Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Word Wonder -- accept

1. To receive with favour, willingness or consent.  2. To give an affirmative answer to.  3. To receive as satisfactory or sufficent: to accept an apology.  4. To take with good grace; submit to: to accept the inevitable. [From the Latin acceptare and often accipere, which mean "to take": ad- to + capere to take] -- Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary

When I started writing this blog post I was going to use the word "acceptance." However, as I typed the definitions, I decided that acceptance, as a noun, seems to be a more passive word than the verb "accept." When I think about acceptance I get a peaceful image of somebody not much like me -- some guru guy meditating serenely on a mountainside or something. Nice image, but sometimes it's hard to replace the image of the guru with an image of myself.

On the other hand, the verb "accept" carries some energy with it. This is something I can do, even if it's hard or unwelcome to think about. Since I believe in taking positive action to help myself and others, I switched to the verb form of the word. As I've said before, sometimes doing anything is better than doing nothing.

Acceptance is the result of taking the action to accept, so it makes more sense to me to begin at the beginning.

When something is going wrong or unwelcome news comes, most people's first defense is to feel shock or surprise and a sense of unreality: This can't be happening! As time goes along, the change usually starts to feel less surprising, even if it's still unwelcome. There are no absolute reactions or order in which they come, but many people do feel angry, frustrated, sad, confused and/or unwilling to accept the change. These reactions to change and stress can last minutes, days, weeks or longer. Everyone is different.

What is similar about us, though, is that we all have a choice about accepting the change that's been dumped on us. As you read in the definition above, to accept refers to many related actions:
  • To receive with favour, willingness or consent.
  • To give an affirmative answer to.
  • To receive as satisfactory or sufficent
  • To take with good grace
Nowhere does the definition talk about being delighted or thrilled; instead it speaks of willingness and receiving and taking with good grace. The kind of challenges that are hard to accept usually bring pain or loss or something else few of us welcome. But positive action is still possible. Here are some statements you can say to yourself (in your own words, if you like) that might make change easier to accept:
  • This is really hard, and it's a good idea to allow myself to feel all my feelings. BUT I am willing (even the smallest amount) to receive this change, to stop rejecting it and everything connected to it. I don't have to like it, but it doesn't help me to dwell on my anger and resentment, either.
  • I will open my heart, mind and hands as far as I can to see where I can say "Yes" in this situation.
  • This is what it is, and I can't change it. But I can change me and my response to this challenge.
  • There is so much in this situation that I can't control. BUT if I look, I will find something I can do something about.
  • What have I (or others) done in the past to handle tough circumstances? Maybe I'll try one or two of those things now. When one thing doesn't work, I can' always try something different.
  • Life happens to everybody, and it isn't always fun or terrible. It just is.
You probably already use some of these ideas or others like them. I do, too. But it can be helpful to re-examine even familiar strategies, to refresh our thinking and feeling so that we can act in ways that help rather than hinder. None of this is likely to be a steady uphill climb. Many of life's challenges feel like a roller coaster ride of fear, pain, hope, effort, support, loss, success, confusion and more change. That's really just the way life is sometimes, and learning to accept that helps when a world of hurt hits you.

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