The power of acceptance

Close up woman walk in to the wild with sunset and sunlight background

Should, could and would: these seemingly innocent words are pervasive in our thoughts and conversations. While it is natural to reflect on how a certain situation might be different in hindsight, getting stuck on these thoughts can negatively impact our mental health.

Ruminating on how we think past events ought to have been — particularly negative or traumatic events — can hinder the healing process. It can reinforce or intensify the emotions attached to these events, making it more difficult to move forward.

One way we can shift away from negative thought patterns is to practice acceptance.

What is acceptance? Acceptance means fully acknowledging the facts of a situation and not fixating on how it shouldn’t be that way. This mindset moves us away from often harsh judgement of ourselves and allows us to break away from thoughts of guilt or unfairness.

Practicing acceptance can be especially helpful for individuals living with mental illness.

In Sharp Grossmont Hospital’s cognitive behavioral therapy program and dual recovery intensive outpatient programs, patients learn to understand and develop the use of acceptance so they may more effectively cope with current challenges and difficult circumstances from the past. Lori Alford, a licensed clinical social worker, explains some of the ways she integrates acceptance into therapy.

“Our clients learn to develop self-awareness by bringing mindful awareness to breathing, thinking, emotions and physical sensations,” says Alford. “They learn to notice judgments and when they’re boosting negative emotional states by not accepting what is happening. Clients also perform exercises in which they tease apart what they can and cannot control.” In groups, patients are encouraged to practice using the language of acceptance — switching statements such as “This shouldn’t have happened” to “This is how it happened.” With these and other acceptance strategies, they grow in their ability to calm the internal struggle and focus on making productive and healthy next steps.

Patient perspectives
Patients from the intensive outpatient programs offer their insight into what acceptance means to them and how it helps them manage life’s challenges.

Several patients explain that accepting a situation is not about denying your feelings about it, but rather knowing that we cannot change the past or control others; we can only control ourselves. Instead of fighting the feelings attached to something, acknowledge them and move forward. It doesn’t mean loving everything you’ve done, just knowing that it is what it is.

Here are some other things they would like to share:

“For me, acceptance means surrendering to win.” — Angela

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.