The Powerful Practice of Accepting Reality
Accept your reality and reduce your suffering.
Posted November 2, 2020 | Reviewed by Matt Huston
During a recent session with a client, we discussed a common yet significant issue that so many teens and emerging adults encounter: accepting reality. In my client’s case, it was specifically her accepting that one of her friendships might need to be re-evaluated. My client had a friend, whom she considered very close, cancel plans with her at the last minute. Then it happened again. After the third cancellation, my client felt hurt and confused and wanted to talk about these feelings in our session.
Together we explored her feelings about this friendship. Using the Friendship Staircase Resource and some of the other tools I help my clients develop, we focused on helping her to manage her mind about this friendship and challenged her automatic thoughts on the situation. Accepting what the friendship actually is instead of what she wants it to be helped my client reduce the suffering that she had been experiencing. It also helped her to realize that she could still choose to maintain this important friendship but in a different way. Making this shift would be healthier for both of them and for their friendship.
Change is the only constant in life, and yet most of us are never taught the tools that will enable us to manage all of the changes we experience. Our ability to adapt to change and uncertainty will determine both our success in life and our overall state of mind.
Change is especially relevant right now as we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Regardless of how old you are, where you live and with whom, and what your particular life circumstances are, they are different than they were. All of our lives have changed, and these changes will remain dynamic for an uncertain amount of time.
Pain + Resistance = Suffering
We often ignore what we don’t want to see or what we wish to see differently. We devote a lot of time to denying what is. Consequently, so much energy is wasted by resisting something that cannot be changed in the first place, and suffering ensues. If we stop resisting and accept what is, we can stop additional suffering and pain.
It’s important to note that you do not have to like, want, or support whatever it is that you’re accepting. Acceptance starts with perceiving reality as it is right now: what people are rather than what you want them to be, situations that you cannot control. Acknowledge what is present and what is, but know it is not necessarily finite.
Acceptance is an active process. It doesn’t mean that you can’t work on changing things and that what you’re accepting will be that way forever. But by struggling against reality—resisting and rejecting it—we create unnecessary additional suffering and pain.
Here are four tips on learning acceptance, letting go, and reducing your suffering:
1. Be patient with yourself. Be curious and open to learning. Observe what your patterns are and notice what’s happening. How are you feeling? What emotions come up?
2. Use mindfulness. The goal is not to get rid of these internal states or emotions that you observe. When these states or emotions arise, even unpleasant ones, try to welcome them and appreciate that they are a necessary part of being a human being who has a range of emotions in response to an experience. Let them be as they are. Create a more friendly, acceptance-based relationship with your internal states.
3. Stop resisting. Like quicksand, the more you struggle against these emotions and feelings, the more you will sink.
All feelings are necessary and important to acknowledge and be with. Additional suffering and pain are created by the resistance to what is. Remember that this, too, shall pass as all emotions are dynamic.
4. Ask yourself: What is one thing that I can let go of that no longer serves me?
My client used her new tools to notice the changes in her friendship, stopped resisting the reality of how her perception was different from her recent experiences, and accepted that she could still enjoy the friendship. She just needed to simply change her expectations to be more aligned with who her friend actually was and what she was able to give.
Consider using this time to get really curious about who you want to be right now and what is yours to do. Remain curious about any feelings that arise during these uncertain times. Now is the perfect time to work with a life coach who can help you strengthen the connections to yourself and others in your world.