Acceptance and Choice
Key to mindfulness is the practice of acceptance. Often we suffer because we want things to be different to how they are. We beat ourselves up for feeling anxious, we catastrophise about our physical pain, or we complain about the weather. None of these responses will change the way things are. With mindfulness we can learn to respond to these things with more kindness and compassion – accepting the things that we cannot change. However, acceptance can be very challenging. What does it mean to accept? And are there situations in which acceptance is not appropriate?
Acceptance and Boundaries:
- Does acceptance mean forgiveness? It may do, but only if you feel ready to. Forgiveness can be an important part of the healing process. It is important to remember that when we forgive we don’t do it because the other person deserves our forgiveness but because we deserve peace. However, we must acknowledge our feelings as they currently are. If we feel angry then the practice is to accept the anger. Forgiving too soon can be damaging too.
- Will acceptance turn me into a pushover? When we practice acceptance, we are accepting our response to a situation NOT the situation itself. If someone is abusing you or treating you badly it is not appropriate to accept this. It is best to seek help, maintain safe boundaries or get out of the situation. What we are learning to accept is our own feelings and responses to the situation.
- In deciding what to accept the important question is ‘what do I have a choice about?’ If we can change our situation then we do not need to accept it!
- If we accept the past are we condoning it? We cannot change the past but we may be able to accept that it has happened. We can then look to the future to see how we can make positive changes.
- Acceptance might take place in stages. For instance we might still beat ourselves up but we can learn to stop beating ourselves up for beating ourselves up! We may still have flashbacks or anxiety attacks but we can accept ourselves and be kind to ourselves as we have these unpleasant experiences.
- Why practice acceptance? Often when we struggle against something that we cannot change we can make our feelings worse. By practicing acceptance we can learn to be kinder to ourselves and sometimes reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
- It is important to understand what we have a choice about.
- We may be able to accept the things that we have no choice about – that we cannot change.
- However, we may be able to choose to make positive changes.
- Just because we have a choice, however, doesn’t make it an easy one!
In my own practice I have found that by learning to accept the little things I can make a choice to do something about the big things. . And I stand up for myself more these days than I ever used to!
Find out more about acceptance and choice one of our upcoming Mindfulness and Positive Psychology events and courses.