Acceptance and Emotions

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Inevitably, life involves pain. Pain + nonacceptance = suffering. When we attempt to avoid unpleasant thoughts and feelings, we can actually increase their duration and frequency. They are like little imps that ride around on our shoulders, yammering in our ears. Suppressing negative thoughts and emotions only makes that self-destructive chatter louder.

Acceptance and Emotions

Steven Hayes, the codeveloper of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), promotes acceptance as an alternative to that incessant cycle of scrambling to elude overwhelming emotions. Hayes views acceptance as the active choice to allow unpleasant experiences to exist without trying to deny or alter them. But it is not just acceptance that is key here. It is committing to accepting that the unpleasant experience exists and still living the life we aspire to—not waiting until the unpleasant experience goes away before we can truly live.

Unpleasant emotions and experiences are an inevitable—even essential—part of being human. And we can build a sense of competence and mastery when we do not strive to avoid what we fear. Mind you, acceptance does not mean lying down and saying, “Whatever, bring on the pain.” It’s a process.

Before we attempt to change a situation, we must accurately recognize what the situation is. This requires acceptance. By refusing to back away from seemingly unbearable emotions, we can take steps toward healing—and move through feelings of worry and sadness at the same time

Suzette helps individuals, couples and families regulate their emotions and create lives worth living. You can follow Suzette Bray LMFT on Facebook and Instagram @suzettebraylmft for updates.