There are going to be times when life throws us things that we aren’t expecting.
Getting fired, being dumped, rain on your wedding day, or your overseas trip getting canceled.
Whilst these can be pretty upsetting, as human beings we’re really good at amplifying them and getting stuck in the injustice of it all. Unfortunately, we tend to draw out our suffering, rather than being able to move on, when we refuse to accept the reality (and often uncontrollable nature) of things.
Thankfully, the trusty (although sometimes hard to swallow) pill of 'acceptance' enables us to free ourselves from the grips of indignation and resistance.
When something difficult happens, it’s natural to go through the whole “This is so unfair, it shouldn’t be this way, I didn’t want this” thing. Whilst this is a completely normal reaction to something that we don't like/want/welcome, after a point our own resistance creates our suffering.
When you’ve asked your ex three times to get back together and they keep saying no. When you’ve been through every process with HR and they still won't give you your job back. When you've spent your whole birthday staring at the rain clouds to no avail.
Any time we try to control something that's out of our hands, desperately fight reality, cling to something that's already passed, or get lost in the sea of “Why me?”, we inadvertently create our own suffering.
In an attempt to grapple with difficult and painful experiences, we tend to try to fight them or to push them away. Often people believe that if they don’t accept something, it will go away or change. But refusing to accept something doesn't create change, and often makes the situation worse.
"What we resist, persists". – Carl Jung
By accepting the inevitable pain, struggles and unwanted events that unfold in our lives, we actually choose the better option. It's the lesser of two evils.
Acceptance isn't resignation, liking, approval, passivity, or against change. It is not throwing your hands in the air and saying, “I give up”.
Acceptance is simply acknowledging that things are as they are. It is what it is.
It’s a willingness to experience the thoughts and emotions you are having in that moment of time. It’s letting go of trying to control the things that are beyond your control.
Resistance (or non-acceptance) is like quicksand. The more you struggle, often the deeper you sink. The way to survive is to lie back, spread out your arms, and allow yourself to float, not struggle against it. This is hard because you are fighting your instincts, but this is what will save you.
You don’t need to practice acceptance with everything – but if you're trying to change something that is out of your hands, then it is worth considering. It’s important to realise, the more we try to reject our reality, the more vulnerable we are to getting stuck, feeling unhappy, bitter, angry or resentful.
Resisting reality alone does not lead to a change. often it isn't until you accept things, just as they are, that you can open up your mind to changing your situation.
So how can we try to accept the things we cannot change?
1. Become aware that you are resisting. Just notice that you are fighting with your reality (“It shouldn’t be like this; It’s unfair”). Notice the tension that is present in your body.
2. Remind yourself that no matter how much you try to fight this, your unpleasant reality won’t change. It can be helpful to acknowledge that there is a cause, and that this has happened for a reason. You might not always know what the cause or reason is, but you can still accept it.
3. Turn your mind towards accepting it. Imagine yourself being able to accept it, allow yourself to be willing. Say over and over to yourself, “May I accept this”. It’s like getting to a fork in the road, and you have to actively choose to accept.
4. Take an open and relaxed body posture and try to do a slight smile. You can do what is called the “half-smile”. It’s like Mona Lisa’s smile, relaxed, slightly turned up at the creases, soft eyes, and you try to embody a sense of serenity. Imagine yourself in a serene setting; you want to adopt this sense of serenity and openness.
5. When resistance shows up (which it will, again and again), try to relax your body, make room for those feelings and thoughts to be there. Try to soften. Allow emotions of sadness or disappointment to be present. Try not to push them away.
6. Lastly, if you're still feeling stuck, do pros and cons. Draw yourself a square, and in one column, write down what will happen in the short term if you keep resisting, and in the side column the long-term consequences of resistance. Also, write out the short and long term consequences of acceptance. Consider for yourself, what will the cost be if you don’t accept something vs. the cost of accepting?
Good luck, may peace be with you!