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The Third Pivot: Acceptance

From A liberated Mind by Steve C. Hayes

"Acceptance is the full embrace of our personal experience in an empowered, not in a victimized state. It's choosing to feel with openness and curiosity, so that you can live the kind of life you want to live while inviting your feelings to come along for the ride.

Experiential avoidance is the process by which we run from or attempt to control our personal experiences (thoughts, feelings, sensations) and the external events that give rise to them all....

Avoidance causes pain.

Acceptance is in the service of valued living.

Acceptance is not about control.

As we begin to allow ourselves to feel our pain, our fight-or-flight instinct will kick into gear. Our minds will begin virtually screaming at us to go ahead and take that drink or push down that anxiety. All of the unhelpful rules we've been following will assert themselves ('It is better to not feel the pain, just numb yourself') and our negative self-talk will flare up ('You're not strong enough for this' or 'This is too hard' or 'Who are you kidding, you're just a failure!'). Our ego-defending self-deceptions will call out to us, pushing back on making behavior change and telling us we're a victim - 'Why should you have to stop smoking, it's not your fault cigarettes are addictive.'

Knowing how to acknowledge and then let go of those unhelpful messages empowers you to begin tapping into the wisdom of your pain. You can begin probing into the underlying motivations of the behavior you want to change....You'll also be able to appreciate the central piece of wisdom our pain offers us - that our pain is due to healthy yearning.

Avoidance is provoked when our emotions move beyond that comfort zone. Our problem-solving mind thinks it knows how to eradicate that discomfort by redirecting our inborn motivation to feel toward the effort to figure out how to feel good and avoid feeling bad. In effect, the 'answer' the mind presents to the problem is to kill off the yearning to feel unless the feeling is good.

Acceptance instead helps us spread our arms wide and take the bad (so-called) with the good (so-called) and open up our capacity to feel, sense, and remember. We learn to FEEL good, instead of trying to only to feel GOOD."

Try it on.

"Say Yes. A core skill in acceptance is to be willing to have events be what they are. You can start just by looking around. As your eyes land on anything, see what it feels like to look at it from the point of view of 'no, that's no good; that has to change; I want the hell out of here; that is unacceptable.' Simply look at the thing you see, and mentally adopt a 'no' approach to it, then move to another item as you scan the room and do the same, over and over. Do this for a couple of minutes.

Now repeat the scan but this time do it from the perspective of 'yes,' meaning 'yes, that's OK; that is just like that; it does not have to change; I can allow that to be just as it is.' Simply look at a specific thing you see, mentally adopt a 'yes' approach to it, then move to another item as you scan the room and do the same, over and over. Do this for a couple of minutes.

The 'yes' and 'no' ways of looking at the world tap into a similar mind-set: the open and accepting one and the avoidant and controlling one."

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