Accepting the Unacceptable

by Eric Sudler, M.S.

Independent of what therapeutic orientation you may follow, you will usually find acceptance or some form of acceptance at the center. Acceptance is a major part of life.

Obviously, acceptance is not always an easy pill to swallow. In fact, some may observe that it acts counter to our instinctual behaviors. As humans, we generally strive for control and autonomy. Autonomy entails having a satisfactory degree of control in regards to one’s environment, life, and choices. It’s having perceived control over the decisions that ultimately lead you to reaching, maintaining, and upholding your values and sense of self.

Unfortunately, in a cruel twist of irony, we occupy an existence rife with moments of grief, helplessness, loss, and discomfort. It feels as though we are unable to obtain the very thing we are programmed to seek. How is it possible to live comfortably in a world that seems to go against our natural instincts?

Well, I guess no one ever said that life had to be fair or even remotely comfortable. Even still, people manage to carry out happy and fulfilling lives despite the opposition that life brings every day. This is where the concept of acceptance comes in to bring hope to an otherwise irrational existence. Despite the human brain being hardwired to demand control and dominion over our environment, acceptance is what allows us to maintain forward progress in life.

Of course, those who are able to understand and apply the concept of acceptance are more apt to live more rewarding lives. Accepting that there are things and people in life that we cannot change is not an admission of weakness or defeat. Rather, it is understanding that we are not meant to have ultimate control over any and everything we desire to change. What would ensue would be chaos and disappointment in its purest forms.

Much like everything else in life, acceptance requires practice and an understanding that acceptance is for your benefit. Accepting someone’s undesirable behaviors does not let them off the hook nor does it mean you support or even like that behavior. Acceptance simply provides a mechanism for you to move past that situation and on with your life. Acceptance means having one less thing to worry about when that particular situation arises. Acceptance is growth. Growth is progress. Progress is how we know that we are on the right path. Being on the right path leads to the attainment of goals, values, and that sense of self and purpose that we all desire. Being an active agent in attaining goals and fulfilling your purpose coincides with autonomy. Acceptance, therefore, is the exordium to obtaining autonomy.

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