For many, reality is hard to accept. Unexpected and overwhelming events like lost jobs, physical illness and financial problems can make us want to give up or refuse to acknowledge the realities of our circumstances.
In Dialectical Behavior Therapy, the ability to accept life, the reality of circumstances in which we find ourselves and the painful events that each of us must endure is taught as a skill.
These skills can be difficult to teach and learn because the ability to respond to the world as it is, is an underlying attitude towards life. These skills, taught in the Distress Tolerance Module of the skills training group, include strategies to get both our bodies and our minds into more accepting attitudes.
Below are a few exercises on acceptance:
To cultivate a more accepting state of mind, increase awareness of your body. Start by simply bringing your awareness to the position of your body. This can be done any time and any place. Whether you are walking, standing or sitting, notice your position. Become aware of the purpose of your position. For example, are you folding your arms across your chest in a defensive stance or are you tapping your foot in anxiety. If you notice that your mind has drifted, bring your attention back to your breath. It can be helpful to practice breathing exercises, such as counting each breath or saying “in” with each inhale and “out” with each exhale.
Turn Your Mind
Acceptance requires a choice. You have to turn your mind towards accepting reality, rather than rejecting and judging reality. You must commit to accepting the current situation and reality over and over. Each time your mind tells you it’s unfair or shouldn’t be as it is, you must turn your mind towards acceptance.
When the world seems unfair and you’re feeling stuck, depressed or frantic, it’s natural to want to give up, try to fix what can’t be fixed, or simply refuse to tolerate the situation. Instead of trying to impose your will on reality, focus on doing what works. Do just what is needed in each situation. Your job is to simply do your best, whatever the world throws at you.
Accepting reality can become a habit. If done regularly, it can reduce stress and anxiety and improve your ability to identify and solve the problems in your life. What helps you accept life as it is?
Linehan, M.M. Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford Press, 1993.