Acceptance (repost from March, 2011)

I believe living peacefully has a lot to do with acceptance.

Not settling, compromising, giving in, surrendering, victimy kind of acceptance.  No, I’m talking about powerful, radical, intentional, Hero kind of acceptance.  In a nutshell — acceptance is the ability to be present, to be open, and to do what matters.

Dr. Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap, uses the acronym DRAIN to describe the five common processes that drains vitality and joy out of life:

Disconnection

When we are disconnected from loved ones, from our surroundings, or from nature, we are not psychologically present.  We are not fully engaged, we’re not paying attention, and we close ourselves off from curiosity and interest.  When we are disconnected, we are more defensive and fearful.

Reactivity

When we are not aware and focused and open, we lack self-control and our automatic thoughts will wreak havoc on our life.  Our thoughts and emotions will take over and we become like puppets on a string.  We have little self-awareness or conscious control over our behavior.  We become emotional and judgmental toward ourselves and others and more often than not, fall victim to out-of-control impulse.  And our life becomes uncomfortable.

Avoidance

We are hard-wired to feel good.  So when we are disconnected and our reactions and impulses lead us to discomfort, we will often seek to avoid or escape in order to feel better.  Interestingly, this leads to more discomfort!  There is much scientific data to support that trying to avoid or get rid of unpleasant feelings, are directly linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, stress,  and other health issues.

Inside Your Mind

When we’re inside our mind, we’re disconnected and reactive simultaneously.  We can’t truly connect because we’re too entangled in our own thoughts.  On auto pilot, we are reactive and impulsive to whatever story our mind is telling us — and we’re believing it!

Neglecting Values

Our values are what we “say” we live by — our heart’s deepest desires for what we stand for during our brief time here on this planet.  But when we become disconnected, are avoiding negative feelings, in a reactive or impulsive mode, and our thoughts are running on auto-pilot, our actions don’t line up with our stated values.

 

So you can see how without acceptance, we can easily be pulled down into the DRAIN.  There are humbling moments in life that can pull us into a momentary acceptance:  the death of a loved one; a disastrous earthquake; walking on a mile and half lava bed where the ocean was just a few years ago.   However, radical acceptance is a practice and a way of being — every day.  This what we’re all going for.

Practice Mindfulness

Being present – mindful – is being fully engaged in every here-and-now experience.  You are not present if you are focusing on thoughts that either bring you into the past or have you worrying about the future.  Mindfulness.  Google it.  There are a million sources and exercises available.

Be Flexibility

Being open is really about flexibility.  Being aware and focused to whatever circumstance is before you.  You can do this more effectively in two ways.  First become the WATCHER — standing back and observing what is happening and what you’re thinking, and what you’re feeling.  And second, go “kindergarten” — approach everything with a sense of curiosity and wonder, instead of going into the archives of thoughts that “think” you know (which most often leads to judgment.)

Do What Matters

If I ask clients to list their core values, positive words like, “Gratitude, Family, Honesty, Kindness, Fun, etc.” often come up.  I have never heard words like Stress, Anger, Frustration, or Sadness listed as a value, and yet these negative words are what they are living by.  So, there is a gap between their deepest desires in how they want to be in the world (VALUES), and how they are actually being in the world (ACTION.)   So, make a list of your values, and then track your actions for at least a day — better for a full week.  Record your behaviors, reactions, impulses, thoughts and feelings.  How many of them line up with your values?  Make a conscious effort to close the gap.

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