Acceptance is a funny thing. It’s easy to think that accepting something (for what it is) is the same as giving up.
If you consider a situation that just doesn’t seem to have a comfortable resolution, what do we do? Perhaps we distract ourselves from it by doing other things. Or we pretend we don’t have time to deal with it.
Isn’t that just strategic ignoring? And isn’t strategic ignoring just avoidance?
The question: Is there a difference?
And so the question comes to bare: Is there any difference between the three – strategic ignoring (a.k.a. avoidance), acceptance, and giving up? And if so, what’s the healthiest choice?
The “I’ll just give up” approach.
“I can’t do it.” “I’m not good enough.” “I’m just too lazy to do what has to be done.”
All of the these phrases imply giving up. It’s a surrender because it’s just too hard, and we don’t care to put in the effort.
Though, if you look closely, there is an interesting quality about this “giving up” phrase. There doesn’t seem to be any room for the possibility that the situation might NOT be resolvable.
What do you mean “not solvable”?
Aren’t some matters not solvable? And when you consider what “solvable” means, what we’re really talking about is a resolution that is both desirable and realistically achievable.
We’ll come back to that.
If I ignore it, it’ll go away, right?
Avoidance is a powerful tool. It can protect us from being eaten by a wild tiger. It can keep us from falling off a cliff. But when we
think about avoidance of less fatal things, many consider it a “bad” thing.
When does that happen? At what point do we start criticizing ourselves and others for avoiding things?
The answer is in our expectations. No one expects a person to encounter a 500 lb. wild carnivore and swat it on the nose because it’s been eating his goats. However, everyone is expected to pay their rent on time so they have a place to live.
Obviously these are extreme cases, but what happens when we get closer and closer to the middle? Is it healthy to purposefully avoid something because we know there’s just not a straight forward “right” solution?
The (healthier) alternative.
As was mentioned before, acceptance, to many, seems like giving up. Here are some specific, contrasted qualities of acceptance:
- When accepting something, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.
- Acceptance is honestly seeing what IS, without deciding if it’s good or bad (unbiased observation).
- Accepting can be exercised for anything, outside or within your control, enjoyable or distressing, desirable or undesirable.
- It is ideally used BEFORE action is taken and without the expectation that action needs (or needs not) to be taken.
- Because it is, by definition, thoroughly honest, it is realistic in that a resolution may not be available.
How does this help me?
The benefits of acceptance over giving up are that acceptance considers what is realistic without expectations of what “should” be done. Because of this release of urgency for immediate action, we have an opportunity to be honest with ourselves about what IS.
Without this honesty, we may expect ourselves to do something about the situation when we may have no (or little) control over it. Without that honesty, we carry on thinking we DO have control and should be able to resolve it.
What happens when you think you should be able to do something and can’t/don’t? We feel frustrated and we feel like we have failed. How unfair to ourselves!
Where to put your resources.
In order to protect ourselves from this feeling of failure, we may choose to do nothing (avoidance) and spend a lot of time and
energy trying NOT to think about it, lest we are reminded of our failures. So, instead of using that time and energy on something we can do something about, those resources are tied up in “looking the other way”.
So, the next time you are met with a difficult situation consider the alternative to the “I gave up and so I’m a loser” approach and “I just don’t have time for it” avoidance. Why not accept it for what it is so you can find out if you really have the resources to do ANYTHING, in the first place?