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  • Jason McCarty

Acceptance and Change

Acceptance can be a very powerful approach or mindset to deal with suffering. It is not always about self-acceptance but overall acceptance of the way things are. This is a very Buddhist philosophy but a philosophy for anyone to adopt. The paradox in this philosophy is that once you fully accept your life, your self, and your situation, you can begin to change it. It can be a real paradigm shift to accepting the experience of negative feelings such as anxiety, depression/sadness, and pain. We usually don’t realize that the very fight to keep these feelings at bay once we have them is the bigger problem and what aggravates it more.

Stephen Batchleor, in his book Buddhism Without Beliefs, covers this concept quite well. He writes, “In yearning for anguish to be assuaged in such ways, we reinforce what creates anguish in the first place: the craving for life to be other than it is. We find ourselves spinning in a vicious circle. The more acute the anguish, the more we want to get rid of it, but the more we want to get rid of it, the more acute it gets.” It is hard to get a sense of this by just understanding it intellectually. We actually need to try this out and see what it feels like experientially in the moment of our battle with anguish. Other authors, such as Cheri Huber, explain that suffering is optional. Pain is inevitable but fighting that pain is what creates suffering as well as needing that moment to be different than it is. Continuing to want Blue to be Red could get pretty miserable.

The area where I differ from Buddhism in some ways is that I do believe you have choice to change but that you do need to accept the moment as it is to know what to change and where to go. Some Buddhists might agree with this but others would say that only accepting the moment is serenity and as soon as you want it different you are craving and attaching. I agree with other authors, such as Carl Rogers, who describe the paradox of change: once you fully accept yourself and your situation, you will then be able to change what you want. This is not always easy but it facilitates the balance and the friction of life that when applied can often bring peace, contentment, and satisfaction.

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