kindness

It Is What It Is: Acceptance as Empowerment, NOT Resignation

Photo by  Philipp Sewing  on  Unsplash

Often times we are confronted with situations in our lives that we are forced to accept for one reason or another. For example, we do not have agency over who we are related to, the fact that we have to attend school, the age we are, or the way others behave and react… The list goes on and on. The idea of accepting these somewhat unpleasant realities is extremely challenging: we might even find ourselves resisting situations that we cannot change because they feel so intolerable. In reality, resisting the inevitable causes us more emotional pain and decreases our ability to be effective in the areas of our lives that we can implement change. So how do we accept these unpleasant, intolerable, and sometimes distressing circumstances?

Acceptance is a process rather than a single event. It is first important to acknowledge what it is that we find challenging to accept and furthermore identify our emotions toward our reality. Validate yourself for feeling the way you do about this situation. For example, “it makes sense that I feel disappointed that my family member is not supportive of my decision to switch schools, because I would like my family to feel proud of me.” Validation is a crucial part of accepting reality, as it allows us to feel and express our true emotions.

You might next look at this situation and identify what is “set-in-stone” and CANNOT be changed. From the example above, we cannot change how our family will react to our choices, nor can we change their opinions. Then, take a look at what is malleable and CAN be changed (even if in a very small way). Perhaps that means we can reframe our expectations, find another source of validation (from ourselves or other supports), and practice assertive communication strategies with family members. Rather than focusing our energy on what cannot be changed, challenge yourself to play around with the more flexible areas of your circumstance. This is the space that we can work with and experience change and growth.

It is important to note that acceptance does NOT mean that we are okay with our circumstance. We may go through the process of practicing acceptance and still experience distress around what cannot be changed. Implement strategies that help you to tolerate what emotions come up for you around this (i.e. self care, grounding techniques). Embrace the areas you can make change in to be most effective in your challenging circumstance and practice strategies that allow you to shift perspective, change, and grow.

I challenge you to experiment with the process of acceptance. Notice where you are resisting an unpleasant reality, and identify where you can can be effective in changing your circumstance. Remember, reality acceptance is not easy and takes practice. Be kind to yourself if it doesn’t work the first, second, or third time. Practice self care and come back to your intention with reality acceptance.

Accept what is, and embrace what can be!

LoveTip: Embracing Self-Compassion

Photo by  Robert Baker  on  Unsplash

While I try to incorporate many forms of mindfulness into my sessions, I’ve found that recently I’ve been drawn to this one, specific guided meditation. In nearly every session that I’ve played this meditation, clients not only report feeling more calm and stillness, but also that they’re seeing it physically in their body.  When something like this works for the majority of my clients, I find it important to check in and see if the tool itself is especially helpful or if the issue being addressed might be more common than I thought. So, I began asking my clients what it was about this one 5-minute meditation that was so beneficial, compared to the thousands of other meditations you can find on the internet. Nearly all of them answered that it came down to this phrase - “May I be kind to myself in this moment, and may I give myself the compassion that I need.”

Wow.  

Growing up, many of us are taught the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, treat people the way you’d like to be treated. Manners are enforced, and we’re constantly told to have compassion for our fellow humans. All of these things are clearly very positive, because teaching children to have compassion for others is a very important thing. However, I’ve noticed that there isn’t much being taught about self-compassion and the importance it plays in our overall happiness and well-being, especially during the teen years. Really the only time I’ve seen this out in the real world is when a flight attendant tells a caregiver to put their air mask on first before assisting others. Makes sense, right? You need to be able to breathe to help others, so of course you would need to put your mask on first. Similarly, it’s also true that for us to have compassion for others, we need to have it for ourselves. Except sometimes that’s much harder to do.

In my last blog post, I explored negative self-talk using a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) technique of connecting your thoughts, feelings and behaviors using a triangle visual.  From this exercise it became clear to me that my procrastination and “stuckness” came down to saying things to myself that I wouldn’t dare say to another person because they wouldn’t be kind. Why is it that it feels okay to say hurtful things to ourselves when we would be appalled to see someone else being spoken to that way? Why is self-compassion so hard?

These are questions that I still don’t have the answer to, but I am exploring, specifically through a book called Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach and through this meditation that has been so helpful to my clients. For some reason, having someone give you permission to be kind to yourself makes it much easier. It’s amazing what just 5 minutes of treating yourself kindly can do for your entire day! So as school starts, schedules fill, and the stress levels inevitably rise, I invite you to take a few moments to be kind to yourself and give yourself the compassion that you need.

App: Insight Timer (FREE meditation app!) 5 Minutes of Self Compassion by Lisa Abramson