5 Steps to Acceptance

5 Steps to acceptance

5 Steps to acceptance

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the definition of acceptance along with the 5 steps to acceptance as it pertains to life, relationships and events.

First a quick update:

“3 steps to break and replace bad habits”
What is a habit and how do you change it? Did you know that we don’t break habits – we replace them?  Watch the interview I gave to the syndicated TV show The Daily Buzz about the 3 key steps to replacing a bad habit: Watch the video here.

Now, let’s talk about what it means to be able to achieve acceptance with regards to life, relationships and events, and reveal the 5 steps to acceptance.

One of my key teachings is that the first two of the three keys to happiness are  forgiving, loving and accepting yourself and; forgiving, loving and accepting everyone else.

What does it mean to accept or to be in a state of acceptance?

The dictionary defines “accept” as:
1. to receive willingly;
2. to approve or give admittance;
3. to come to terms with something: to acknowledge a fact or truth and come to terms with it;
4. to endure a situation;
5. to tolerate something without protesting or attempting to change it.

The 12 Step program defines acceptance as “Believe as fact.” There are various philosophical and religious teachings relating to acceptance. For example, “Islam” can also be translated as “acceptance”; Christianity is based on the acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ, and; part of the practice of Buddhist Mindfulness is being attentively aware of the present reality without trying to change it or resist it.

Some people argue that acceptance includes recognizing that all outcomes are always for the best i.e. “things always turn out for the best.” But that does not apply to every situation such as Shirley Chambers, a mother from Chicago, who a few days ago lost her only surviving child (a boy) to gun violence, after having lost three other children over the past decade in separate incidents, again from gun violence.

Here, though, I would like to offer an expanded definition and perspective of acceptance, particularly as it relates to relationships and emotional freedom.

Before defining acceptance, I would like to share two client cases as examples of the need and benefit of acceptance.

One of my clients is a teenager whose parents have been divorced for a few years and he is now at the critical stage of development whereby he needs an involved father. However, his dad is not present, rarely speaks or communicates with him and when he does, it is not a beneficial or empowering experience.

The boy complains that his father does not care and does not give him any attention.

What the boy needs is a mentor, strong male role model, and someone to guide and teach him about life; someone to validate, praise, correct, guide him as well as offer him love, affection, time, attention and a hearing ear.

Coupled with his needs, the boy also has expectations of his father – to be a better man – to live up to his son’s vision of the great dad, the loving dad, the ideal dad – strong, healthy, loving, affectionate, concerned, involved father and man who his son can aspire to be.

We all have expectations of people around us. What do you expect from others? Who in your life cannot live up to your ideals and expectations?

The second client case: a high powered TV executive was forced out of his position because of a change within the holding company. This man had already created a brand, a very successful brand which he greatly loved and for which he felt proud. But as the holding company made more and more changes his passion for his brand was lost and eventually he left the company. However, he started working and creating another brand which soon also became very successful.

So what was the problem?

This successful TV executive was still resentful and bitter over his experience. My response to him was that in some cases we need to thank our enemies for challenging us; in this case, had the holding company not acted the way it did, this executive might never have been challenged to create a second successful brand – a brand that is even more meaningful, significant and fulfilling to him than the first.

“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” – ill Durant.

But how does thanking an enemy relate to acceptance?

Acceptance is the opposite of resistance.

Now let me explain the process as well as the definition of acceptance.

1. Identifying, feeling and releasing emotions
The first step in the process of acceptance is to identify our emotions attached to the event, person or relationship.

In the case of the teenage boy, the emotions include anger, sadness, disappointment, loss, frustration, abandonment, rejection, loneliness and so forth.

Rather than resisting or denying those emotions, he needs to acknowledge them, admit them and say that it is okay to feel those feelings. If he resists them, they will turn to depression as he begins to feel helpless and hopeless. However, he also needs to beware of staying “stuck in the drama” and becoming controlled by and repeating the thoughts of expectations of his father and emotions such as anger.

2. New understanding and wisdom
Gain full understanding. As much as possible strive to see the world through the eyes of the other person; what are his/her limitations? Why is he/she that way? Even if he/she could change, is it really likely that he/she will; does he/she even want to change?

In the case of the teenage boy, he needs to gain insight and wisdom about the reasons his dad acts and behaves the way he does, thus recognizing his dad’s actions are not motivated or caused by anything the boy has done or not done. And he needs to recognize that his father simply cannot live up to the vision or expectation he has created for his father.

In the case of a life event (a death, job loss, illness or accident), one needs to gain understanding that the process of life does and will include suffering: Buddhism’s first noble truth is “All life is suffering”; Christianity explains suffering as the result of the first sin. Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, life does involve suffering. As the 12 Step program states – “Believe as fact” and in this case, suffering is a fact.

3. Discernment
This is a simple but not necessarily easy step – recognizing and clearly identifying what we can and what we cannot change or control. At this point we stop trying to change the things over which we have no control such as people and past events. In the case of the TV executive, he recognizes that he cannot control the decisions or actions of the holding company but can control his next steps and response – finding a solution.

4. Solution
The paradox of acceptance is letting go of resistance (i.e. not trying to change it, the person or the past anymore) along with having neutral emotions over it while also recognizing that sometimes a solution is still required to fill a need. In the case of the teenage boy, he arrives at understanding why his father can’t give him what he needs – and he stops trying to change him – but the boy still looks for a male role model and mentor to fill those needs, while also looking inside himself for strength and purpose.

5. Hope
The belief that things can get better (there will be a positive outcome) gives us strength and helps us to handle life’s challenges, disappointments, losses and suffering.

When we arrive at the place of true acceptance (free from emotional pain) we stop wasting energy trying to change the past or present and instead, we focus our energy on that which we can control – usually ourselves. Finally, it is critical to be able to discern when we need to fight for things (relationships, justice, life and so forth) and when we need to find peace with what is. (Also read my article “Accepting the unacceptable” And read about the 6 steps in the Grieving Process “Time does not heal all”).

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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