In life, I have learned that there are three possible things you can do when you encounter a difficult situation. You can either change it, leave it, or accept it. In this post, we will tackle the last choice we often do which seems to be a tough road to walk into. So let’s talk about one principle of mindfulness: acceptance.
People commonly find this very difficult to do. It’s the mindfulness principle we all seem to struggle with because, as humans, we often let our emotions get ahead of us.
And in the case of accepting something, research says it doesn’t naturally come as our primary reaction. M.L. Cooper wrote an article about the 4 stages of acceptance, wherein there is an initial deniability of the situation before the actual acceptance stage.
This means that sometimes, learning how to accept something takes time. It gets harder as people always perceive this as a concept similar (and what the article further explains) with the words “resignation” and “passivity.”
Mindfulness always teaches us to focus on the now. But what if you are having a hard time accepting what’s happening now? May it be an emotion or a situation. How can we really learn to accept the things that happen to us?
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Luckily, all things can be simple if we want it to be. I wrote this post to hopefully break down the concept of acceptance, with a mindful approach, and possibly know the reasons why we often find acceptance so hard to achieve.
Reasons Why Sometimes it’s Hard To Achieve Acceptance
In conflict with our beliefs
Acceptance isn’t necessarily about you and your foundations. It isn’t about disrespecting your beliefs as a person. When we make all situations about us, we struggle with acceptance because we think that we’d have to drink down our pride, abandon what we believe, and allow a different idea to take over us.
We tend to say, “I can’t” because truthfully, subconsciously, we really don’t want to submit to the fact that accepting something can be good for us. An article in psychology today suggests that [self-] acceptance is hard to do on this matter because “we believe we’re giving up control.”
It’s important to know that acceptance is different from losing control yet they can be incorporated together. In fact, acceptance is an answer to those things out of our control. You can read my guest post on Jirah’s blog about what having no control feels like.
We let our emotions get ahead of us
Maybe we feel betrayed, disappointed, or angry. Those emotions can really stay inside us for a long time. Along with grief and other strong negative emotions, these can lead us blinded for a long time and make us forget that there is a way to move past it. As a result, we become stuck in the first denial stage of acceptance.
This is why mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with acceptance. Becoming mindful means that we can understand how difficult situations can be beneficial for us, that we value the bigger picture– growth and acceptance– more than what our emotions could do to us.
We believe that acceptance is often the last resort for our problems
“You couldn’t relive your life, skipping the awful parts, without losing what made it worthwhile. You had to accept it as a whole–like the world, or the person you loved.”Stewart O’Nan
Admit it, it’s easier to let go and leave it all behind when we encounter a tough circumstance. Changing it, on the other hand, can be stressful too. But what about those things we can’t change? What about those problems we can’t leave behind?
Well, I can’t blame you. Some problems are very hard to deal with that our mind’s initial responses would be to get away from it or not think about it.
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Sometimes we don’t have the courage
Lastly, sometimes we just don’t have the courage to do it as easy as we say it. We get disheartened, we feel as if we don’t deserve to achieve it, and sometimes we feel like acceptance is the hardest thing we could do.
Well, yes. Not all people are strong enough to accept those that hurt them; not all are brave enough to face every situation head-on. Believe me, I have known this. Those who do, already know how things work.
These are just some of the possible reasons why we struggle with understanding acceptance. Furthermore, no matter what reason we have, whether we’re scared, proud, or simply not a fan of it, acceptance can be a powerful thing to use if you want to change how you look through life.
I have read an awesome article from tiny buddha about The Power of Acceptance. It teaches us a lot about cultivating acceptance and its ability to change how we cope with our future challenges, in this life of uncertainty.
Breaking it down: Acceptance on a microlevel
The first step in dealing with acceptance is to understand the root of the situation, and if possible, to understand the reasons why we feel adamant towards the idea of it.
With these things considered, one of the possible reasons why we so struggle accepting is because of the feelings or emotions that these situations give us.
We’ll be looking at acceptance on a microlevel, starting from one single emotion that a situation or circumstance could give us.
The emotion that you developed because of a situation or a problem you find hard to accept. Focus on that and on how your body carries that emotion.
Do not yet focus on your ability to overcome. Don’t set your mind into expecting something to happen faster, like maybe getting over that emotion. As we break it down along this post, hopefully, this will help you understand acceptance on a deeper, more meaningful level.
Give it some space
Giving that emotion some space doesn’t mean that you have to get in terms of what’s currently happening to you. This only means that you have to allow that emotion or situation to be there.
Learn to sit with that emotion, and don’t resist what you currently feel. Don’t even try to change what you feel. Rather, become aware of that specific feeling.
Welcome your emotion as it is– raw and full of truth. Because that’s who we are. We feel things and we develop emotions and behaviors because of it. But this doesn’t mean that our emotions are who we are, no.
We are not our thoughts and feelings. We are the ones who mindfully observe them and notice that they exist as part of human nature.
Understand and acknowledge that it exists
You have to understand that this emotion is existing right now and that more importantly, like all other emotions, it will eventually go.
It’s a bit different from letting it be there. When you acknowledge, you kind of have to “make friends” with the fact that this feeling exists. Imagine it as if it was another person sitting beside you on a bench in the park.
Sitting with that “person” is different from talking to it, acknowledging its existence, and respecting the idea that you are not the only one sitting on that bench.
If you’re feeling the emotion of resentment, it’s hard to talk about it. You know that it’s there, but are you really giving it the power to exist if you just ignore the fact that you are resentful?
If it helps, try to also understand why you feel that way. Finding the reason or purpose of why some things happen will, in no doubt, help you achieve acceptance much easily. Embrace all things as they come.
Being honest with yourself helps you understand why you feel the things you feel. Take a step back and look at everything from a different view. Say to yourself that this is what you feel right now.
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Give it some power to exist. If you deny that you feel that way, it simply implies that you are resisting yourself from moving on. How can you move on when you don’t want to acknowledge how you feel?
Denial is not helpful. We feel what we feel, and we can’t stop it. We can only try to understand and make the most out of it.
Be Patient With Yourself
Yes, all of this might seem easier said than done. So, this is why you have to have patience. More importantly, when your emotions are heavier ones like grief, sadness, or depression. It will take longer days to finally learn to accept those emotions. So, let all those come and address them mindfully.
Give yourself some time to think and analyze all of it, and respond to those with compassion and understanding.
All things, good or bad, come and go.
Let yourself feel what you have to feel.
Acceptance on a bigger view
Now that we’ve figured how to deal with our initial emotions when struggling with acceptance, we’ll further talk about how these could affect the bigger picture.
What can this simple trait do for us? What can it teach us? How does it really work?
Acceptance takes place now
In my previous post on the things you can learn from practicing mindfulness, I have included acceptance and explained how it takes place at the moment.
Similarly, if we wish to use it for our future encounters, maybe change or approach things in our lives differently, we can start by accepting things as they are at this moment especially if it’s the only thing we can do.
This means that you must not dwell on what happened in the past, and not expect something to happen at once. Mindfully speaking, you have power over your emotions, neither in the past, nor in the future, but now.
You have the upper hand over the things you currently feel when you are in a situation. If you keep fighting it and resist accepting what happened, you only create distress for yourself.
Acceptance causes less suffering
When we learn to acknowledge what we feel, we don’t have to deal with the pain much heavier. Although accepting something doesn’t guarantee that the pain will not be remembered anymore, it still gives us some sense of integrity reminding us that we are still the same despite having to feel certain emotions.
We keep thinking that when we accept something, we must take it all in. It’s like eating the food that we hate so much! But no, it doesn’t work that way. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you have to like what you’re current situation is, and that you have to stay that way forever.
It’s similar with making peace with what you currently feel.
Have you ever had that moment in your life when you find it so hard to take in what’s happening? What steps did you take? We’re you able to comprehend what acceptance really means?
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