Acceptance – What I Mean
When you hear the word “acceptance”, what is it you think of? Do you think about receiving a gift and accepting it? Perhaps you think of other people accepting something that you’ve said. Potentially you think of agreement? According to the dictionary, it’s all three. More often than not, we’d probably lean towards the second definition, wouldn’t we? But what does that have to do with our mental health?
Recently, I attended one of my Talking Therapy appointments with my mental health counsellor and we talked about some of the issues that I have regarding a couple of different situations in my life. I shan’t go into detail about those on here, as they aren’t relevant, but suffice it to say that they involve situations that I cannot control.
For example: imagine that you are working in a call centre for a bank and you get a customer come through. They’re furious because somehow a transfer that they requested hasn’t arrived in their account. You then have to investigate, but you feel upset or angry that they are shouting and having a go at you. Really, it’s not your fault. You can’t, however, control how they are behaving, can you?
This is the kind of situation I’m referring to. Something that someone else is doing or saying, an event or occurrence that is out of my control, something that I can try and influence but I cannot directly change.
Frustrating, isn’t it?
The Power of Acceptance
So I discussed the entire situation with my therapist, who listened intently, only asking a few clarifying questions. Then she asked a very important question: “can you control what that/those person/people is/are doing?”
It stumped me because it seemed like such an obvious answer. Well…no. Unfortunately I don’t have telepathy or mind control or something along those lines, so there is no way I can control other people. Even if I were a nasty person and resorted to things like blackmail – be it through use of a physical object or through emotional means – or threats, I could still not fully control someone. So no…I can’t control them.
At which point, she made her answer clear. In order for me to deal with the depression and low mood that follows this particular situation and others like it, I need to learn acceptance. I cannot control what anyone else but me is doing, therefore I am not responsible for what they do, which means I am not to blame. In that vein, I can stop beating myself up for everything that is going wrong or things that don’t happen because it is out of my hands. Yes, I can influence what happens through words and deeds but I cannot control it directly.
Which is where acceptance comes in.
Confusing, right? Well OK, maybe not completely confusing, but it took me a while to fully grasp it while she was talking. So let’s look at it another way.
A friend of mine is going through a difficult situation. One of those where there is an ex-husband and kids and so on. As with a lot of these situations, the matter of child custody is raised and arrangements of that nature are being made. Both of them want to take an amicable, informal approach but there is a problem.
Both of them have different ideas of how it should be done.
Now, as with any situation where there are different ideas, there will be problems. One such problem has arisen and they are in disagreement about how to handle it. Involving when a child will visit, one parent believes the child should continue visiting mid-week as normal, the other (who has more contact as primary caregiver) has identified that this is unsettling the young child, distressing the child as they get confused easily about whose house they are going to. So they have proposed scrapping the mid-week visits. The friend wants the ex to make suggestions of alternatives, as they always come up with those suggestions, but the ex is making it as difficult as they possibly can because they “don’t see the problems” that the child is experiencing, nor do they believe that it is for the best. Really, it is heavily implicit that the ex is doing what suits them best and not putting the child first, even though they vehemently deny it.
Anyway, this friend was particularly upset recently because of trying to make the arrangements and the ex was using a variety of tactics to try and get their own way. Ranging from verbal bullying and threats to simply being argumentative over every little detail, they were trying to get their own way. Why? They disagreed with what was being said and, as I’ve previously mentioned, they were putting their own desires ahead of their child’s wellbeing.
So what do we do?
The trick here is this whole acceptance thing. My friend cannot control the reactions of the ex. As always, my friend is putting the children first no matter what. That means making this difficult decision, scrapping the mid-week and figuring something else out. Unfortunately, that also means dealing with a difficult ex and a difficult situation. While talking to me, still upset, it became apparent my friend was self-blaming, asking whether molehills were being made into mountains and so on.
I asked a simple question: “Do you believe you are doing the right thing?”
“Are you putting your child first?”
Then, quite simply, the problem is with the ex. No restrictions are being made, access is not being denied, so the problem is not with my friend. As difficult as it is, that means accepting the ex’s behaviour because it is one of those uncontrollable factors. Even with the best will in the world, neither my friend nor I can change the way the ex is reacting. So why should we let it affect us? Instead, accept that that is the way they have chosen to behave and let them get on with it.
It doesn’t need to affect us.
You see, once we accept that a situation is the way it is, for whatever reason that may be, it loses its power over us. Yes, we will still feel some of the feelings and emotions but we put techniques into place so that they don’t control our lives. I’m not saying it’s easy – not in the slightest, as it can be very difficult to do – but if you can do it even a little bit, it can make life a lot easier for you.
Why not give it a go? You might be surprised by the results. After all…the therapists recommend it! So see where it takes you. Oh…and let me know how it goes!
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