"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." - Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher.
One of the most difficult yet most simple qualities to cultivate in life is acceptance. And while it is true that not everything ought to be accepted, it is often a virtue and a step toward serenity to understand that not everything can be changed, and that unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments.
"Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change" - Katherine Mansfield, British author.
As we strive for perfection we fight what may be good enough or what we cannot change anyway. We may waste a lot of energy, feeling bored and stuck rather than progressive and motivated. Sometimes there is no magic however, simple acceptance can be enough to ease and change our perspective. In turn we free our energy to discover, explore and enjoy what is already available.
After an unfortunate injury a young man became epileptic, this unexpected condition could not be completely controlled by medication. Unlike a common cold, his epilepsy did not get better and go. Despite consulting experts and living as carefully as possible occasional fits still occurred. The changes in his life excluded him from driving, enjoy his favourite activities of climbing and sometimes drinking to excess, such changes impinged on his style and his goals.
In desperation he consulted a counsellor for guidance only to find out what he needed was to accept, even a reputable counsellor could not rid him of epilepsy. He felt disappointed, almost horrified, how could he simply ‘accept’ his new condition? In time however, he found public transport services to be good enough, that walking and running worked wonders for his health and that there are many alternative interests. His life carried on, he developed new ways to be. His health was not ideal but accepting epilepsy allowed him to adjust his style and enjoy his life regardless.
"Accepting does not necessarily mean 'liking,' 'enjoying,' or 'condoning.' I can accept what is and be determined to evolve from there. It is not acceptance but denial that leaves me stuck." - Nathaniel Branden, American physiologist.
Again, note that acceptance does not connote approval. In fact it usually connotes that there is something in the situation that is less than appealing, less than ideal. Yet, for wider reasons, such as the overall value of a relationship, or situation, we tolerate or assent to the imperfection. While perfection and improvement are surely ideals for which to strive, inordinately demanding them in every situation or instantly is usually a recipe for resentment, frustration, disappointment, and even strife.
Often we may begin a relationship with stars in our eyes, wanting to believe ‘he/she is the one, this time it will work, he /she will change that little bit’. In time ‘that little bit’ can grow and it often happens that the ideal one seeks becomes a new ideal. And the process tends to repeat and repeat, such that a person like this never attains deep relations with real people in a real world, but is forever seeking that which is unreal, which does not exist. In effect they miss real life, in search of fantasy.
A young woman believed she finally met her prince, this new man was surely the antidote to her current relationship. Without deep reflection she bade the old relationship farewell and eagerly welcomed the new. Her new beau may not show his emotions but look at his confidence and sporting prowess, surely in time he would notice and appreciate her affections. “My displays of love and gratitude will rub off, his indifference will melt, I will gently engineer these changes” she conveniences herself yet again.
If we can give up the temptation to end one relationship and move from place to place in search of an ideal situation we ultimately realise there is no escape from oneself, and the idea that things would be better some place else is usually an illusion. Acceptance of one’s partner can provide incentive to restore peace and work things out. This acceptance means learning the practices of love: acknowledging one’s own offensive behaviour, giving up one’s preferences, forgiving and possibly developing oneself as a result. Acceptance enables one to work with what you’ve got rather than waste time constantly looking for a better deal.
"It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan, American astronomer.
Acceptance, which is not the same as approval, is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, wherein we come to recognise a situation (often a negative or uncomfortable) for what it is, without attempting to change it, protest, or leave it. The word is derived from the Latin roots ac (to) + ceptus (take or receive). The concept is also close in meaning to ‘acquiescence’, which is derived from the Latin 'acquiescere' (to find rest in).
Acceptance is the capacity, to work with what is, and thereby make modest improvements. It is the resourcefulness to discover gifts in the present, and imperfect moment, and use them lovingly and skillfully. It is the ability to rejoice and delight in the quirkiness, even the inconsistency of the people we know, and to realize that many of the struggles they have are strongly related to their strengths.
About the author
I am a registered counsellor with the BACP. The areas where I work are: London Bridge/The City of London and Muswell Hill/London N10. Although I help people mainly with issues of anxiety and depression, I cover many other areas.
Please visit my website for more information: http://www.m-mcilroycounselling.co.uk/
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