Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Part 3: The Importance of Acceptance

In two previous posts, we explored the nuts and bolts of an approach called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It’s time now to dig deeper into the crucial first step that makes ACT what it is: acceptance.

This is not to say that acceptance is the goal of ACT. Rather, it serves as a framework that helps us see and remember what we can and cannot control. From this place of acceptance, committed action and healing flow more naturally and helpfully.

Refresher Course: What is ACT?

The three tenets of ACT are:

  • Accept and be mindful of an emotion
  • Choose the direction you wish to take
  • Take action to get you moving in that direction

For example, let’s say you find yourself with a strong urge to engage in binge eating. ACT will help you push past the denial and excuses that hinder recovery. It will guide you towards acceptance. From there, you will learn to mindfully witness the feeling without judgment as you commit to new choices.

The Power of Acceptance

Accepting an issue or problem is a powerful way to help yourself move forward. The issue or problem at hand might be, e.g.

  • An aspect of your personality that stubbornly persists even though you fervently wish to change it
  • A recurring scenario or situation that is beyond your ability to control
  • Strong emotions and feelings that have a tendency to overwhelm you

Such situations are ripe for rumination. You most likely find yourself playing events over and over again in your mind. This is a slippery slope toward chronic worry and troubling obsession. You feel stuck. Even more so, you feel powerless.

Acceptance, in cases like this, is about accepting reality. If you see the problem for what it is, you can become motivated to work with what you have.

There’s a reason why the Serenity Prayer is so enduring and popular. There is inherent wisdom in a desire like this: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

How to Accept Acceptance

During ACT sessions, your therapist may encourage you to:

  • No longer perceive escape or avoidance as a first line of defense when life becomes difficult
  • Balance your awareness of your weaknesses by taking an inventory of your strengths — grant yourself permission to be good at some things and not-so-good at others
  • Identify thoughts and feelings as they arise, let them happen, and challenge the instant impulse to act on them
  • Embrace the reality of what you can control, for example: how you think, how you feel, and how you react

Acceptance, however, is most definitely not a destination. There is no finish line to cross. Life changes. You continually change. Therefore, it is only logical — and self-loving — to recognize that practicing acceptance evolves with you. ACT has the power to guide you through this never-ending process.

The Importance of Acceptance

There are plenty of times when we’d rather not acknowledge what has happened or what we ourselves have done. Acceptance is the necessary bridge to the land of healing and recovery. It’s not a form of “getting over” something or fully “moving on.” For example, in the case of losing a loved one, acceptance is the stage in which you no longer deny or resist your grief.

In cases when another person is involved, acceptance also does not denote “forgive and forget.” If a spouse has cheated, acceptance helps you process. It guides you to the clarity you’ll need to choose your own next step. Are you ready to move forward? Please contact me today to schedule a free half-hour initial session.

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