The Art of Acceptance
About 8 minutes to read
In my Snippets of Encouragement project, the most recent encouraging email I sent out was about acceptance. I did not feel like encouraging anyone because I have recently become ill and was feeling sorry for myself. Then I realised I was feeling that way because I wasn’t practicing the art of acceptance and this realisation helped me get over myself and continue with the beautiful task I’d begun.
What is Acceptance
I love words and comprehensively understanding their meaning so I checked the dictionary definition to find out more about acceptance.
The definition is as follows:
- the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.
- the process or fact of being received as adequate, valid, or suitable.
It would seem that acceptance is very much an action or a choice, especially centred around consent and receiving.
Interestingly Wikipedia describes acceptance in human psychology as a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognising a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest it.
That is interesting because it is inferring that we mainly have to practice the art of acceptance when conditions in our life are negative or uncomfortable.
The Truth about the Art of Acceptance
This would infer that somehow or other we need to develop a special set of skills to deal with these unpleasant situations in our lives, and yet I have to ask, what art are we practicing when things are not negative or uncomfortable.
The truth is we are in a perpetual state of acceptance. Moment by moment, as life progresses smoothly; we are in a state of consent, acquiesce, and receiving.
So what happens? What goes wrong?
Life as we know it is a series of choices, as the captains of our souls and masters of our destinies we are constantly making choices that creates our lives.
Often we are in denial of this fact and refuse to accept responsibility for our lives, but this does not detract from the truth.
If you view the human experience as a scale ranging from extremely positive to extremely negative our choices fall completely within the scale. A positive choice for me might be a negative choice for you.
Resistance is that part of ourselves that is closely associated with our ego and our comfort zone. It is where we recognise that where we are “is perfectly comfortable and fine very much, so fuck off and leave me alone.”
Of course, this is true for both positive and negative states of being.
Here are examples of how resistance shows up when we want to implement changes in life:
- Needing to cut out sugar because of diabetes – you binge eat chocolates = resistance
- To grow your business you need to be visible – you hide in your office all day and don’t interact with potential customers = resistance
- You’re addicted to a substance and need rehab – you discharge yourself from the clinic = resistance
- Wanting to attend a wedding in a little black number you enrol at the gym – you make every excuse under the sun not to attend = resistance
- As the top student who is always studying you need to spend more time outdoors – you decide it’s too hot or cold and keep on studying = resistance
- A loved one dies of cancer and you feel incapable of functioning when you so desperately want to – help is offered in the form of grief counselling which you refuse = resistance
It is ironic that even positive actions can be a form of resistance in our lives.
Articles You May Find Interesting on Resistance
Move Your Ass. Don’t Let Resistance Win
Resistance vs. the Art of Acceptance
We have already established that the natural state of being in life is one of acceptance. When resistance enters the picture, we are essentially deciding we don’t want what is or what is or could be.
How lack of acceptance manifests in the examples above:
- Chocolate brings me comfort and one or twenty pieces won’t harm me = Won’t accept the fact that the body has changed
- The business can’t cope with new clients right now, we are maxed out = Won’t accept that in order to grow and remain sustainable, businesses need a dynamic customer base.
- Without the addictive substance I can’t cope with life, I NEED this = Lack of acceptance that there are ways to cope in life and that you’re stronger than you realise.
- I have no time for the gym and it’s just so much hard work = Won’t accept that fat needs to be worked off, the fairy godmother can’t help in this case.
- I’ve gotta maintain my high grades to get into the college of my dreams = Won’t accept that there is more to life than continuous study and outdoor activity will help achieving those dreams.
- Why did you have to go and die such a horrible death and leave us all alone = Won’t accept that death is an intimate part of the cycle of life.
Essentially, what happens is we enter into a tug of war state of being. Our resistance battles with our natural state of acceptance and this moves us into crisis. The more important the issue the greater the state of crisis we find ourselves in.
This tug of war is state can be either highly conscious or unconscious. When we are not self-aware and mindful within ourselves it can feel like a gigantic battle within.
What We Resist Persists
Carl Jung wisely said that what we resist persists. This is because the object of our resistance captures our full focus and attention.
While we may, at times think we are ignoring it, as in the example of going to the gym, or returning to rehab, it essentially has our full attention and resistance.
How can I be so sure? Well if you had decided that being in the gym or rehab was acceptable to you and you were willing to receive the benefits you would be doing it.
You would be in flow. It may not be easy or without struggle but you would be applying yourself in that area of your life.
By not moving in the direction that appeals, you have chosen resistance over your new desire, you actively chose to move out of a state of consenting to receive into a more contentious state of being.
The Art of Acceptance in Practice
We know that acceptance is the state of flow in our lives, so when something comes along to rock the boat how do we handle it? What can we do to maintain flow without resistance overwhelming us?
1. The art of acceptance is all about accepting what is
When you accept what is, you create a space in which you allow whatever is to be.
Imagine you’re scared of spiders and you walk into your bathroom at midnight to pee. You see a spider on the roof and freak out. You are screaming and shouting, jumping around and in a state of panic. Sadly, nobody is at home to help you but because of your state of anxiety and terror, you’ve blown things out of proportion and the neighbours call the police…
This is an extreme example but imagine if you noted the spider, wished it well and decided you would deal with it in the morning when others were home. You have accepted what is – OH MY GOD I HAVE A FRIGGEN SPIDER IN MY HOUSE, but OK I will deal with it tomorrow.
2. The art of acceptance means letting go of what was
We hold on so tightly, to what was that often we are incapable of accepting what is. In order to accept what is, we have to let go of what was.
Yesterday there was no spider on the roof, your partner was at home and would be able to help you, pest control worked much better in the good old days…
When we are in an active state of resistance we are holding on very tightly to the past, but to move forward, we have to let go. Let go of what was and be present now with what is.
3. The art of acceptance includes actively changing things
Your acceptance does not mean that you will not work towards changing it. Life after all is an action, which requires our involvement. Working towards changing what is, you shift your focus and attention to enable yourself to see other possibilities. When you are in a state of resistance, you often can’t see the woods for the trees and you lose all perspective.
Imagine that you kept that spider in your peripheral vision as you sat on the toilet and decided what action to take. You’re essentially saying, I see you, I am terrified of you, and you are not living in this house forever. Tomorrow you’re leaving.
You created the space in which to accept what was while deciding how you could change it in future.
4. The art of acceptance understands everything is possible
When you choose to accept what is, and work towards changing it you also realise everything is possible.
It is possible that in future, those spiders will become extinct, or you could overcome your fear of spiders. Nothing remains unchanging and there are countless possibilities for different outcomes.
When we are in a state of resistance, our mindset becomes closed and we cannot fathom alternative possibilities. This is also, where we need to practice the art of acceptance with ourselves.
5. The art of acceptance thrives with love and compassion
We can apply acceptance to every situation and person in life. When we practice the art of acceptance with ourselves, it thrives in an environment of love and compassion.
When we chose not to be judgemental with ourselves and allow our inner critic to break us down, we are naturally practicing self-love and compassion. If we are able to practice this with others our acceptance and tolerance of them brings more peace into their lives and ours.
Examples of the Art of Acceptance
Let’s look at those six examples above from the perspective of practicing the art of acceptance.
- My body has changed I have diabetes.
- I’m feeling very uncomfortable making sales calls and asking for business
- While I love this drug but I hate myself for loving it
- This is not my ideal weight and I am essentially too lazy to change it
- I am scared that if I don’t study all the time people might discover I’m not that clever
- I feel so angry and sad that you died and left me
When we accept what is with love and compassion; be it the circumstances of our lives or ourselves we are able to see things as they are and then make empowered choices for ourselves.
We are beautiful complex divine beings who encompass the full range of human potential, both the dark and the light. When we accept our own incredible beauty fully and create our lives intentionally, we are practicing the art of acceptance.
At any given moment, we can all choose to remain in resistance but this is not the pathway to joy. When we see our limitations and the incredible beauty of our potential and we move in that direction this is when magic occurs in our lives.
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- Which part of this article resonates the most with you right now, and why?
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