Why Acceptance is so Important
Everyone suffers difficulties and adversity of some kind, examples of which are mental illness, disability, pain, illness and stress. Not everything is under our control and we have widely varying ways and success of dealing with these stresses. How content we are with our lives and how effective we are at life management depends on our ability to cope with these events. If we can be realistic and generate a plan for managing then success is the more likely outcome. What happens to us when we suffer setbacks is complex and we need to address several parts of the situation.
All the difficulties in life which challenge us strongly have one thing in common, they involve loss. When we get a pain problem we lose the normal comfort of our bodies which is a loss as we find we cannot sit for so long, drive so far, dig the garden as we used to. Some of these changes are slow changes which inevitable follow becoming older but even these can be challenging to cope with and accept. How much harder is it to cope with the more sudden or more profound changes which might occur at a much earlier age than we expected.
There are many potential losses such as the death of someone close, losing our job or our role in life, losing our income, breakup of a relationship and the loss of a part of the body. These losses affect and dent our self esteem. Depression is the most disabling mental difficulty in the world and largely caused by a loss of some kind, unless endogenous. Depression causes our brain chemistry to alter so that we think more negatively about what happens to us and interpret our findings in the same negative way. Depressive thinking is important due to the feelings of the person and their actions but also because depression is commonly associated with pain.
We may not be that successful in coping with and coming to terms with these losses. Hopelessness may be the result if we become depressed so we lose the motivation to take the required actions which would ameliorate our condition and situation. Cognitive therapy and antidepressant drugs can be used as required to kick start the improvement process of more realistic thinking and begin generating helpful approaches to our troubles. We can react in an entirely different manner to these challenges by fighting strongly against them.
Pain sufferers typically say I'm not going to let my condition beat me, making the situation a competitive one which they are going to win against the pain. This approach is a common one as sufferers try hard to keep control in adverse conditions, fighting to maintain their activity in getting things done such as their day to day chores and things they feel they should be able to do. This approach can however have a real disadvantage as the continual struggle against the pain can lead to a deterioration in pain, reduced activity and depression.
Conflict is one of the most important concepts here. The conflict exists between what we think we should be able to do and what we can. We can feel aggressive towards the pain and towards the world which demands things we cannot supply. We can thereby develop a relationship of conflict with others and within ourselves which can obstruct us from generating alternative approaches to our problems and gets us stuck in a rigid behaviour. These problems are all related to not accepting the reality of our situation and we cannot move forward as those actions are not acceptable.
The idea of acceptance is important and should not be mixed up with resignation. In resignation we feel helpless and that we just have to accept everything, thinking that nothing much will change things for the better and we have to put up with the situation permanently in this way. This kind of very negative assessment of the problem will lead most likely towards depression and make it unlikely the person will take actions to get themselves out of their situation. It is undesirable to feel resignation and more functional to learn acceptance and so work at changing the future for the better.