or save my errands for a drier day.”
Self-compassion helps you embrace and express your feelings in ways that do not harm you or others. Respect them in all their forms and intensity. They are real and valid, even if they fluctuate from moment to moment. Do not try to force yourself to accept before you are ready. Find safe people and safe methods to nurture yourself. Take time out when you need to. Spend time in your day or evening, if only for a minute or two, for introspection and reflection to check out your present-moment feelings.
Seek out the good that arose from the event or situation and express gratitude for those moments. Look for options and ways to contribute to a healing solution. Make plans and take actions to solve the problem(s) created by the hurtful conduct. You are empowered to fashion an approach with the gentleness of compassion for all involved. Another layer of resilience appears, then another and another and another like peeling wallpaper to get to the drywall underneath rather than all at once. It cannot be forced or rushed. The plateaus between layers reveal insights that help you integrate the experience.
Gratitude for what went right is a powerful, easy to access practice. It becomes particularly useful when you recognize the unpleasant things that could have happened but did not. “I was delayed by an unexpected phone call, but when I arrived at the restaurant, a car was backing out of the space closest to the door and I pulled right in. Otherwise, I would have had quite a trek across the snowy parking lot.”
You may eventually find the good in the situation or that arises from it. Look for the outpouring of kindness, support, encouragement, and helpfulness of family members and friends. Send a note or email of thanks to people who do not even know they affected you by a kind word or gesture. Often, tragedy shows us the best side of people.
There is another side to acceptance which may be just as difficult to grasp: The acknowledgment of something wonderful. Many people dream of mega good fortune like a financial windfall or their dream job or home. But when the wished-for vision happens, they self-sabotage and lose the opportunity or severely damage it because it is more than they imagined possible. How often has something good happened in your life and you exclaimed, “I can’t believe my good luck!” Rather, think about saying, “Wow, this is great! I love it when things like this happen.” You may be surprised how many people feel happy for and with you.
Your journal awaits. Here are some prompts to invite acceptance:
· Start by noticing throughout your day how often you want something to be other than it is.
· Ask yourself, “How can I see this differently?”
· Ask yourself, “What soothing words I need to hear?”
· Smile, grin, or laugh into a mirror and write every joyful word you know as fast as you can, even if you repeat some.
· Ask yourself, “What do I need to help me feel worthy of the situation?” Go for it!
· Ask yourself, “How many ways can I celebrate?” Make a commitment to do one of them.
There is no doubt that life is eventful and challenging. By adopting the habit of acceptance, your life can become calmer. With time and practice, you will become less reactive and more responsive to life’s challenges.
Be well. Be safe. Be at peace.
Billie Wade, a lifelong journaler, believes people are precious, sacred, resilient, and stronger than they know. She created Journaling to Heal, LLC which helps people discover the power of writing in their process of recovery from emotional stress and trauma. Visit her at www.billiewade.com and find more of her writing on www.dmpcc.org/billie where she writes a monthly newsletter column for Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.