The Skill of Acceptance
Saanich News September 20, 2006
Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual couple and Family Counsellor
I lost my job over three months ago. I’m totally annoyed at the company and the way they let me go. Being out of work changes everything for me and my family. I feel mad – and stuck.
Our lives are full of unexpected events - from the more common happenings of daily life:
Someone cuts you off in traffic
You receive an unanticipated bill
You spill coffee on your shirt at work
To the more life-threatening, difficult-to-confront, challenges:
Your teenage daughter informs you she’s pregnant
You fall and have a serious injury
Your husband has just been told he has cancer
What do these events have in common?
They are FACTS. They are true, real, actual facts. They may be unexpected, unwanted facts. Still they are facts. They are “what is”.
The present fact in your life, Bill, is – You’ve lost your job.
Human beings, deal with the “facts” in their life in two distinct ways.
The first way we’ll call “reaction”.
All too frequently we wrestle with the events in our life from a state of reaction.
Reaction has the quality of protesting, quarrelling with the facts.
When we are reacting we are agitated, troubled, disturbed, – and highly ineffective.
We are resisting the facts of our lives and when we resist it creates a tension state. We don’t feel natural, balanced or resourceful. Resistance works like that.
How often do we find ourselves battling in reaction to our life situation? Does it help? Does it improve the situation?
It seems a common trait of humanity to wish reality to be some other way than it is. Consequently we are regularly in a state of reaction about something or other.
Many of us spend much of our lives not accepting: ourselves as we are, our partner as they are, our parents, co–workers, our boss, our neighbours – as they are. Some of us are resisting our entire life situation. No wonder we are in stressed state much of the time.
There is a observation that is all too true: “Whenever you quarrel with reality, you suffer - but only 100 % of the time.” ( Byron Katie, from her book Loving What is )
Now certainly no one wants their children to become sick or to be in a car accident or to lose a job. But when these things happen how can it be helpful to be quarrelling with them? What is, is. It is - whether you quarrel with it or not. We know better than to keep arguing with how things are, we know how it makes us feel, but we don’t know the alternative.
Well there is one.
There’s a second way of facing facts, we’ll call “responding”- responding freely and effectively to what life is bringing us.
Responding is a creative, resourceful state. There is a sense of possibility in the state of responding. The outlook is open and curious about what can be done. When were responding to life’s events our actions are simple, fluid and effective.
There is a secret that allows us to move from one state to the other – from “reaction” to “ responding”. I say secret because few people seem to know the choice and what it requires of them.
The secret is surrender. The secret is choosing "what is".
Surrender is an inner genuine acceptance. It is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to or allowing life as it is, rather than fighting or resisting its flow and events.
Surrender is a loosening of our expectations of how life should be. We accept, make peace with, allow to be, the reality before us. We let go of the quarrell.
Accepting or choosing “what is”, gives us freedom and returns us to peace of mind. We no longer blindly thrash about on an emotional roller coaster ride that keeps going and going and going.
To some people surrender or acceptance may have negative connotations, as it seems to imply passively giving in or giving up. Yet true surrender is not that. Acceptance doesn’t mean passively putting up with something.
Nor does it mean to cease making plans or initiating positive action.
When we make peace with “I lost my job”, when done genuinely, new perspectives appear, and then, as though by magic, a different quality of energy flows into you, the possibilities that appear and the actions you take.
So back to the facts, Bill. You have lost your job. This is what is.
Now what is more satisfying and empowering? “I wish I hadn’t lost my job?” or “I lost my job. Now what can I do?”
Also, consider this. What if, what you find in your next job makes losing this one look like a gift?
Life may not be as we want it to be, but we can always respond freely and effectively to the way life is. This freedom, this ease and effectiveness, begins with accepting what is.
Paul Beckow is a certified individual, marriage, and family therapist. If you have a relationship, personal issue or concern, he can be reached by phoning the Victoria Family Institute at 721 2477 or contacted through his web site at www.paulbeckow.com
For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.