Accepting What Is

Stop Resisting, and Accept What Is

I have written several times on this blog about accepting what is happening right now.  This does not mean liking it, but just acknowledging what is here and not fighting it, or otherwise resisting.  There is great power, and often great relief in being able to let go of resistance, but getting to that point can be difficult.  How do you stop resisting the loss of your house due to foreclosure, your partner’s infidelity, the loss of your job, or the death of your child?

I think that we resist things we don’t want to be true, because, in some strange way, not accepting it makes what happened seem less real.  If we accept that it happened, then we have to come to terms with it and what it means for us, now and in the future.  I think it’s normal to go in and out of acceptance in the first hours and days of  a loss, but also I suspect that the longer you hold acceptance at bay, the more difficult it becomes to grieve your loss.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is a physician and Buddhist who developed, and teaches, a course in Mindfulness for people with chronic illness and/or chronic pain.   The course covers a number of modalities including building awareness of the body and mind through a daily body scan, yoga, and mediation.   When those with chronic pain who were receiving both medical treatment and mindfulness training in the stress clinic, were compared with chronic pain patients waiting for admission to the stress clinic and just receiving medical treatments, there was a huge difference.  Those receiving both medical treatment and  mindfulness training when compared to those just getting medical treatment showed the following percentages of improvement in pain reduction 36:0; reduction in negative body image 37:2; improvement in mood 87:2; improvement in psychological distress 77:11.

In his book “Arriving At Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness’ Dr Kabut-Zinn has this to say about Accepting What Is.

Acceptance doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, mean passive resignation. Quite the opposite. It takes a huge amount of fortitude and motivation to accept what is – especially when you don’t like it – and then work mindfully as best you possibly can with the circumstances you find yourself in, and with the resources at your disposal, to be in wise relationship to what is, which may mean at some point acting to mitigate, heal, redirect, or change what can be changed.

Are you resisting something? If so, can you accept what is? Changing what can be changed and relating differently to that which cannot.

If you would like to leave a comment, the link is at the top of this post.



What If All is Right, Right Now?

Overcome Stress By Looking At What is Right

Stress causes the body to release chemicals that prepare the body to run from, or stay and fight, a physical danger.  This ancient response to danger, known as the fight-or-flight or stress response, is often life-saving in the face of real physical danger.  However,  because our bodies respond the same to both physical and  psychological danger,  the stress-response can be turned on almost all the time.  This ancient short-lived response to external stress, is now also responding to our thoughts and emotions and so creating potentially long-term internal changes in the body.

The stress chemicals prepare you for physical action, which in ancient days was short-lived.  You either escaped from the predator or it killed and ate you.   The hormone adrenalin prepared you to flee by boosting heart-rate and blood-pressure , while the main stress hormone, cortisol had the functions of sounding a general alarm in your brain, boosting the hormones you needed to fight or flee, while simultaneously maximizing your energy by turning off systems that were not required in the short term. These included the digestive system, reproductive system, immune system, and growth, in order to maximize energy-use in short term stress.

There are no longer sabre-toothed tigers roaming the earth, however, stress caused by psychological factors ( including  our thoughts and emotions)  can lead to frequent, or constant, suppression of the-above  systems leading to diverse conditions such as constipation or diarrhea,  irritable bowel syndrome,  infertility, frequent infections, allergies, asthma, immune system disorders (e.g., myesthenia gravis, thyroid disorders, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease,  lupus…to name just a few).  Stress can also cause anxiety, heart disease, depression, weight gain and memory problems.Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

The stress does not have to be  caused by major life events.  Just seeing the glass as half-empty rather than half-full can become a habit that sets off the stress response.  However, the reverse can also happen, because it is not what happens to us, but the meaning we give to it that determines what our brains see as stressful.  So giving a positive meaning to as many situations as you can, by looking at what is right rather than at what is wrong, can help reduce, or even eliminate, a stressful reaction to them.   For example, if you crash your car and no-one is hurt or are only slightly hurt, you can make that aspect more important, and therefor focus on it more, than the state your car is in.  If you fail an exam, you can see it as a learning opportunity to remind yourself in future to study earlier or differently, or to to learn how to write exams.  Of course you will be disappointed if these things happen, but let yourself be upset, then move on to  seeing a positive aspect and as far as possible focusing on that.

When someone you love leaves or dies, take time to grieve, but also to remember they joy they brought you.  You will likely move back and forth between these states, just don’t get stuck in the grief  permanently.  Letting go of anything can be difficult, especially when it was something, or someone, you loved and valued highly, but if you can’t find a positive meaning in their loss, then focus on the meaning they,or it, brought into your life while they were there.

In the book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl who spent the war in the German Concentration camps  Auschwitz and Dachau, wrote about three types of prisoners in the camps. There were those who who believed they had to be out by a certain date, and who, after a few such dates had come and gone, stayed in bed and died within a few days;  and those, like Frankl, who saw that they could somehow put their experience in the camp to use, or believed that they would be reunited with family members, after the war.  Of the third group Frankl wrote:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts, comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.  They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedom’s – to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”

I would imagine that this third group of prisoners were less stressed, and happier, either of the other two groups, because they saw a meaning in being in the camps.  They looked not at what was wrong with their situation, but at what was right. They may not have lived longer on average than the others, but they spent the time they lived in serving others, and I expect that reduced their stress and  fear of what might happen to them.

So can you today, find something to change the meaning in a situation you are are not enjoying, or actively pushing away,  by finding something, however small, that is right about it.  Focus on that right aspect, and see if your feelings about the situation change.  Try and find a few more ‘right’ things about the situation, so you will be able to vary them.  Over time, see if you are less stressed, anxious or whatever you were experiencing previously.  If it works for this situation, start applying it to others, and notice if your overall stress decreases and if any symptoms you have also decrease.

Leave a comment and let me know how this has worked for you.

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