Using Acceptance to Adapt, Change and Grow
As a practicing psychotherapist, many people come into my office desiring change. For some, change is easy. For most, it’s not. Change happens when you meet yourself where you are instead of rushing to get somewhere else. It comes with self-acceptance and self-compassion. If you have neither, change will be slower and more painfully. In an attempt to save time and to fix the problem right away, we waste more time.
For example, I’m a coffee drinker. I always wanted to be a tea drinker and made several attempts to make the switch. I would make a cup of tea and say to myself, “It’s too hot, I’ll wait until it cools down to drink it." By the time I would get to my tea, it would be too cold to drink and I would end up throwing it away. But that didn’t stop me, I continued to make tea and not drink it. The questions I had to ask myself were “Do I really want to start drinking tea?” And “Why am I not able to finish my tea?" I wasn’t accepting that I wanted the coffee. I wasn’t accepting my craving for coffee or how it provided me comfort and something to look forward to in the morning. I was setting myself up for failure when I was only focusing on the outcome and not paying attention to what was really happening on an emotional, physical and mental level.
In order to change any habit, we need to allow ourselves space to slow down, to accept our memories, thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Learning to accept what is happening at any given time is essential in order to achieve inner peace. Think about a time you have had an emotional reaction—most likely it is because you are not accepting yourself, a person or a situation. You are likely resisting what is. Perhaps you are telling yourself you shouldn’t be feeling or reacting this way. As you move out of this entrapping space of judgment—where it’s hard to make any wise decision, and move into this warm, realized field of acceptance, you move into possibility. Suddenly, things don’t feel so rigid, tight and impossible.
Acceptance is what stops the cycle of entrapment. It’s the doorway out. If I’ve been drinking coffee most of my life, do I really expect myself to love tea immediately? Does it mean I’m a failure if I can’t switch to tea? Change does not often happen overnight. We are looking for that quick fix, that instant gratification. We live in a society where no one wants to wait for anything anymore.
So, rather than doing the same thing over and over again, and getting stuck in the same ruts, you pause. You realize there are 10,000 ways to respond, and you do one thing different. You put the drink down, you question the impulse, and you leave the room when you have fueled the argument. You pause, and you self soothe your anxiety instead of reacting. You stop walking into the same pothole. You adapt, you change, and you grow.
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