Accepting the Unacceptable

santa monica therapist and counselorYou may have heard of the importance of acceptance in order to be truly happy.  It is a primary component of 12 step programs, meditation practices and self help forums.  However, for many of us, acceptance is much easier said than done.  People are often resistant to even attempt to accept difficult events and situations, which actually makes sense from a psychological perspective.  People will tend to avoid, deny or resist unpleasant or alarming conditions, as these reactions are rooted in our human fight or flight response to perceived threats.  One of the reasons for this automatic reaction to acceptance has to do with the way in which people define and perceive it, as well as the many associations people have with the term itself.

Acceptance is often equated with surrender and resignation.  Acceptance (psychologically speaking) is not about giving up, nor is it an admission of defeat.  Acceptance can be defined as an acknowledgement of reality at any given point in time.  It is the realization that you cannot argue with what has already happened.  This does not mean that you need to “embrace” an unfortunate situation or condone an unpleasant act.  This simply means that you are fully recognizing the actuality of an occurrence.  You do not need to justify, agree with or like what has happened in order to accept it. Contrary to popular opinion, you also do not need to “let it go” (an overused phrase and often impossible goal to achieve).  You do, however, need to authentically allow it into your awareness so you can, in fact, learn to “let it be”.

So, if it is so hard to accept unfortunate, unpleasant conditions and events, why even try?  The benefits of acceptance are numerous as they pertain to your wellbeing, your relationships and the command you have over your life.  It isn’t until you face the realities of what’s happening that you can fully move forward with effectiveness and clarity.  If you are stuck in anger, disbelief or resentment, there is little energy to be applied to the here and now as well as to the future.   If the focus is primarily on defending against the “unacceptable” situation, there is little space available for exploring the most effective ways to respond to it.  Floundering in the drain of resentment, the paralysis of avoidance and the blindness of denial will create obstacles to a sense of empowerment, satisfaction, and peace of mind, and will rob you of the opportunity to proceed in a proactive, self influenced manner.

Learning to accept is an ongoing process that requires conscious effort and practice.  Making yourself aware of the different avenues that can lead to acceptance and remembering the advantages that will accompany it can open the door to reward, stability and peace throughout various areas of your life.