There comes a time in our lives when we need to hold onto people, places and events. Alternatively, there comes a time when we need to let go of them too. Some of the people we meet won’t stay in our lives forever. They come to teach us a lesson about the world, who we are and what we need in our lives. Some of our experiences will be pleasurable and some will be painful. Yet simultaneously, both allow us to grow. There is opportunity in every experience. Pain in life is inescapable BUT it drives change. We need to understand that in order to appreciate the good we must experience the bad. There is no light without the darkness.
It is important that we allow ourselves to feel pain for some time as a natural response to painful events. If we repress our feelings they will eventually simmer for so long that they’ll come to the surface. There is a distinct difference between pain and suffering. Pain is inevitable and suffering is not. Pain is the root of our suffering. Suffering is the biproduct of pain and non-acceptance. We cannot change our circumstances or what we feel unless we first accept it for what it is.
For most of us, when we experience a painful and traumatic event we are likely to fight the reality of the situation. This is common in trauma or losing someone you value. There is a technique in one of my favourite therapies, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, called Radical Acceptance. Essentially radical acceptance is about saying yes to the reality of our past and present moments. NOW before anyone jumps down my throat about how insensitive this is to trauma victims- HEAR ME OUT…
Radical acceptance is NOT:
- Agreeing with what happened.
- That you are okay with what happened.
- That you allowed it to happen.
- That you like what happened.
- That you take on full responsibility for what happened.
- That you can’t do anything about what happened.
Radical acceptance IS:
- The acceptance of things as they are.
- Understanding what we can and cannot control in life.
- Being non-judgemental.
- Acknowledging our situation.
- Letting go and not fighting against reality.
Initially in my own personal experiences I struggled to accept the things that had happened to me in my life. Instead of accepting my experiences for what they were, I simply questioned why I had experienced them at all. This led to a lot of self-blame and invalidation. I thought that there must be something wrong with ME. The reality was that I could not control every person that walked into my life or every experience I encountered. Once I began to understand this, I was able to realise that not everything is my fault, I don’t deserve bad things and I am worthy of happiness.
I do not agree with the actions of those that have brought me pain… but I accept that these people and experiences exist. I accept that I tried my best. I accept that pain is a natural part of life. I accept that there is nothing wrong with me. I accept that the pain inflicted upon me was a reflection of those people, not a reflection of me. I accept that these experiences make me the person I am today.
Accepting meant that I was able to let go of the pain attached to these experiences. Once I accepted everything it gave me the power to decide how I wanted to be impacted by these individuals and events. That is one of the very few things in life we are able to control: the level of impact.
And that, my friends, is how you decrease the suffering in your world. Accept experiences for what they are. Acceptance will lead to change. Change will lead to happiness. And I wish you all the happiness in the world.