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ACT: Acceptance

ACT: Acceptance

Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by admin

In previous blog posts, we’ve discussed ACT as a tool that guides us towards living the life we want to live, all the while accepting the emotions and thoughts we may be having, even if they’re negative. In this context, the aim is really to facilitate active acceptance of our experiences and feelings, which is not to be confused with sitting back and passively accepting our lives as they are. It’s not about accepting every single unwelcome thought or emotion, but about paying attention to which of these is getting in our way on our path towards living a life based on our deepest values.

We accept and acknowledge that we may be feeling a certain way, but we don’t have to struggle with that as much as we think we do. Regardless of if our thoughts and feelings are pleasant or painful, we open ourselves up to them and let them come and go as they do. The difference is that we don’t have to accept that those negative thoughts will control the way we behave on the outside.

There’s a small window there where we can jump in and intercept our feelings before they get to our bodies, all it takes is an understanding that this moment is fleeting, and that we wish to behave based on what we want for ourselves in the long run.

If your partner forgot to clean their dirty dishes – again – before leaving for work in the morning, you don’t have to call them at the office and chew them out for giving you a bad start to your day, you can intercept the urge to act on that impulse. You can do so by taking a step back, accepting that you may be feeling angry or frustrated, but with an understanding that yelling at your partner first thing in the morning is not congruent with the kind of person you want to be, you can choose to take a deep breath and calmly take it up with them at the end of the day. You may even find that by that time, you’re not as angry, and you can address the situation in such a way that leaves you both happy and ready to move on rather than angry and ready to dig your heels in even further.

The key with acceptance is that we don’t fight or avoid how we’re feeling. While it may seem like a good solution in the moment, in the long run it ends up being a tiny little band-aid on a huge scar, and it stops us from being the person we want to be – the whole intent of acceptance and commitment therapy.

I know, it seems extremely counterintuitive to accept unpleasant feelings and thoughts, but doing so can end up being extremely meaningful, you just need to have the willingness to let those thoughts be, as they are and in the moment. By making this a habit, many ACT clients often say that through accepting a painful emotion, it ends up reducing significantly, sometimes even disappearing!

Accepting an emotion does not mean that you like or want that emotion, it just means that you let it be an experience briefly passing through you. The language we use can significantly help with this as well! By saying “I’m noticing anxiety” rather than “I’m anxious”, we remove the negative thought as being part of ourselves, and instead we accept is as what it is – a feeling making its way through our minds and bodies, and nothing more.

Just like how defusion has it’s Three N’s, acceptance also has it’s Three A’s, which when used show us that acceptance is really a process that we can consistently be working on.

1. Acknowledge: Noticing the unpleasant experience and naming it
2. Allow: Giving it permission to stay
3. Accommodate: Making room for the experience, adapting to what it means for us in the short and long term

By practicing these Three A’s and struggling with the initial discomfort of making space for negative experiences that come up, you’ll soon be able to get into the habit of acceptance. This will eventually translate into you being the kind of person who you wish to be, based on your deepest and most dearly held values. That’s a pretty great trade-off if you ask me!


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