Accept It

Accept It

What are you resisting?

The Practice:
Accept it.

Why?

As general clusters that each include a number of specific methods, my Top 5 types of practices (all tied for first place) are:

  • Be mindful
  • Love
  • Take in the good
  • Go green
  • Open out

The practices of “go green” helps you get out of the brain’s fight-or-flight, Reactive, “red zone” setting and instead, engage life from its recover-and-refuel, Responsive, “green zone” setting.

In this JOT, we’ll enter into the fifth cluster – open out – by which I mean relaxing into a growing sense of connection, even oneness, with all things. For some, “opening out” could go all the way out to something transcendental (it does for me). But I’m going to write about this practice in very down-to-earth, practical, and psychological terms.

The opposite of opening out is contraction, and a primary source of contraction is not accepting the way it is. Much if not most of our stress, emotional pain, and conflicts with others comes from friction, from resistance to life as it is.

Acceptance means you give up to the truth – the facts, reality – no matter what it is. You may not like it, which is usually understandable. For example, I don’t like the fact that one in five children in America lives below the poverty line, or that my mother is no longer here, or that I’ve hurt people by losing my temper. But things are the way they are, and we can accept them while still trying to make them better (when that’s possible).

At bottom, acceptance grounds you in what is true, which is where you have to start for any true effectiveness, happiness, or healing. Acceptance is the foundation of wisdom and inner peace.

How?

Recognize what you are not accepting. Common things include: the body changing with age, upsets with others that aren’t healing, past failures, not having enough money, or your temperament or abilities. Some losses are irrevocable; that person, that moment, that opportunity is never coming back. Perhaps you turned a corner – in your youth, or recently – and now you wish you’d turned the other way.

To make this concrete, pick one thing that you strongly wish were different. Say it in your mind as a factual statement without any sugar-coating. (You can also do this in writing.) For example, you might say something like: “I’ve lost my friendship with Mary . . . our son’s struggle with school is not getting better . . . it looks like I have cancer . . . my marriage feels empty . . . this boss will never promote me . . . I will eventually die . . . I did mistreat Bob . . . I will never have a child of my own . . . Carlo won’t engage me in repairing our relationship . . . ”

Then see what it’s like to hold this fact in a context of acceptance (while knowing that you could also try to make things better, if that’s possible). Fill in the blank with the fact, and say things to yourself like: “It’s true that ______ . . . I see that ______ . . . I surrender to the fact that ______ . . . I wish with all my heart that ______ weren’t the case, but it is . . . I give up about ______ . . . ” See if you can soften around the truth of things, if you can open out to the way it is. A variation of this is to imagine someone (or group of people) who loves you, who is looking at you with great kindness and respect while saying the things in this paragraph.

Often what blocks you from accepting a condition – something that is true about the world, your body, or your mind – is what you’d experience if you accepted the condition. To accept the experience, try to step back and witness it; open to it in your body; if it’s very painful, touch it and let it go. Take your time, take breaks if you need to. Resource yourself to open to your experience. For example, calm and soothe yourself; brings to mind the sense of others who love you; have self-compassion.

Notice ways you don’t accept things. Any kind of anger or righteousness is usually a clue. You can be discerning, persuasive, or consequential regarding someone without tipping into struggling with him or her. Consider lowering your standards for others while raising them for yourself. I don’t mean being more critical of yourself – a kind of non-acceptance – but rather being less critical of others and more focused on raising your own level of well-being and functioning.

Another form of resistance, of non-acceptance, is continuing to try to make something happen that just ain’t gonna happen. Obviously, we don’t want to give up too soon. Nonetheless, while it may be sad, even awful to face the truth, sometimes the love we long for will not come, a business will not succeed, or a course of medical treatment will not work. Be aware of how your strengths can become a weakness at acceptance; for example, I have a lot of drive, which has sometimes kept me searching way too long inside tunnels that truly have no cheese.

It’s easy to accept beautiful sunsets, golden prizes, and cotton candy. It’s the hard things that are hard to accept. So it’s important to appreciate the peace that comes from giving up the fight with the way it is. You do what you can – which is sometimes nothing at all – while also being very real with yourself about what is actually true. This usually eases conflicts with others. At some point an easing comes into your heart, a softening and a clarity. And a hard-won, honest freedom.



Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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