When we wrestle with something we don’t want in our lives, the more energy we give to it. Often this has the effect of increasing the stress we experience from moment to moment.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a skill that helps decrease this?
Perhaps something that might allow you to manage stress more effectively?
Luckily enough, there is one out there.
One of the main approaches I integrate into my therapy practice right now is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Acceptance is a word that can be a bit of a turn off for people as it tends to have a spiritual connotation. Unfortunately, this sometimes holds people back from benefitting from the practice.
They may read acceptance as giving up.
They may think acceptance involves just putting up with the status quo.
This is a common misunderstanding as to what acceptance is and describes a kind of passive acceptance that can feel like being walked over.
What I’m interested in, is helping people to develop an acceptance around the way things are, but also helping them to build skills and develop the courage to change in other areas of their life, despite this being difficult.
Acceptance comes up a lot in many different areas in therapy.
Whether people are struggling with substances, relationships, obsessional thoughts or behaviours, acceptance becomes a key part of the therapy and recovery process.
If you can drop resistance to these issues and accept that you have a problem using, or that your partner acts the way they do, or that you have these disturbing and relentless intrusive thoughts, the result can be more free space to make the changes that you want in your life.
If we’re looked in a battle trying to push away feelings and experiences in the here and now, we don’t have much energy to put into where we’re going.
By building a practice of acceptance into daily life, we can gradually free up space in our mental world and place more attention on what’s happening right now.
How can we do this?
First we recognise the feelings or thoughts that we’re having, that we find unacceptable or wish would be another way.
Next, as we notice them, rather than battling them or trying to push them away, we acknowledge them and allow an internal space for them to be there. This can be difficult, painful and there will probably be resistance, but it is possible.
Once we have created this space for them to be there, rather than expending energy on pushing them away, we focus on where we would like to go next or a positive action we can make.
We drop the battle in the present, accept where we are, but take some committed action to move towards where we want to go. This can be incredibly powerful.
This week, when you notice any uncomfortable thoughts or feelings that you’d rather not be having, I have a suggestion for you.
Instead of trying to change these thoughts or feelings and push them away, notice them and internally to yourself, give them a name (There’s sadness, there’s anxiety, etc).
Once you’ve done this, don’t stay with them for too long but just bring your attention to something present in your world right now (the trees outside, a noise your hearing, a task you can do, etc). Then notice any shifts in your experience.
If you’d usually engage in a struggle and notice any differences using this quick acceptance practice, let me know.