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The Meaning of Acceptance

What does it mean to "accept" reality? The concept of radical acceptance in therapy is often misconstrued as to indicate agreement or that a given situation is “ok”. Acceptance is only the acknowledgement of what is happening. The reality is what it is, and to attempt to resist or fight it only adds insult to injury.

Acceptance is not usually that simple. No one wants to be sad, disappointed, hurt, or in pain. Our initial instinct is to fight against negative feelings. However, fighting against these feelings only allows them to loom larger and become more intense. If we can learn to accept some negativity as part of life, we can move forward with less pain and suffering. The serenity prayer works for a reason: “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

Think of the time and emotional energy you have spent ruminating on negative events or circumstances in your life. How many times have you said to yourself that a certain situation is “unfair” or “shouldn’t happen”? While these thoughts may be entirely accurate, they don’t change the reality of the situation. All this kind of thinking does is cause suffering and take energy away from more positive and goal-directed activity. The longer we spend focused on what shouldn’t be the longer it will take us to get where we want to go.

For more information on radical acceptance and how to begin practicing this skill in your own life, click the links below.

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