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Acceptance is a doorway to understanding and growth; refusal to accept is a singular cause of frustration, stress, disappointment and general unhappiness. It may not be the case that a refusal to accept something causes anxiety, it’s certainly true that reducing anxiety starts with acceptance.

One of the greatest challenges that a person can face is that of learning to accept the things that they don’t like. We prefer to live well-ordered lives. Some of us leave it to chance, some plan down to the last detail; in between these two extremes there are countless degrees of willingness (or not) to take things as they come.

An important lesson that life teaches us is that there are some things we can’t control, hopefully we learn it while we are young, and move on to tackling its consequence: learning to deal with the frustration, anger and disappointment that we’ll routinely have to face in life.

It is rightly said that setbacks, challenges and failures are character-building. Though it’s not nice, unpleasantness has a way of entering our lives to just the degree we need for growth. There’s a kind of inverse logic to this which means that the stronger we get, the less we are likely to be troubled by the bad stuff. The more resilient we are, the better we are able to move on with our lives after a disappointment or crisis.

Acceptance and coping

There are many ways of doing this, some healthy, others less so. A core component of the healthy and resilient mindset is acceptance. Acceptance can be learned, easier said than done, for sure, but well worth the effort. Part of the reason that we find it difficult is that the negative emotions are so seductive and – if we let them be – self-perpetuating. Anger wants us to stay angry, frustration keeps us frustrated, and disappointment can be a delicious refuge.

The tendency is therefore to stay stuck where we are and stay away from acceptance. Learning to accept pays huge dividends, but the odds are stacked against us by our own emotional responses. Breaking the cycle starts with… Guess what? Acceptance!

This may seem like a conundrum, but it’s not. Being able to accept things we don’t like – and so escape the hold they have over us – requires a willingness to move forward. The will to learn and grow must be stronger than the comfort and safety of dwelling on the bad feelings.

Letting go, going with the flow, taking things as they come… Whatever you call it, learning to accept is as much an emotional exercise as it is an intellectual one. You’ll feel acceptance long before you understand it, or how you got there.

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