As my internship year at the Albert Ellis Institute draws to a close, this week I decided to use my blog as a forum to discuss one of the keys points I’ve taken away from my education as an REBT therapist: ACCEPTANCE. I have consolidated this concept into ten rational coping statements that I believe have some relevance in my own life as well as most of my clients’; therefore, I assume they probably can be applied to the readers’ lives at least in some capacity.
The overarching idea is this: one must ACCEPT REALITY in order to relieve extreme emotional distress. I say this with a disclaimer–acceptance is not about liking, condoning, advocating for, or being happy about adversities, real or imagined. Acceptance is not about relinquishing responsibility or ownership of one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Acceptance is acknowledgement that one is capable of enduring and tolerating what exists. Acceptance is about disapproval of pain and misfortune without giving into suffering and misery.
That being said, I truly believe that emotional anguish and maladaptive, undesirable behaviors can be kept largely at bay if human beings rehearse and truly believe what I label the TEN NOBLE ACCEPTANCES:
1. I accept uncertainty and that I cannot predict the future.
You can “what-if” your way to the grave, but it isn’t going to change the fact that you’ll never know for sure what will happen one year, one month, one week, one day, or one minute from now.
2. I accept that I cannot be loved by everyone I come into contact with.
It’s a damn shame, but nobody is so popular that everybody loves them. Unless you choose to live in a forest inhabited by only animals or move to Mars, at least one person whom you meet in your lifetime will not like you.
3. I accept that people in my life do not always behave the way that I want them to.
Being able to program everybody whom you may meet in life to do exactly what you want them to do has the potential to be pretty incredible; however, it’s also possible that the predictable nature of even that might get a little old after a while.
4. I accept that perfection has never, does not, and will never exist.
Perfection is subjective and therefore not real.
5. I accept that other people are smarter, prettier, harder working, and more interesting than me.
Being in the top percent of every Bell curve might be cool, but it also sounds like a lot pressure, and quite frankly, exhausting as hell.
6. I accept that I cannot change other people’s feelings, thoughts, or behaviors.
In the same way others will not always behave the way I want them to, when I realize they aren’t doing what I want, I similarly cannot suddenly make them do, say, think, or feel what would be preferable in my view. It’s hard enough to change yourself, so doesn’t it make sense that changing another person might be beyond the realm of what’s possible?
7. I accept that I am a human being and by virtue of that fact, I will continue to make mistakes for the rest of my life.
Maintaining the high expectation that you will not fail from time to time is emotional sabotage (see Noble Acceptance #4).
8. I accept that I cannot change the past.
Hate choices you’ve made. Take pause at bad decisions. However, insisting in the present that you should’ve done things differently in the past is about as constructive as trying to find parking for a Hummer in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
9. I accept that part of life is being alone.
Unless you like handcuffs and you’re pretty effective at losing keys, good luck with achieving this one.
10. I accept that life deals unfair cards, and unfortunate events happen to people who don’t deserve them.
In other words, acknowledge that pain is a part of life, but suffering does not have to be.
Take-home message: There’s some good news and some bad news. I’ll tell you the bad news first. The bad news, which is probably not a huge shocker, is that things you find aversive exist. The good news is you have two primary choices in life surrounding these hardships that might befall you—1) to demand they be different and wallow because they are not, or 2) to accept they exist and MOVE ON with life regardless. Fortunately, only one person can take this choice away from you…
…and I think you know who that is.
To my wonderful supervisors, patients, fellow therapists, and support staff here at the Albert Ellis Institute, thank you so much for everything you have taught me this year.
Next up: Kim Kassay, Psy.D. on Planning a Wedding Without Becoming a Bridezilla