Finding and Understanding Acceptance Put away the expectations and outcomes. Instead, find the true meaning of acceptance by understanding its many forms. BY BOB LIVINGSTONE, LCSW
Embracing acceptance can be difficult unless you realize why you're having a difficult time achieving it.
“ Acceptance is when you finally realize that you can never go back and change what happened in the past because the past is gone.”
The word acceptance is a loaded term that is used in all types of media. It is utilized in self-help circles and the psychotherapy world. It is tossed around on talk shows and in relationship books. Folks forever strive for this magical place, but they are generally unclear about the true definition of the word. As a culture we are addicted to reaching this mythical state of acceptance.
We falsely learn that acceptance is a state that you have to be worthy enough to reach. If you are not a good girl or boy, you will be forever ostracized from "acceptanceville." Instead of instilling good feelings, this search leads to decreased self-confidence, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and feelings of hopelessness.
The other way we process this term is by turning on and off a light switch. As an example Mary may say, "My mother died abruptly today and I now accept it." This may be Maryís way of dealing with her momís death, but no reasonable person would think that on the same day her mom dies, she would be able to be ok with it and being ok with it is what acceptance implies.
She will go through days and perhaps weeks of rawness, emotional pain, longing for her mom to return and feeling like she wants to join her in heaven. She will have moments of clarity, realizing that her mom is really dead and not coming back. But, much of the time spent shortly after her parentís death will be chaotic and very stressful. That is what happens when we grieve.
One element of the acceptance process is questioning what happened to you, and sometimes this results in the endless spinning and obsessing of your loss. Questioning is a normal part of dealing with your loss. However, endless spinning and obsessing can get in the way of your normal functioning and ability to move forward. Part of the problem here is when you are in this state of endless searching, you become overwhelmed at the notion that there is no solution to your problem. This can create anxiety and feelings of depression.
I am here to tell you that there is a pathway to finding acceptance, coming to terms with your issues and discovering peace.
The Pathway to Finding Acceptance
Acceptance can be a lengthy process and it does not happen smoothly or on a well-constructed arc. If you have experienced an intense loss, such as the death of a loved one, the end of a friendship or if your parents get divorced; it probably will take a while before you come to terms with it.
In order for acceptance to occur, it is helpful be able to experience the pain of your loss in your mind, heart and soul (if you believe you have one). This will help you understand what you actually went through and will allow you to let your emotions out. It will be difficult to obtain acceptance if you only think and donít feel your pain. This will take time, so be patient and seek out help from a therapist if you need assistance.
Try not to focus on expectations or outcomes right now. Concentrate on the following:
Acceptance is learning that something has ended and your life has now changed forever. Acceptance is the relief you feel when you realize that you donít have to continue to spin the "whys," "what fors" and "what could have been" story lines anymore because it is over.
Acceptance can occur when you understand that you will never know if something you held dear was really real or not. You can learn not to search the universe for answers to questions like this. Your new truth is that there are no answers to these questions and finding no answers is the end of this journey. You're suffering because of this endless search can now cease. You will find solace and calmness knowing you donít have to hit your head against the wall anymore.
Acceptance is understanding that there are no more story lines to fixate on about your loss. You have thought about all of them repeatedly and there is no need to do so anymore from this moment forward.
Acceptance can occur when you no longer obsess about a person or ask yourself the same questions about the hurt over and over again. This is really what is meant by letting go.
Acceptance is understanding that you cannot go back to high school and confront the teacher who called you stupid. You can now focus on what you have achieved in your life and marvel at overcoming that obstacle of being labeled unintelligent.
Acceptance is not about being euphoric nor does it equate to being high on meth, coke or heroin. It is a place where all the harmful, useless internal chatter stops because you have decided to not listen to it anymore. Not listening to it decreases its intensity and power. The chatter fades into the background and often disappears completely. It is a peaceful, calm place where you can rest and have fun.
Acceptance is when you finally realize that you can never go back and change what happened in the past because the past is gone. The present is very much with you and you have the power to live in this exciting, hopeful and happy place.
Acceptance comes when you choose to focus on how you are going to enrich your life instead of continually dredging up personal injustices.
You notice that you are no longer afraid of having nothing to turn to when you stopped obsessing. You discover there is a richness in your spirit; for the first time, you can breathe and smile.
Psychotherapist Bob Livingstone has helped millions heal their emotional pain during the past 20-plus years. He has been instrumental in assisting victims of emotional and/or physical violence recover from trauma and no longer be victims. He is a featured contributor to DrLaura.com, Beliefnet.com, Ediets.com, Selfgrowth.com and SheKnows.com. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book Unchain The Pain: How to be Your Own Therapist. For more emotional healing visit www.boblivingstone.com.