Acceptance: accepting bad stuff. Key to serenity.
In our pro-positive culture, the pressure to suppress our negative feelings is daily.
However, psychological studies have shown that acceptance of negative events and emotions is the most reliable route to regaining and maintaining peace of mind. This was already shown by Zen 2,500 years ago.
Acceptance of our dark emotions is now backed by scientific evidence to improve emotional resilience to the diminution of symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Acceptance does not mean failure, resignation nor fighting our negative emotions, but simply taking them for what they are. Fighting negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, fear, grief will make you in an even worst state.
How can it be that accepting negative emotions is paradoxically linked to long-term psychological thriving and more serenity?
According to recent analyses, the magic of acceptance is to minimize the effects of our emotional reactions from stressful events. These mechanisms, over time, lead to positive psychological and mental health, including higher levels of life satisfaction and serenity.
This is not about living in the world with a detached attitude.
Acceptance also works for a wide range of people and it is not bound to socioeconomic or racial group.
It also appears to be effective whatever the degree of negativity.
Finally, accepting situations is context-dependent. We need to accept death, but we don’t need to endure unfair treatment from someone.
Non-judging acceptance is connected under the general umbrella of mindfulness, that is paying attention in a non-reactive way, simply observing. You need to pay attention to your internal experience, but acceptance, non-judging acceptance, seems to be one of the key ingredient to mindfulness.”
Resist the Urge to Strive for Happiness:
Zen teachers often underline that “acceptance” doesn’t mean having the feeling of failure, being resigned,
or giving-up to a personal stressful, negative situation.
Negative emotions are unavoidable. Life is wonderful from time to time, but it’s also sometimes tragic.
Tragic events happen all the time and, if we only have positive thoughts, these unwanted realities can strike us even more intensely when they happen—and they will happen.
The other problem with trying to think positively and constantly pursuing happiness puts people in a striving state of mind for constant positive expectations. This constant positive mental behavior is always detrimental in a long term because it will fail sooner or later.
That said, acceptance remains mysterious in some ways. Psychologists don’t know which factors influence some people to accept negativity despite cultural pressures to stay positive.
In the West, happiness and positivity are seen as a must to have. “ Be happy”.
Many companies want their customers and employees to be delighted all the time. That’s unreasonable, and when we’re faced with unreasonable expectations, it’s natural for us to have strong negative emotions if these expectations are not met.
Like other cognitive habits, acceptance is a skill that can be learned especially thru mindfulness meditation.
“You are not angry, you have anger” says Zen. This is a very important distinction.
Finally, older adults use acceptance more than younger adults.
Like wisdom, the trait grows with age, so most of us will get there eventually.