Our society maintains the myth that life should be easy when in fact it is not. Lives are filled with difficult, unwanted realities over which we have limited or no control. Examples include: past events, personal histories, genetic dispositions, spontaneous feelings, sensations, thoughts, urges, external stressors, illnesses, acts-of-fate. Acceptance skills are designed to help you courageously face such difficulties in order to adjust, accommodate and adapt.
Acceptance Versus Change: Knowing the Difference
Understanding what you can and can’t control about a problem is essential for developing an effective treatment plan. This understanding leads to more reasonable expectations about what you can and can’t accomplish, and helps you more efficiently focus your energy. You stop fighting and bracing against unwanted realities, and no longer waste energy and generate needless frustration by repeatedly trying to achieve the impossible. Instead, you can redirect your efforts where they may actually succeed—where you do have control, where you can make a change. The well-known “Serenity Creed” sums this up perfectly:
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change what I can,and the wisdom to know the difference.”<
Acceptance & Change Skills
In CBT, acceptance and change skills go hand-in-hand. Acceptance skills help you adjust to hard realities you can’t change, while change skills help you gain control where you can, like how you respond to challenges and hardships, how you make the most of existing opportunities, how you participate in shaping your life.
- Mindfulness– allowing unwanted realities (sensations, feelings, thoughts, urges) to occur in your experience, while keeping your focus on what really matters
- Willingness – courageously leaning in to difficult, unwanted realities
- Exposure – allowing distressing emotions to arise as you willingly encounter previously avoided situations
- Cognitive Restructuring – developing flexible interpretations and judgments of important experiences and events
- Self-Talk– learning to use a compassionate, validating inner voice to guide and coach yourself through change
- Behavioral Activation – taking direct action to change your environment in order to create a new emotional experience