Some people, I think, are uncomfortable with the concept of “acceptance, believing that acceptance equates to passivity, to “resignation,” to not being proactively engaged in problem solving, in working hard to have a full, rich life.
Some equate acceptance with endorsing or approving of some negative thing. This fear or belief is understandable-but-erroneous. And, to make is slightly more nuanced, in “some” cases “resignation” may indeed be the best or the only course of “action.” Moreover, walking the path of acceptance may indeed (or may not) result in being less aggressive and hostilely involved with other people and situations, may indeed make you less inclined to run around trying to fix everything and everyone. So, it would not be fair to endorse acceptance without being candid about those possibilities right from the beginning.
I interpret “acceptance” as accepting the fact that certain conditions exist, not that I accept the conditions and of themselves. That may seem a subtle distinction, but it is an important one. If I first accept that something exists, I am then free to choose (hopefully choose rationally) what if anything I want to do about the condition. Subtle or not, if you want to understand REBT-CBT and mindfulness, you had better learn and understand the enormous difference between the propositions “A is A” and “A is A . . . and (immediately and simultaneously) A must not be A, and isn’t it terrible that A is A, and as A clearly mustn’t be A, A is bad, and deserves to be punished!” The former is acceptance, the later is judgment and evaluation.
Of course, we needed like or approve of A, but we had better first accept that it exists, and make a rational decision about I we want to deal with it. This is the path toward solution, resolution, serenity, while “A must not be A” is upsetting, and if a routine, habitual response to life events (which it is for vast numbers of people), leads to stress, chronic emotional disturbance and inflammation, eventually bitterness and depression.
From the REBT standpoint, it isn’t that complicated:
When you are done disputing “X must not be X”
What are you left with?
Of course! What you are left with is simply “X is X”
And that’s acceptance, baby!
I reckon that the best solution is developing the sensitivity and intuition to be very adept at knowing when to act and when to let something go. It has never been expressed better than in the Serenity Prayer composed by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930s and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous, which I have secularized just a bit as follows
|What do y’all think? Are you a little bit suspicious of acceptance? Do you fear that it might cause you to lose your edge and proactive involvement with life?
Originally posted 2014-04-10 18:13:25.