“Okay,” you’re thinking. “I’m sold on the idea that it would be good for me to work on accepting myself, others, and life’s situations. But how do I do this?” There are five points about acceptance and the notion of unconditional acceptance that will open you to your accepting abilities. To make it even easier, I’ll also give you ten tips to build and maintain a strong Triad of Acceptance.
First, in order to open yourself to the idea of acceptance when you’re feeling non-accepting, I’ve found that it is helpful to ask yourself, “What about this is in my control, and what is not in my control?” When you ask this question, it often focuses you upon that which you can change and that which you presently cannot change. The simple act of recognizing the difference often helps you to shift your focus and release the energy that is wrapped up in the area of that which you cannot change.
Second, you can begin to understand the difference between acceptance and liking something. Just because you accept something as it is does not mean that you like it that way. I accept that I have osteopaenia, a bone condition that precedes osteoporosis. I don’t like it, but there is nothing I can do about the fact that this is my present diagnosis.
What I can do, now that I’ve accepted it, is to look at my options from here. I can figure out a plan of action based upon what I consider my best options, and then I can implement the plan and get regular feedback from my doctor. So, just because you accept something, it does not mean that you like it, or that you would wish for it to be that way. Because you don’t control the universe, very often things won’t be exactly as you’d prefer for them to be, but it is far easier to accept them and move on!
Third, it helps to understand that acceptance is not the same as resignation. Resignation means that you are giving up, that you think that something will never change, and that therefore you will not try to make any improvements. Acceptance, on the contrary, means that you recognize that what is just is, but that it may not always be as it is today. Acceptance thereby mobilizes you to have the energy to work toward change because you are not stuck trying to change that which you cannot, and you begin to focus upon that which you can change.
The fourth point to opening yourself to the idea of acceptance is to make your Acceptance Triad unconditional. Unconditional acceptance means that under any condition, you can see and acknowledge that what is just is. You can recognize that you don’t control all aspects of life, others, or yourself. Moreover, it means that you can accept people (including yourself) without liking everything about them or the things they do.
So, if your spouse is acting rudely to one of your friends, you might not like his behavior, but you can accept him as a human being with flaws despite his crummy behavior! Instead of thinking, “He’s a worthless crummy person,” you would instead think, “What he’s doing is crummy.” The same would apply to you. If you’d done something that you considered wrong, you’d define the behavior as poor, rather than yourself.
Instead of saying, “I’m no good,” you’d instead say, “It is no good that I did that.” In the case of a shabby situation, you might say, “This was shabby,” rather than saying, “Life is shabby.” You would let go of forecasting the future of your whole life, and look at each situation separately.
What if something in your life is just not fair? Obviously, in an extremely poor situation, it can be challenging to accept what is. Remember, however, acceptance is different from resignation. Acceptance is the starting point for freeing yourself to determine what you want to do or think about next. Situations may be very bad, and people may act very badly, but non-acceptance leads you down a nonproductive road of blaming, complaining, and shutting down. Would you rather shut down, or acknowledge what is, and then rise to the challenge?
How would you approach this type of challenge with unconditional acceptance? You might strive to improve the situation, knowing that just getting angry about it isn’t going to change a thing for you. Tina’s ex-husband forces her and her children into custody battles every couple of years, despite the fact that she’s repeatedly proven her wonderful mothering abilities and her children voice their desire to stay with her.
Tina not only does not like this situation, she is financially impaired by it every time. She has two general categories of choices: the choice of non-acceptance, or the choice of unconditional acceptance.
When she chooses non-acceptance, she becomes angry and enraged. She might spend hours on the phone crying in frustration or even planning ways to get even; however, the cost of this stance is that her overall coping is compromised and the benefit is—well, there is no apparent lasting benefit.
If she chooses unconditional acceptance, she can allow herself to feel sad and annoyed in reaction to the inconvenience of another custody battle, but she would accept that this is the crummy reality of her particular situation and prepare herself and her children as best as she can.
At some point, Tina might be in a position to become politically active and work to modify the injustice that she and others experience from what she views as financial abuse. As you can see, neither response is actually changing the reality of the present situation, but the second response helps Tina remain mobilized and cope more successfully.
The fifth and final point to opening yourself to acceptance is this: As you unconditionally accept yourself, others, and conditions, realize that acceptance is a process. It is ongoing. Don’t worry if you’re not perfectly accepting, just notice when you aren’t and work on it. You can accomplish a lot by simply asking yourself, “Am I accepting what is?” Keep it going, and you’ll feed your tendency to be accepting. Like a plant, acceptance needs ongoing sunshine, water, and nutrients to thrive.
For more information: The Power of Inner Guidance
About the author:
Pam Garcy, PhD is a psychologist, author, speaker, supervisor and professor. She is the founder of MyInnerGuide.com and has been interviewed by national radio shows and magazines. Pam lives with her husband, children and many pets in a suburb of Dallas, Texas.
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