Eighteen Ways Acceptance is Important in Psychotherapy

Getting healthier psychologically proceeds along two broad fronts. First, you can solve your problems. This approach may be exhausting, but it also very effective. Some problems, however, cannot be solved. For these, there is only acceptance. Here are 18 ways that acceptance is important in psychotherapy. Identifying what cannot change and must be accepted is a superpower that few people even know exists.

Stress as a Collision of your Values

Stress represents incompatible priorities in life, a collision between your core values. When “I should work hard” does battle with “I should be a good parent,” the result is stress. Stress is thus a war between incompatible self-definitions. To eliminate stress, increase self-knowledge. Understand and systematically clarify your values. Stress is the universe's way of using situations to allow us to clarify, expand, and refine our notion of identity, of who we are.

Radical Acceptance opens New Pathways

Radical acceptance is a radical idea, not a part of Western understanding. The lesson of radical acceptance is to understand and accept the way things are, to save the energy spent fighting and resisting, to change only what you can, and to grow in new directions, if possible.

Ask Panic to Make it More

I often suggest that clients ask their anxiety to make it more, If that seems absurd, it's because it is. Anxiety is not a thing and cannot be asked, it’s just your own construct. Asking anxiety to do anything is as silly as asking pink to suddenly turn blue. Keep externalizing your anxiety as a thing, and you'll keep regarding it as your enemy. Anxiety is just a construct, and as such, it has only the power that you give to it. Anxious thoughts are just thoughts, and thoughts cannot harm you.

—What does Acceptance Mean?

What does acceptance of anxiety mean? Not resignation, which is giving up and giving in. Not the will to fight, which is resistance. Acceptance means giving up any negative or strong reactions to your symptoms and giving up any strong judgments about yourself, since these function as anxiety's Trojan Horse. Radical acceptance of symptoms means accepting that the symptoms are what they are, and that they will go away, or hang around, in their own time. Radical acceptance is the opposite of anxiety about anxiety.

Requirements for Acceptance

Most people think of acceptance as an event, something you do when defeated by life. In fact, acceptance is a skill. As with any skill, there's the importance of practice and improvement. Acceptance requires emotional awareness, including awareness that acceptance is an option, willingness to detach from your circumstances, and an understanding of the effects of continued resistance.