The purifying power of acceptance

Life always goes on, with or without you. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes not. What can you do if you suddenly feel that everything acts against you? I always follow these 3 steps:

  • Recognize: take a balcony view on your situation, how do things work together?
  • Accept: acknowledge the core of your problem, and stop evading
  • Let go: use your energy differently, refocus your attention, so that the core of your problem dissolves


stressSometimes it catches you, and it feels like you’re a miniscule cog in an unclear machine, a toy of powers that go far beyond your cap. Whether it is in the office, among friends and acquaintances or with your family, everywhere you have a role to play. There’s a public opinion to take into account and there are laws and rules you must obey. People speak about you. Have a colored opinion about you as a person. Sometimes there are high expectations that burden you. Often, there are assumptions about what you can’t do. Moreover, not everything you do goes smoothly. Despite all your efforts, things sometimes go wrong.

Do you recognize this? What are you sensitive to?

We all have certain ideas, dreams or other notions about how we want to enjoy our lives healthy, with a roof over our heads and without too many financial worries. Of course reality is not as ideal as we wish:

  • There are relatively few people around you with whom you have a real click. And with even fewer people you build a deeper bond. Your social environment is also one of compromises.
  • Some things that you want to achieve encounter opposition.
  • At work, competition is stimulated to get the best out of the employees. Not for the sake of the employees (your reward never feels right, certainly not in comparison with others), but for the operating result.
  • Your health always shows a weakness somehow. For some people this can lead discomfort or disaster in life.
  • What others claim you have to believe does not sound so credible because of too many contradictions.
  • Senseless crime and war show humanity’s egoistic shadow side, and make you feel unsafe.
  • According to the media, there is always someone who can demonstrably do better, has more success, is richer, looks healthier, and so on, than you do.

What are you running into?

Usually that’s not a problem. You don’t think too much about it, it doesn’t really affect you and you just do “your thing”. But there may be a moment when something causes your discontent to explode and you suddenly feel like a victim. Perhaps that is accompanied by feelings of disbelief, doubt and fear. Probably you feel anger and resentment that someone does this to you and you are tormented by self-pity.
I hope that no one experiences such negative emotions too often. We all want to believe in things, see our hopes fulfilled, share love with each other and experience joy every day. Yet it could happen to all of us, that sudden feeling the whole world is turning against you. You are passed for a promotion. You get a diagnosis of an incurable disease. Your partner leaves you. You are fired. During a conflict people turn away from you. Your child is being placed from home. There are innumerable possible situations in which your feelings take of with you, and your mind can not keep up. At those times there is this danger of such negative emotions, as described above. That one cause unexpectedly seems to open up a cesspool of other experiences that you ignored all the time (at least that’s how it looks like).

Which sources of dissatisfaction do you acknowledge?

Then, what happens to you?
In one go the negative experience discolours all other things you were working on. Something you previously had a good feeling about now suddenly is much less enjoyable, even though nothing changed in itself. It justifies that you feel bad. After all, if everything else is fine, then this annoying thing is just a minor issue, a storm in a glass of water. So on the fly your emotion also colors the rest blood red. Your brain immediately finds appropriate motivations in the form of excuses, escapes and guilty parties.

Unfortunately, this negative trend has another effect: it deepens and strengthens the one-sided feelings and encourages tunnel vision. By this, your problem is magnified too strong. This polarization makes it increasingly difficult to distance yourself. You are no longer open to reason. That, what you give so much attention now, gets extra priority in your brain and becomes increasingly dominant. It is a spontaneous defense action that prevents further stress from outside influences. Your mental door is hermetically locked, and nothing can go in or out! All your energy goes to this protection.

Recognize your emotion by only naming the cause of it.


Under the influence of (typically American) Western culture, we got used to a fighting attitude. We bargain, compete, protest, argue, do not give up, in short: we fight for ourselves. Getting into such a negative spiral, this also is an automatic reaction. There are two options (both equally destructive): the more introverted you fights with itself, and if you are extroverted, you fight with your environment. Apart from the short-lived effect of releasing energy, you know in advance you’ll never win such a fight. The maximum achievable is a trench war, and that can take a debilitating long time.

The real solution starts with acceptance. Not fight being powerless, but letting go of your defensive attitude, and acknowledging that in fact there was only one trigger. You acknowledge that it’s mainly your own frustration, and that your reaction may have been overridden. You realize not everything is under your control, and that things around you have their own course. You don’t give up courage, but look honestly at what actually took place. For example, simply accept that:

  • your boss assesses your value for the company differently
  • your experience in some areas is not sufficient to get responsibility
  • your child has such big learning problems that you have to call for help
  • your partner finally follows the gut feeling and does not want to have a conversation about it
  • your body needs more medical attention compared to other people
  • you do not have the strength to run a marathon

What did you have to accept in your life?

It works best when you also speak out your acceptance to someone who offers you a listening ear. At that moment you’ll notice a load falls off your shoulders, like a hot shower that rinses away the misery. Moreover: after a conversation like this, really taking a shower is not bad at all! Since ages, through all kinds of rituals, we wash ourselves spiritually clean, not just physically. The result is that you think more freely, without prejudices and obstacles.

Acceptance opens your mental doors again.

By accepting what happened to you, you bring reality back to normal proportions. You land in the “here and now” and you can enter into a conversation with others to exchange ideas and to
revalue your situation. The result is that you observe differently, and can see something positive where you don’t expect it.

Let go

If you look at your situation from a different perspective, you can put your prejudices aside. Or at least you ask yourself why those prejudices arose. What really touched you? Why was that so sensitive?

Letting go means staying with yourself, maintaining your own standard, and not trying to meet the supposed demands of others. The reason for the collapse turns out to be no more than a passing event. You now can divert your energy from that cause to a solution. You choose in all freedom to do something about that cause (might it occur more often), or just ignore everything as a bad day in your life and continue (if it was a one-off with little chance of repetition). Some get used to the situation, and become more robust; sometimes reasons for a bad feeling do not disappear, and you just have to learn how to deal with it.

Release the trigger for your bad feeling so that you can focus on actions for the future.

Things you could let go, for example, are:

  • your sense of inferiority with colleagues (you probably compare your weaknesses, not your strengths)
  • your fear of failure, so you seldom present your opinion or vision (investigate what your specific added value is)
  • your wish to get a certain status (status is only a label due to results achieved)
  • your worries about your family, if you are chronically ill (they can handle it)
  • comparison with gifted people (try to discover your own specialism)
  • the feeling that you didn’t give your partner enough (you can not give more than you have)

To tackle new things differently, what can you let go of ?

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