Acceptance yes, resignation no

12. March 2019 / general
resilience

For many people, acceptance is a sign of weakness or defeat; they see it as giving up or being beaten by someone – or they even view it as resignation. The question is: Do we actually gain anything from battling with situations that are simply the way they are? I believe the answer is no. If we show resistance in the face of things we cannot change, this harms our bodies and minds.

I am an active person who likes to make things happen and who has things under control. That said, I also have to repeatedly learn to live with situations that are painful and difficult (such as death and illness in my circle of family and friends). Like everyone, I encounter setbacks and misfortune and I have to deal with them. One of my most important insights in this context is that it is easier to cope with these situations when I learn to accept them – i.e. to acknowledge that they have happened and that I cannot change them. This is not about resignation. That would be completely alien to me. It is about not resisting things that cannot be altered, even if they go against our wishes or ideas.

One of my favorite subjects is energy. We all have energy reserves that dwindle every now and then and need to be regularly replenished. Not accepting something we cannot change means that we waste energy – and even do ourselves harm. The German psychologist Doris Wolf says: “If we refuse to accept something and fight against change, then we intensify and prolong our mental and physical suffering.” In concrete terms, we harm ourselves because the stress hormone cortisol is released during periods of continued complaint or irritation. Alternatively, we may try to suppress the idea of something unpleasant (e.g. if feelings are too strong to bear). We then drive our negative feelings into the subconscious, and this catches up with us in the long term because the feelings that are suppressed are not processed by our brains (and hearts…).

 

Acceptance is about regaining your ability to act

When you accept something, it certainly doesn’t mean that you are over it. Every time you encounter a difficult situation – such as the breakdown of a relationship, the loss of a job, the death of a family member or friend, or another crisis – you subsequently need time to process the situation. Accepting it doesn’t mean that you think what happened is good. Acceptance is ‘simply’ about assuming that you cannot change the situation. The American psychotherapist Denise Fournier summarized this aptly by saying: “Fighting against what has happened does not make it undone. On the contrary, when we fight against reality, we limit our capacity to deal with the situation.”

Once we accept a situation, we can begin to look forward instead of back. We now have the strength and capacity to look at how best to deal with the crisis. You can apply that to something as simple as a common cold. Instead of getting upset that you’ve become ill and are now suffering (and don’t have time for it…), you can look at what you could do to stop it getting worse or to help yourself recover more quickly. Sometimes you also have to practice calmness and serenity – in so far as there is nothing you can do.

 

Change my attitude – not the situation

Here are some concrete tips to help you accept difficult situations:

 

 

I am aware that this is not always easy to achieve all this – and that it is a lifelong process. I am not perfect at doing this either … but you benefit from every such experience and become a little wiser each time.

 

©  Claudia Kraaz

Buch: Claudia Kraaz – Nachhaltig leistungsfähig bleiben
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