The goal is to feel your feelings, while also accepting the situation as it is. Remember, we don’t have to like it or want it to be happening. But we can choose to accept it, instead of resisting, which ultimately does not work and only depletes your energy and making you more miserable than you were initially.
It’s basically like saying, “okay, this is the situation. And this is how I feel about it. And now can I just relax and let it be here...just for now?”
Instead of focusing on aspects you don’t like, ones that bother you, you can choose to practice radical acceptance, which makes way for problem-solving. Instead of giving all that energy to the emotions associated with your resistance towards the situation, you can switch gears and put that energy into planning mode instead.
So, how do we do it?
Tune in to your thoughts, asking, “what are my thoughts saying about this?” If they are upsetting or uncomfortable, try putting a bit of distance between you and the thoughts. A simple ACT strategy that loosens the mind’s grip on accepting every thought we have as fact is to say to yourself (internally – or externally, if you like), “I’m having the thought that….”.
There is also an ACT Choice Point exercise that I’ve found to be so helpful in challenging conditioned responses. I ask, “Does allowing myself to really buy in to this thought or belief, even if I truly think it is true, take me towards the experience I ideally want to have or away from it? Do I really want to buy into the story that’s playing in my mind or do I want to challenge it? Can I reframe this or see a different perspective?”
I have used expressive journaling for many years and 3 years ago made it a regular and ongoing practice. It is so helpful in exploring such aspects of life as core beliefs, conditioned responses, and associated behaviors. I’ve been able to notice patterns and make more conscious choices based on them. It is a perfect way to reflect back on our reactions and learn what we could potentially do differently next time.
A helpful philosophy to keep in mind related to practicing radical acceptance is this: “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” Choosing to practice acceptance, in the moment, even in situations we do not like, essentially removes the suffering.
There are going to be times when we react in an unconscious, habitual manner, rather than responding from a tuned-in, conscious place. But the important thing in the end is this: did you take a bit of time to process and learn whatever lesson was attached to the experience in order to be able to learn and grow from it? Don’t worry, if you feel like you didn’t handle a challenging situation as well as you would have liked, there’s always next time 😊
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What has helped me hold on during times such as these is developing a practice of Radical Acceptance. In the book Radical Acceptance – Embracing Your Life With The Heart Of A Buddha, by Tara Brach, she writes, “Radical Acceptance reverses our habit of living at war with experiences that are unfamiliar, frightening, or intense. It is the necessary antidote of years of neglecting ourselves, years of rejecting this moment’s experience. Radical Acceptance is the willingness to experience ourselves and our life as it is. A moment of Radical Acceptance is a moment of genuine freedom”.
Now this does not mean that because we are accepting the reality of our circumstances, we intentionally stay stuck in situations that are difficult. It does not mean that we choose not to strive for better in our lives. It does not mean that we passively accept things that make us unhappy or unfulfilled, and give up our power.
It simply means that, in the moment, we breathe and accept the reality of what is – that we understand that we don’t always see the big picture and that perhaps this very difficult situation is a necessary lesson to propel us further along in our quest to grow, evolve, and create our ideal life.
As humans, we love to label situations as “positive or negative”, “good or bad”. But, ironically we never know if a positive situation will somehow lead to negative consequences or alternatively, that a situation that seems challenging and difficult is not actually a blessing in disguise. If we can choose to lose those misleading labels and consider circumstances as just that, we can take all that emotional energy we’re investing in fighting against or resisting the situation and put it towards taking positive action and developing a growth mindset. Basically, we accept it while we’re “growing through it”.
You may be thinking, “well, that’s easier said than done!” And it’s true, it’s not easy to shift our thinking in this way because our deeply unconscious belief system and lightning-quick thought processes are dictating our perception and interpretation of what is happening. Our brains are programmed to look for things that will hurt us and focus on them. But the goal in self-work is to learn to catch those conditioned impulses and reactions, take a mindful pause and then respond, from a more conscious place, rather than reacting in a habitual way that often causes more stress, pain, and problems than were already attached to the initial situation!
So the next time you hear yourself saying some version of, “but this isn’t fair. I shouldn’t have to be going through this. I hate this!”, remember to pause, take a deep breath, and harness all the energy that is being directed at what it is you are resisting.
At that point you can use that energy as a launching pad to propel you forward into problem-solving or taking action to address your concern. Of course, it takes practice to develop this approach, but I’ll leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
Want to work on developed Radical Acceptance? Visit Homepage for more information on my unique coaching approach that blends psychology, brain-science, and elements of spirituality.
Learn more about Bobbi Beuree, Halifax-based Coach + Facilitator
Bobbi Beuree, Certified CAN Coach + Facilitator is located Nova Scotia and provides interactive 1:1 coaching services, as well as group coaching events.