As I reflect on the past 13 years I reflect on the stages of my own evolving consciousness that I have had to go through – sometimes once, sometimes over and over and some right now. I hope what I have learned may help you.
An attitude of acceptance can neutralize unpleasant and irritating experiences – and even sometimes transform them into pleasant ones. So many things over the years were affecting me negatively because I was resisting it. As soon as I stopped resisting, it stopped affecting me. Difficult and traumatic events can have a positive transformational effect – whether it be being diagnosed with cancer, bereavement, losing everything, becoming disabled, or suffering from severe depression – a new spiritual strength can be found inside, feeling a new sense of connection to the world and to other people, a new sense of purpose and meaning.
That moment of acceptance occurs when you give up resisting. You ‘let go’, or surrendered to what is. In some cases, you may feel like you have no choice but to accept because you feel you have nothing left to cling to or to hope for. This doesn’t mean you stop trying to get better, or to rebuild your life but rather it simply means that you are ready to face up to the full reality of your state, and stop trying to resist it in a rigid, adversarial way.
There are many experiences and activities in our lives which aren’t innately negative, and which could easily be neutralized – or even made pleasant – by the power of acceptance. Think of household chores, for example. Are they innately boring activities, or is your antipathy towards them due to a ‘resistant’ mental attitude? Think about how you feel when you’re stuck in a long queue of cars at the traffic lights. What is the source of your frustration? You’re just sitting in the front seat of your car; you could be listening to some pleasant music or staring curiously at the other people in their cars, or at the streets, buildings or the sky. It’s only your mental resistance to the situation – your impatience and eagerness to reach your destination – which makes it unpleasant. Our lives are full of neutral situations which are made pleasant or unpleasant by our mental attitude and our thoughts.
At the same time, it’s important to be aware that there are some things we should never accept – abuse, oppression, situations or role to which we’re innately unsuited, and so forth. It’s essential to differentiate the situations which we should try to accept from those which we should try to change.
This has never been put better than in the ‘Serenity Prayer’, created by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and later adopted by Alcoholics’ Anonymous: ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’
Acceptance is about accepting life on life’s terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. It is about saying yes to life, just as it is. It’s difficult to accept what you don’t want to be true. And it’s more difficult to not accept. Not accepting pain brings suffering.
It’s exhausting to fight reality, and it doesn’t work. Refusing to accept that you were fired for something you didn’t do or that your friend cheated you doesn’t change the situation, and it adds to the pain you experience. Accepting reality is difficult when life is painful. No one wants to experience pain, disappointment, sadness, or loss. But those experiences are a part of life. When you attempt to avoid or resist those emotions, you add suffering to your pain.
Life is full of experiences, some that you enjoy and others you dislike. When you push away or attempt to avoid feelings of sadness and pain, you also diminish your ability to feel joy. Avoidance of emotions often leads to depression and anxiety. Avoidance can also lead to destructive behaviors, such as gambling, drinking too much, overspending, eating too little or too much, and overworking.
Acceptance means that you can turn your resistant ruminating into accepting thoughts like, “I’m in this situation. I don’t approve of it. I don’t think it’s OK, but it is what it is, and I can’t change that it happened.”
Kevin T. Cahill is an award winning sales professional and consultant specializing in the art of managing change and achieving great results. As the founder of The Change Revolution, this international best selling author and speaker inspires men and women alike. As someone who has mastered the art of resilience and hope, Kevin’s philosophy as a clarity builder is strategic and results driven. Kevin’s passion is to equip individuals and organizations with a renewed sense of clarity and excitement, knowing that positive change will bring about positive gains. His exciting creation The Change Revolution offers a winning blueprint for navigating through change and achieving success.
Speaking inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 519-836-7989.