Reframing requires acceptance; accepting what is happening in order to find new options.
My last two blogs examined reframing traumatic events in our life. But we can address ongoing problems by reframing as well. Maybe it is a disintegrating marriage or relationship, symptoms of children in trouble, health concerns, aging parents, constant battle with in-laws, or issues from our childhood. We don’t know what to do, so we keep doing the same things over and over again.
Because we don’t know how to deal with many of the problems we face, we often deny, minimize or avoid them. We continue to fight or resist and convince ourselves that we are doing all we can; if only the other person would change, things would be different. We convince ourselves there is nothing we can do to intervene or bring about a more positive resolution.
A major aspect of reframing is not only how we look at our situation, but also acceptance of what is happening. When told the first step to resolution is acceptance, our first thoughts may be something like this:
- Accept? It might be easy for you to say – you didn’t have a mother like I did. Or a father who came home drunk and beat us. You didn’t have a sister who was the darling of the family. You weren’t compared to a brother who could do no wrong. Nothing I did was ever good enough.
- Accept? I can’t be laid off. I’m a single Mom. My ex doesn’t pay his child support and I am struggling to survive. I’m exhausted and stressed to the max. Or, I don’t want to accept the fact that I am out of work and have to start over – again.
- Angry? You bet I’m angry. Somebody is always telling me what to do, even when I try my hardest. It’s never good enough! Life sucks! Accept? Accept what? What choices do I have?
- If I accept – what does that make me? A doormat?
So What Does Acceptance Mean?
Acceptance means I accept the circumstances I find myself. It means I stop fighting, resisting or denying what is happening. Like the angry child whose Mom holds tightly until he runs out of steam and stops fighting, we also hang on to our hurts, our disappointments, our difficult circumstances.
We continue to fight because we are convinced things will be better only when the other person has changed or when circumstances have been corrected. We do the same things over and over again because we don’t see any alternatives. Without acceptance we remain stuck.
With acceptance we can better define the problem. Letting go of our need to be right can help us come to grips with our own imperfections. Letting go of our belief that we have all the answers or have it all together allows us to see things from a new perspective.
Acceptance does not mean that if I accept what is happening I have given up or that I will become a passive participant to life. In the process of acceptance, we begin to accept all parts of ourselves – our strengths and our weaknesses. We stop trying to prove ourselves and instead begin to focus on solutions.
We can’t force change. We can impact change by altering our attitudes, behaviors and beliefs as we seek better solutions. Acceptance allows our energy to be freed up and explore what it is we really want instead of what we don’t want.
As Christians we understand our need for a loving God who offers forgiveness, grace, strength and wisdom. Acceptance in troubling times can bring us closer in our relationship to God. This process does not exclude God, but brings him prayerfully into the picture.
In my next blog, I will share the impact on our health caused by non-acceptance.
©2010 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC