Psychological insights on relationships: rejections, breakups, making relationships happy, unhealthy dynamics, and general psychology.

Why Acceptance Is One Of The Most Important Things In Life

By focusing energy on unchangeable things, you are wasting time. However, there are other problems.

The problem is that every new investment of your time, energy, money, or nerves magnifies what you invest in. And if you are familiar with the economic rule of the Sunk Cost Fallacy, then you know it’s hard for you to let go of things you’ve invested a lot in.

Buddhist monk and acceptance

So, each stake of two more days, a month, or new energy can cost you additional months or resources. The solution is to accept that some things are unchangeable and then look at things from a new perspective.

A short definition of acceptance:

Acceptance is a mature ego-defense mechanism that recognizes and embraces things that cannot be changed. It is distinct from denial, an ego defense mechanism involving avoiding or ignoring painful or unacceptable aspects of reality. Acceptance helps individuals cope with challenging situations and emotions.

How to work on acceptance:

  1. Understand that you are not forced to accept things. It is completely different when we decide to do something and when we have to do something
  2. Repeat to yourself that it is your choice, and you are doing it because your life will be better.
  3. Go through this questionnaire:
  4. Think about your life in 5 years if you continue to live in denial and don’t accept things as they are. Is that okay with you?
  5. What do you fear most about accepting that the situation is unchangeable?
  6. What can you do to make that scenario less scary?
  7. Think about what will change if you accept that something is immutable.
  8. Is your life acceptable with what you have concluded?
  9. If so, spend the next period getting used to the situation and improving your life.
  10. If you don’t like how your life will look after accepting an unchangeable situation, use the energy that has been released to make your life better in other areas.
  11. You can always try to find ways to change your situation in the future.

Acceptance is not against change. It coexists with change.

Attractive man standing

Acceptance coexists with change; we just no longer deal with what is unchanging. We come to terms with the things that are unchangeable (accept them) and then deal with changing the things we can: our thoughts, emotional status, circumstances in our life, etc.

Research has shown that we can learn acceptance, which can positively affect mental health and well-being.

How does acceptance work?

When people accept something that cannot be changed, they can stop dwelling on it and focus on what they can change. This can lead to a reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, fear, and more.

A beautiful indian woman

God, 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.

The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr

Example: Love life, facing rejection or unreciprocated feelings.

Non-acceptance leads to stress, grief, and distortions of reality. Acceptance leads to reconciliation with the facts and moving forward in life. For instance:

Option 1: Acceptance without attempting change means choosing something else and continuing life in accordance with the circumstances.

Option 2: Acceptance with an attempt to change involves acknowledging that one’s crush doesn’t want them as they are and trying to change something about oneself. If this doesn’t yield positive results, it returns us to options 1 or 2.

Option 3: Non-acceptance is simply pressuring for change regardless of the other person’s desires.

A beautiful woman thinking

The ultimate goal of acceptance is not to change experienced emotions but to acknowledge them without attempting to control them. Acceptance significantly differs from other commonly studied emotion regulation methods, such as suppression or rumination.

Suppression or rumination usually involve actively modifying emotional states regarding quality, intensity, duration, or frequency.

Why acceptance is important:

Sometimes there is a misunderstanding that acceptance is the opposite of change. Since acceptance is not synonymous with maintaining the status quo, acceptance and change can coexist in at least two ways:

  1. Acceptance involves recognizing unembellished facts.
  2. Only prior acceptance can initiate change. Hayes (1994) argues that “when someone gives up the effort to be different, they become immediately different in a profound way.”

Benefits of acceptance include

  • an expanded range of available experiences,
  • increased potential for productive action,
  • enhanced empathy,
  • reduced blame,
  • increased flexibility,
  • tranquility,
  • reasonableness,
  • diminished disturbing and negative emotions,
  • positive therapeutic outcomes,
  • robust emotional and behavioral health,
  • emotion regulation,
  • and self-management.
Attractive man sitting

Research has shown that acceptance can positively affect mental health and well-being. For example, acceptance can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve emotional regulation, enhance the quality of life, and alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Good news! We can learn acceptance. Through various therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

Elements of acceptance:

1. Non-attachment:

Acceptance involves observing internal or external events as they are experienced. For example, if someone thinks “I am bad,” a non-attached perspective would include noticing, such as “I have the thought that I am bad,” instead of an attached perspective, which cannot distinguish the thought from reality.

A beautiful woman sitting

2. Non-avoidance:

Marcus Aurelius wrote that spending the day avoiding leads to a disturbed mind and an unhappy existence. Non-avoidance is refraining from senseless and maladaptive behaviors, i.e., not fleeing without a physical threat.

3. Non-judgment:

Matthew (7:1) wrote, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” and Hamlet described Denmark as a prison, reasoning that “nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

The central place in modern conceptualizations of acceptance belongs to non-judgment. It is consciously refraining from categorizing experiences as good or bad, right or wrong. Non-judgment involves describing stimuli instead of evaluating them (this is good, bad, etc.).

4. Tolerance:

Acceptance requires a person to tolerate experiences as they are. Therefore, tolerance can be seen as the ability to remain present and experience everything happening at this moment. However, this ability is not equivalent to resignation (accepting defeat and giving up) or helplessness in the face of something disliked. It also does not exclude simultaneous efforts to change what is happening.

Attractive man sitting

We can “build” tolerance. Or acquired through willingly exposing oneself to various experiences or problematic stimuli. In this sense, we could recognize that tolerance is something that can be practiced and developed. Tolerance also represents the willingness to be patient with the opinions or actions of others, including freedom from intolerance or unnecessary harshness in judging others. In short, tolerance is acceptance of others.

5. Willingness:

According to Epictetus, one should decide to participate in an event, even if it is not entirely to one’s liking. For the Stoics, exercising the will was essential, and hence, willingness stems from there. “I am ready for everything and will accept everything” is the fundamental definition of willingness.

It is often associated with adopting new, adaptable behaviors while tolerating the discomfort associated with change. Willingness is practiced in advance; that is, people prepare themselves to be ready for whatever might happen.

Radical acceptance:

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Some theorists use the term radical acceptance to describe a state of acceptance similar to zen, consisting of complete readiness to experience everything happening at this moment. The hypothesis of radical acceptance comes from Buddhism and the Buddhist view of suffering, a key concept in the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha. This concept is often called “Dukkha” in Sanskrit, translated as “suffering” or “discontent.”

Understanding suffering in Buddhism encompasses several key aspects:

  • Existence of suffering (Dukkha): Buddhism claims suffering is an inherent part of life. Regardless of how hard we try to find permanent happiness or fulfillment, we face various forms of suffering, whether physical pain, emotional suffering, or dissatisfaction.
  • Causes of suffering (Samudaya): The causes of suffering are related to attachment, bonds, and desires. According to Buddhist teachings, attachment to transient things and craving for lasting satisfaction create a cycle of suffering.
  • Possibility of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha): Buddhism teaches that there is a possibility of the cessation of suffering (radical acceptance). To stop suffering, the chain of causes of suffering must be broken. A person would need to free themselves from desires, attachments, and illusions to experience liberation, known as Nirvana.
  • Path to the cessation of suffering (Magga): Buddhism presents the Noble Eightfold Path as a means to achieve the cessation of suffering. This path includes the correct understanding, proper thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Essentially, Buddhism does not deny the existence of joy or pleasure in life but emphasizes its transient nature and the uncertainty of material things.

Conclusion:

Acceptance can help you become more positive in life because it frees up emotional and mental energy. Before acceptance, it was focused on something that could not be changed. After accepting that something is immutable, someone can focus energy on changeable things. A person can become happier, healthier, less anxious and depressed and live a better life overall

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