Thoughts on Acceptance
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
People tend to polarize on the issue of acceptance. Either they feel like that have complete control over something or they feel as though they are completely powerless. Neither is a truly realistic view. In my work with patients over the years, I have noticed that early childhood trauma can lead a person to feel like they are not an active participant in their own life. They feel like life just happens to them and as a result of this attitude or world view they fail to take the responsibility for the things they need to in life and create a great deal of suffering for themselves. The other direction that people can go is to try to control or managed everything around them. They live under the misguided notion that if they just plan things enough and pay enough attention to detail that things will work out for the best. They are often successful in this approach until they are not. When they fail, then their world comes crashing down upon them as their only scaffolding in life is based upon success and control.
Real life happens in the middle of these two extremes. There are many things in my life I cannot control, but there are many things I can control. I have had things happen to me that I couldn’t do anything about and I have managed some things in my life so as to avoid unnecessary suffering. When we consider the idea of acceptance, we often have a limited view. We accept things because we must or because we feel we must without considering the fact that we have a choice. The person who believes that life happens to them has engaged in an unhealthy pattern of acceptance that threatens to cause them pain and the person who attempts to control everything eventually comes to the startling realization that total control is not possible. The healthy place to be is having the ability to recognize the things that you can realistically have control over while simultaneously accepting the fact that not everything can be controlled. The things we choose to accept in our lives have a strong bearing on the course of our future. Perhaps the best example of this is a sailboat. We cannot control the wind or its direction, but the sailboat can use the wind to propel itself forward. Somethings cannot be controlled or affected. If we are able to accept this fact, then we move to being able to use those things like the wind in a sail to propel us forward.-