Updated: Oct 4
As we continue to explore how to develop psychological flexibility, I began to reflect on Acceptance. Acceptance is one of the core therapeutic processes that can support healthy minds and functioning. Acceptance is the process of being willing to fully embrace what is in the present moment without trying to change it or fight it. This form of acceptance doesn’t mean that we wish for what is in the moment or give up taking actions that are in alignment with our values, but it does mean we actively engage in a release of the fight against what we are experiencing in the moment, whether that be joy or strife, which probably feels counter intuitive.
In a world of instant gratification and advertisements that promise that this pill or this product will finally solve the problem that has prevented you from accepting yourself or finally bring the pe
ace and happiness you’ve been longing for. However, those promises are usually false narratives and short-lived attainments. Further, consider the fears and stories that our minds tells us about what might happen if we fully embraced this very moment. Fears that maybe you will get stuck here forever. Fears that you will be subsumed by the pain. Fears that you won’t be able to handle it.
It is also counter intuitive to accept what is in the moment, because if we are in pain and struggle, shouldn’t we TRY to fix it? The problem with pushing against accepting the moment is th
at it is a losing battle. Fighting not to feel a certain way often just makes the feeling even stronger. For example, imagine a blow up beach ball in a pool representing an emotion you want to suppress rather than accept. As you push down the ball into the water, it pushes back strongly and if let go…it will pop out of the water making a big splash. Similarly, if I tell you, “don’t think about an elephant,” the only thing we will be able to think about is an elephant.
So to practice acceptance, become curious and notice what is happening in the moment. In “The B
ig Book of ACT Metaphors” Caitlin Ferriter describes an example of how one might use Acceptance in a situation such as being on a plane, where you end up next to a family with a baby that is crying. Being angry, wishing the baby wasn’t crying, giving sideways glances of disapproval won’t impact the situation or make the baby stop crying. Instead, acceptance would be recognizing that this happens to be the present moment, and like all other present moments, it will not last. Eventually the baby will stop crying or the flight will be over. Again, this process is not about liking that the baby is crying, but rather accepting that babies tend to be overwhelmed by the process of planes with the sounds and the air pressure changes and so on…Thus, by practicing acknowledging that the baby is upset in this moment and accepting this inconvenience and that your dismay will not last forever, you will develop psychological flexibility