This post marks the beginning of a 4 part series looking atpracticing acceptance. (Any additional parts added will be announced.) We’re kicking off this series by taking a look at what practicing acceptance actually is, and why it’s worth your while to consider incorporating this practice into your set of tools for living a positive life.
On a personal note, I’ve found practicing acceptance to be another one of those far reaching “magic wands” that make all the difference between feeling miserable and feeling happy go-lucky the majority of the time.
Practicing Acceptance is:
Choosing to observe situations and feelings as they really are
Observing your response as you experience unpleasant feelings, and recognizing your response to the feeling
Not struggling against, running from, or glossing over uncomfortable feelings that result from the negative situation
Not trying to force immediate change of the situation
What you gain from practicing acceptance:
Motivation for making change (discomfort is a strong catalyst for motivation to make change)
Gain Compassion for self and self-confidence (experiencing and observing your negative feelings creates “thinking room” between the negative feelings and you; this is where compassion for self has an opening to be felt; aiding the development of self-confidence and inner peace)
No longer consumed by the negative feelings trying to avoid
Practicing acceptance does not meancondoning, approving of, liking or wanting the negative situation at hand.
Practicing acceptanceis what allows you to suffer less, and prompts you to consider solutions.
What is practicing acceptance?
When you hear the word acceptance, what’s the first definition that comes to your mind? Let’s take a quick look at two of the most common misconceptions I personally hear, when discussing how acceptance relates to a positive outlook.
The first misconception about practicing acceptance: The belief that acceptance means you need to admit defeat, resign yourself to agree with a circumstance that is out of your control. The assumed solution that usually accompanies this belief is it is necessary to find a way to agree, or pretend to agree, with whatever or whoever is forcing the situation. Or, distract your-self; pretending it is not an emotionally uncomfortable situation.
The secondmisconception is: Wrongfully applying the definition of acceptance (the act of being generally validated, welcomed, and agreed with by others) to practicing acceptance.
Practicing acceptance is essentially taking a look, from a purposefully unbiased point of view, at what your true response is to any emotions you do not readily embrace. These “negative feelings”; such as grief, fear, sadness, heartache, frustration, loneliness, disappointment, boredom, etc., are what most people try to avoid, because they are uncomfortable or even painful to experience.
Interestingly enough, it can be difficult to label feelings when we are experiencing them. Later in this series we’ll take a look at some practical ways to learn how to spot them. Once again, in short form, the PROCESS OF PRACTICING ACCEPTANCE IS:
Choose to observe situations and feelings as they really are
Observe your response when feeling from a neutral position
Do not resist, ignore or gloss over uncomfortable feelings that arise
Do not try to force immediate change of the situation
WHY YOU WANT TO CHOOSE PRACTICING ACCEPTANCE
You may ask, what’s wrong with misconception one? Isn’t shrugging your shoulder and giving up, or distracting yourself, easier than feeling the discomfort? Nope, it’s not. The reason being: Just because you ignore, over-rationalize, or avoid a feeling, does not mean it will go away.
When we resign ourselves to avoiding negative feelings, just saying “oh well”, we become passive. Being passive does not create change. It is in fact, allowing ourselves to experience the pain of negative emotions, and observing them from a neutral place, that leads to feeling self-compassion. This compassion aids in developing self-confidence and inner peace.
Allowing ourselves to embrace what we don’t like also provides the motivation we need to change. Without change, you can expect more of the same the next time an uncomfortable or painful situation is at hand. An expression I love, which evolved from the influence of Ernest Hemingway (1929) and Leonard Cohen (1992), well illustrates the positives that result from experiencing painful emotions: “We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.”
(The result of trying to avoid experiencing negative emotions is covered in Anti-Challenge below).
What about handling negative feelings by struggling against them; refusing to accept external realities that you feel threatened by or are fearful of? Or trying to actually force change on the situation that sparked the feelings? Not a good outcome either. This is because when faced with a situation that creates uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings for you, and you try to force change on the situation, all you accomplish are three things:
You throw away time. A limited resource, you cannot get back.
You spend energy creating bigger stack of unpleasant feelings.
The energy you spend on fighting, you steal from actually gaining a bonus positive outcome
The bonus positive outcome I’m referring to, which can only be gained through experiencing and observing the unpleasant emotion, is: Discovery of silver linings only seen through adversity.
You may be tempted to brush off this benefit, even saying about the silver linings, “How can I miss something I didn’t know existed?” Think about that comment for a second. Is it not these type happy bonuses in life, this type of joy experienced while taking the less common traveled path of positivity, that lead you to desire it in the first place?
When looking at the choice of trying to force change on the reality of a situation, it’s important to remember: All you would be doing is protesting something you have no control over at the moment to begin with. The components of the situation are made up of external things; you do not really have control over anything past the end of your nose.
Fighting this losing battle, instead of allowing the experience of feeling discomfort, adds insult to injury. This avoidance stops any progress you could be making; progress which would allow you the opportunity to really change things.
As the purposeful thought process of reframing cannot teach you practicing acceptance, what’s to be accomplished with Anti-Challenge Reframing? Two things: First, I’ll demonstrate how you can motivate or convince yourself that practicing acceptance is a good idea through reframing . Second, I can relay the visualization I use to convince myself it’s not a good idea to avoid feeling my uncomfortable emotions.
Anti-Challenge Reframing Goals:
Motivate you to consider practicing acceptance
Prompt you to be willing to experience, rather than avoid, unpleasant emotions
Read through “Overcoming Balking” and “Visualization: Junk In My Closet”; consider embracing the practice of acceptance in your life.
When I struggled with believing wholeheartedly that practicing acceptance would beneficial, I looked at the following four truths, and my conclusion, to convince me to at least try:
FACT: Every day when I wake, I have limited amounts of only two main resources to spend during each day: Time and Energy. They are important; they factor heavily into what allows me to live, not just exist. FACT:Time is nonrenewable; once it passes, it’s gone. FACT: Once I’m out of energy, I stop mentally and physically, until I can replenish it. While energy is renewable, there is only so much time available to replenish it. FACT: When I meet resistance, any attempt I make to mentally or physically push against the force coming at me, spends my time and energy (as in the case of struggling against feeling emotions, or fighting to change the realities of a situation I have no influence over). CONCLUSION: I’m not going to waste my time and energy on a no-win. I have better things to do with my time and energy than bang my head against a wall trying to cure a headache. I would rather apply my resources toward a possible solution that produces lasting relief (and maybe squeeze in a photoshoot… or two.)
VISUALIZATION: “JUNK” IN MY CLOSET
Think of practicing acceptance as gaining the ability to open a closet full of unwanted junk. The unwanted junk stuffed in your closet are unpleasant experiences you’ve been avoiding.
out of your control, that affect you by sparking unpleasant emotions, happen in
life; they just do. Like it or not, there
will be unpleasant emotions to deal with.
When you do not
embrace and actually experience them they do not dissipate, they become the
“junk” in your closet; continuing to accumulate if you don’t experience them.
Keep in mind, there is only so much space in your closet. Get enough junk in there, and at some point, no matter how much force you apply, the door will not latch. Further yet, at some point, even applying enough force on the door to compress your junk stops working. Jamming it hard once again, are you surprised that the door splits, or the hinges are pulled from the wall? After all, that’s some sturdy junk you have in there, especially since you compressed it. The moral: Deal with your junk, or you’re going to have a good size mess.
(“Hope Springs Eternal”) I should have pulled into my driveway at least an hour and a half before I did this particular night. I was certainly tire enough to call it a day, however, no less than 4 times I yielded to the urge for “Just one more, then I’ll head home.” Two of those times, I’d even made it several hundred feet before something tugged at my heart enough to pull over for another dozen frames. Though I can’t deny, I was having a lot of fun. Some days are like that; seems every time I turn around, something catches my eye. This picture was one of the last taken as I left one of my favorite stomping grounds, a hospital complex. I’m guessing if anyone reviewing security footage spied me they got a chuckle. I only had a 75-300mm lens with me, making it an interesting challenge to get far enough away for a shot that wasn’t obstructed by some pesky rose bush, electrical box, or other such nonsense. By the time I finished with this subject, it felt like quite a feat had been accomplished. I’m guessing it had something to do with the crouching, leaning and sinking ankle deep in a puddle or two of water, while working my way up and down a small grass median, that made it feel more like a madcap adventure than a parking lot. No wonder I love photography so much.
Image: “Hope Springs Eternal” f/5.6 – 1/250– ISO 6400 focal length 250mm Canon EOS 80D 10/01/18
NEXT: ACCEPTANCE PART 2 (Publishing February 2, 2019)
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Very much looking forward to sharing topics and suggestions with you which have contributed to my own positive outlook on life, as well as providing information you are welcome to utilize in nurturing your own life's journey.
Truly hope you find this blog to be a bright spot in your days, and enjoy the rewards that come with a positive outlook!