Growing up there was a framed needlepoint of the serenity prayer which hung at the end of our hallway. My mother had placed it there for my brother and me to see and be reminded.
If you’re not familiar, it goes, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”
Little did I know that this simple prayer would be the crux of the work that I do with my clients.
You see, pain is unavoidable in life; suffering isn’t. By accepting the pain, we actually decrease the amount of suffering we experience.
It’s only natural that we try to fight things or push them away when they’re painful, yet it’s not effective. This internal struggle against reality actually works against us most of the time. When we try to fight reality and say “it’s not fair”, “I hate this”, “why did this happen?”, we can stay stuck. Even suppressing painful emotions is an example of not accepting reality. This internal struggle often results in increased stress, anxiety, depression, and so forth.
Again, having these non-accepting thoughts is perfectly natural, and your feelings are valid. I hope you are able to cut yourself some slack during difficulties, and when you are ready, recognize that you likely have choices.
Accepting things that we cannot control actually frees up our mind to cope and then work on changing things that we can for the future. Acceptance is the necessary shift towards lasting and genuine change and/or healing. If you choose to grapple with reality, you are robbing yourself of the possibility of feeling and living better.
Some Clarification: Acceptance has nothing to do with approval or forgiveness. Also, accepting something doesn’t mean that you are just cool with whatever or being passive……..You are just accepting reality for what it is and making the best of it, which is quite assertive!
During this current time, you likely feel anxious, fearful, sad, etc, AND THAT’S OKAY, but just maybe there is some space for acceptance to ease the burden of what you are facing……to handle things the best you can.
HOW DO YOU DO THIS, YOU ASK? When you catch yourself fighting reality, just simply notice and bring yourself back to acceptance. The mind may jump right back to fighting reality……Once again, bring it back over and over as much as you can.
Perhaps you are only able to accept something for 30 seconds in the beginning, but then maybe you are able to do it for three minutes, then 3 hours. Just keep practicing and be patient with yourself. Like anything new, it will take time.
For more in depth information and guided practice exercises on how to effectively apply this and other skills in your life, check out my online course, Overcome Stress and Anxiety, by clicking here. https://amanda-mccall-professional-counselor-lpc.teachable.com/p/overcome-stress-and-anxiety
Amanda McCall, Licensed Professional Counselor