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  • Writer's pictureDerek Mayson

What do you mean just accept it?

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

When I was first introduced to the concept of mindfulness and the recovery process from an anxiety disorder, one of the first topics covered was acceptance. Initially I was baffled at the thought - how am I supposed to just accept that I feel crappy? I wanted change!

Since then I've come to understand (and teach) that the baseline of where to start is with acceptance. From there, you can build new mental skills and habits and form a different perspective.

Consider this, when we experience anxiety or stress in the mind or body, it is not something that we are actively and consciously turning on. If it was, we'd be able to turn it on and off like a faucet. Also, for those that experience a lot of these feelings and sensations, why would we willingly turn on such unpleasantness so often!?

A problematic and frequent response to these troubling thoughts and feelings that we (humans) perform is resistance. We notice that we have a tightness in our jaw or our mind is racing when we want it calm and we react by pushing against what we're observing. "Ahh I wish I wouldn't be so tense" or "I shouldn't be thinking like that". In doing so we've essentially added another layer of angst onto our system:

The original stressor + the resistance to the thoughts/feelings/situation/etc.

With this added stressor (resistance), our stress levels stay elevated for longer and eventually it can snowball making it feel like the stress response is always turned on.

In learning how to skillfully face the original stressor with acceptance (or a lack of resistance) we avoid layering on more stress and the original stressor can fade away more easily.

Here's what this looks like in practice:

With Resistance

  • Baseball player drops a routine fly ball

  • Automatic thought (stressor): "I have to make that play, I'm letting the team down."

  • Resistance: "I shouldn't have thoughts like that, I need to think more positively!"

Without Resistance

  • Baseball player drops a routine fly ball

  • Automatic thought (stressor): "I have to make that play, I'm letting the team down."

  • Without resistance: "That's just a thought, I'll let it go and do better next time."

It takes a conscious decision to accept that a) a mistake happened that you didn't want to occur and b) a troubling thought popped into your head right away. With practice, this becomes more and more natural and you can more easily let go of those things out of your control and better let stressors melt away.

You may ask: Does this just mean giving in and just getting pushed around? Of course not! It takes an understanding of what is and is not within our control. Obviously if there is an injustice being placed upon us and we can do something about it, it makes sense to act on it. (Just like if we see there's a skill we could improve it makes sense to practice and train that skill). But for those instances where we have no control (bad call by an official, negative thought just pops into our head, etc.) we are best served to proceed with acceptance, let it go and refocus in the present.

Finally, this process was best described to me as comparable to a Chinese finger trap - the more one resists, the more restrictive it gets. But with calm and ease, freedom is discovered.

If you'd like to take your mental game to the next level and more lessons like the above, check out the Locked In Mental Training Program today!

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