Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict.
In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, a certain story has touched the lives of millions – it’s titled, Acceptance Is The Answer.
A bit overkill you think?
Nope, it’s a hop, skip, and a jump away from becoming a religious icon.
Ok, ok, definitely overkill, but the account contains a vaunted and revered passage, one which can be found on refrigerator magnets and greeting cards galore, not to mention our hearts.
Without further Ado, ladies and gentleman, Dr. Paul O.
My Definition of Acceptance…
So acceptance is the answer, but rather than an activity or solution applied its more a simple recognition or awareness of the problem. This inevitably produces change – it demands it.
Let me explain…
By default, humans are dead set on what I call “de-evolution.”
The standard evolutionary process is when a species adapts and adjusts to its environment (yes, this is overly simplistic, but stick with me).
In like manner, emotional evolution, also known as emotional maturity, is the ability to adapt and adjust to one’s environment and/or circumstances.
Sequential, this is the order of things, namely, one must evolve to conditions around them or perish; and pertaining to emotional health – burnout.
Oddly enough, humankind has attempted to subvert this order.
This is the “fall” in which many religions speak; it creates the same great disturbance which precipitates mental disorder (see my SMART recovery review).
The plunge is as follows: sequentially, no longer does one adapt and adjust to conditions, now the sequence is one of control; that is, the unconscious belief is that environments can be controlled and must adapt and adjust to the individual.
How irrational is that belief?
Moreover, how tragic?
If your happiness is contingent upon your environment bending to your will, you’ve set yourself up for serious frustration, irritability, and chronic malcontent.
This simply cannot work in an emotional sense.
How Does One Reset the Order
Acceptance is a neutralizer.
It stops the momentum of the faulty order.
Unfortunately, many individuals equate acceptance with approval, but this view is erroneous.
Approval is impartial to the order – there is no influence; it is akin to desire.
However, acceptance yields to the flow of life rather than resist it – it respects the order and is influenced by it.
For example, if a situation/person/thing disturbs me, I cannot proceed to move in the right direction until I first accept the situation for what it is.
As long as I’m actively trying to change what is, I remain a victim to the disturbance (which is, for all intents and purposes, self-imposed).
What is, that is the disturbance in this instance, never needs my approval to change it only needs my acceptance. But what changes here is not the condition but the conditions within myself – from one state of mind to another, as Dr. Paul once brilliantly remarked:
“Acceptance turns a victim into a hero.”
Consider this statement from Bill Wilson in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:
We thought “conditions” drove us to drink, and when we tried to correct these conditions and found that we couldn’t to our entire satisfaction, our drinking went out of hand and we became alcoholics. It never occurred to us that we needed to change ourselves to meet conditions, whatever they were (p. 47).
The Other Side of the Coin…What Have You Been Wrestling With?
I imagine you struggle with acceptance because it’s many connotations in western thought with passive resignation. In an excellent article titled, Acceptance: It Isn’t What You Think, I found this masterpiece:
“Acceptance doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, mean passive resignation. Quite the opposite. It takes a huge amount of fortitude and motivation to accept what is- especially when you don’t like it and then work wisely and effectively as best you possibly can with the circumstances you find yourself in and with the resources at your disposal, both inner and outer, to mitigate, heal, redirect, and change what can be changed.”
The premise of the article is predicated upon the Second Noble Truth of Buddhism (see Refuge Recovery Review) which states that all suffering is caused by desire viz. wanting reality to be something it is not (i.e. lack of acceptance). Berry proposes we fight this with gratitude.
We can tackle gratitude elsewhere, another blog, another day. Let’s attack it from a different angle, what I propose is this: instead of using gratitude as an offensive maneuver – though it is a recommended strategy and highly beneficial – I suggest using it as a measuring stick.
Your level of gratitude is directly proportional to your level of acceptance.
So ask yourself: “How Grateful Am I?” This will easily determine your degree of acceptance.
All things start with acceptance or lack thereof; serenity is just the attitude you approach it with. It could easily be adjusted to read, “God, grant me the right attitude,” but that doesn’t sound as appealing does it? Who wants serenity? Everybody! Who wants a little attitude adjustment? Well, nobody wants that, do they?
Dr. Paul O penned two excellent resources I highly recommend:
Timmy G. (2020)
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