Acceptance is a concept – a state of mind – a way of looking at life and problems. It is a way of thinking that can be applied to any circumstance. It is a pivotal point that takes us from what we can’t do to possibilities, options and choices.
Problems have a magnetic way of holding us in place – like fly paper – we get stuck in the mess of it all and can’t see a way out. Acceptance takes us out of a victim role and puts us in charge of our lives. It keeps us from playing the blame game where everything from circumstances to people, parents, siblings, religion, God, whatever, are blamed for our inability to do anything. It puts us in charge of our responses regardless of what life throws at us. (See my blog, “Freedom, our ability to choose…”)
With acceptance we can begin asking these questions: “What isn’t working and why? What am I resisting that requires a change in my thinking and habits? What do I really want to have happen? What is in my control? What is out of my control? Am I making individual personalities the problem versus how I relate and communicate? Can I expand my options by creative brainstorming? In developing a plan of action, where do I start?” Acceptance helps us to better define and articulate the problem.
In my blogs earlier this month, I referred to Arnold Beisser’s book, “Flying without Wings: Personal Reflections on Loss, Disability and Healing” where Arnold talks about having his whole life ahead of him when he got polio that left him paralyzed, unable to move, in an iron lung. (See my blog “Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t) Gradually, as he accepted his situation, he became “an active observer, rather than a passive one”. He wrote, “Even though I could not move, I could actively engage with whatever was around me through the play of senses. . . I could be more than a helpless victim, and I could have a part in determining my life and what shape it took.” He began with baby steps.
Why have I spent so much time trying to explain the concept of reframing and acceptance? Because whether it is relationship conflicts, recognizing our destructive habits and behavior patterns, being told we have a chronic or life threatening illness or a tragedy that takes away our hopes and dreams, expectations and assumptions about life as it should or ought to be, it is only when we can accept what is happening that we are able to formulate ways to create a new reality – a new beginning.
We live in a world of instant knowledge along with methodical steps to apply that information. We want to know what we can do and the exact steps to accomplish that. Rarely does that take into account what we bring to the equation: our resistance to change, past efforts and experiences and the relentless feelings that can overwhelm us. Acceptance and reframing our life and circumstances take more than mechanical steps of application.
God has always been a major part of my life. He has given me comfort, assurance, grace and love. He gives it freely to anyone who asks. His strength has given me courage to accomplish what seemed impossible. The science of mind and body has given me the understanding and strategies to use that strength, courage, faith and trust.
Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC
If you are interested in reading more on this subject, and other aspects of making changes in your life, here are some books I have found helpful .
“Rapid Relief from Emotional Distress”, by Gary Emery, PhD and James Campbell, PhD
“Learned Optimism – How to Change Your Mind and Your Life”, by Martin E.P.Seligman, Ph.D.
“Changing Course, Healing from Loss, Abandonment and Fear” by Claudia Black, Ph.D.
For additional information regarding how thoughts and beliefs affect our behaviors, look for books by Aaron T. Beck, M.D. to understand the process.