The idea of acceptance has gained a lot of traction in recent times. In the more spiritual quarters, it has become a very desirable ideal to strive for.
However, I find that some of my clients have real problems with this concept. They seem to equate acceptance with capitulation, weakness and giving up on goals and dreams. To many, acceptance seems to equate with passivity, which in a society that highly values performance and goal achievement, is simply too much of a paradox.
I think there’s another way of looking at this concept.
The idea of acceptance seems to mainly come into play when one is faced with issues, events or circumstances that are not particularly open to change. Those unfriendly facts that bedevil our expectation of a good world, a smooth ride or a perfect, trouble-free life.
Very often when faced with unwelcome facts we become stressed, irritated and angry. Often saying to ourselves, something along the lines of, “this should not be happening” or “I can’t stand this”.
However, “should”, “must” and “could” have no impact in the real world. If it rains on your wedding day; it should rain because the weather pattern does exactly what It does and has no human rules by which to behave. Regardless of your hopes for a clear day because it is a particular season and “should not rain now”.
Similarly, traffic is congested in most urban areas and at busy times. Traffic has no intentionality and, rationally speaking, simply is as it is.
There is no conspiracy here! So, anger at the situation is pretty much fruitless.
I believe that this is where the idea of acceptance becomes useful. Acceptance means that you spare yourself the stress of opposing unwelcome events and situations that are out of your control, but rather accept them as they are. And, then, most importantly, figure out a work-around.
When we are in opposition to something, we tend to focus so much on the obstacle that we run the risk of believing that no options are possible. This can make us feel trapped and powerless. When one approaches a fixed reality with the attitude that “it is what it is and there must be alternatives” new possibilities can be explored. This can, in fact, be an empowering experience.
Another way non-acceptance impacts us is when we say to ourselves that we will work on our goals, a fulfilling life, or take the next step when circumstances are just right. This can result in an endless wait for the perfect situation before decisive action is taken which can create a state of near paralysis.
When accepting that things are not perfect and committing to action regardless, change and progress becomes possible.
Acceptance clearly does not need to mean the same as being passive. It simply means that I can save myself expending energy on futile emotions and use my energy to find alternative options.
This means that we make a plan in full acknowledgement of the obstacle without hating the obstacle or thinking that removing the obstacle is the only way. In fact, it can be argued, that accepting obstacles and then planning to find a workaround is good for us because it stimulates our creativity and ingenuity.