Imagine that you talk to a breeder about buying a puppy. At the time he doesn’t have any puppies but he puts you on his list and says he will call you as soon as the next litter is born. You wait months and still don’t hear anything so decided to stop by and talk to him again. When you arrive you see him giving away the last puppy. So you decide to confront him and when you do he just shrugs and apologizes.
That’s not fair! That shouldn’t happen! But it did.
What do you do?
You have a few options here. You can lash out at him and demand you get the puppy. You can cry and have a pity party or even write a horrible review online about the breeder or worse; become a cat person. **I’m a total cat person no judgement**
Which option do you chose?
People often say, “I can’t stand this,” “This isn’t fair,” “This can’t be true,” and “This shouldn’t be this way.” It’s almost as if we think refusing to accept the truth will keep it from being true or that accepting means agreeing. Accepting doesn’t mean agreeing. Which means there is another option for this situation. You can accept it and move on.
This is a lot easier said than done. It is hard to deal with something painful and just let it go. No one wants to experience pain, discomfort, disappointment, or sadness; but it’s a part of life that you can never avoid. When you actively chose to dwell on something you can’t control you add suffering to your pain and discomfort. Often this means making the situation way bigger than it really is.
Let me break something to you. You’re life is not perfect and it never will be. You will, at some point in your life, make a mistake, cry, feel pain, feel anger, or feel uncomfortable and you can’t avoid it no matter how hard you try. Some people aren’t going to like you and some jobs you won’t get hired for, but that doesn’t mean your life is over or that it is a reflection of the wonderful person you are.
When we push away or avoid our feelings you also miss out on opportunities to be happy. We get so caught up in something so minor and uneventful that we waste all of our time and energy on something that doesn’t even matter. Sometimes this avoidance can lead to more intense behavior like drinking, gambling, or isolation. Sure, they help you feel temporary control and relief but it does nothing for you in the grand scheme of things.
Radical acceptance means you can turn your resistant, ruminating thoughts into something you accept. I’m in this situation and even though I do not approve of it, it’s OK. I can’t change or control what happened but I can control how I react to it.
So powerful! Let me say it again, I can’t control what has already happened but I can control how I react to it. Isn’t that just amazing! In those moments where we feel the strongest emotions and feel so out of focus we have to capability to control the outcome. You come home from work and your laundry wasn’t done. Acknowledge what happened, understand that nothing will change if you lash out, and chose to accept it.
Now I am not saying you can’t feel emotions. If you just wrote a 5 page paper and your computer crashed by all means get mad or upset and eat some ice cream while talking to your mom about how awful school is. But don’t dwell. Take a few minutes to calm down and face reality. Then kick that paper in the face! The sooner you can accept the reality the sooner you can move on!
I have known about the radical acceptance skill for years and practice every day but still struggle with dwelling on things. If you find yourself not being able to accept a situation take a moment to breathe and clear your head before returning. Yoga, mindfulness, or playing with an animal are just a few of the many ways to relax and clear your mind.
It’s already in the past and as we all know from grade school, we can’t change the past but we can learn from it and better the future.
Do you struggle with dwelling on unnecessary things? What helps you accept hardships?