August 24th, 2009
Have you ever felt lonely, confused, angry or sad? Of course you have. These are all normal, human emotions and experiences. Are you comfortable feeling this way? Perhaps not. So, what do you do when faced with them? Do you stuff them, avoiding them through negative self-talk, eating, drinking or some other behavior? If so, there is another way.
Acceptance is one path to dealing with difficult feelings. By radically and gently accepting your emotions or the situation you find yourself in, you are acting in your own best interest. You can’t change what is. You may try to avoid it, stuff it or pretend that it isn’t real; but true feelings have a way of coming out, oftentimes in self-abusive thinking and behavior. By trying to accept your thoughts and feelings as they are, you are going down the path of healthy living. As Steven Hayes says in his book “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy” (Guilford, 1999), It is pscyhologically healthy to feel bad feelings as well as good feelings.
When we practice radical acceptance, we accept what we cannot change, mainly feelings and emotions -much like folks in a 12 step program . As we gently make peace with difficult emotions, they can begin to lose their control over us, allowing us some control over an are in which we do have influence – our behaviors.
This path is not a new one. Prior to finding a place in therapy and counseling, it found a home in 12-Step programs, Buddhism and other mindfulness practices, and contemplative prayer. Acceptance is especially helpful to people dealing with grief, trauma, depression, anxiety and addiction. However, its ancient, yet modern, appeal can be helpful to anyone.