Power of Acceptance
Big Idea: The moment is as it is.
Goal: To learn to respond to what life offers instead of trying to make the world go our way.
Structures: We Care Center
Join me for a life-changing journey through all Seven Powers, including the Power of Acceptance, in the new online course Powers of Resilience: Social Emotional Learning for Adults.
The Power of Acceptance is mindfulness in action. It’s the active, nonjudgmental embracing of experience in the here and now. Practicing the Power of Acceptance means quietly observing the moment without needing to change or fix it. The moment is as it is.
Quiet observation is a challenging skill that takes practice. Our minds are rarely quiet. We tend to think about what should and shouldn’t happen, what went wrong in the past, and what might go wrong in the future. We struggle against policies, politics, people, our own bodies and what we perceive as “wrong” with us.
With practice, we can quiet the noise, accept the moment and respond to it. In doing so, we promote empathy, foster solutions and change, and improve the health of all relationships.
Outcomes of Resisting What Is
Resistance comes far more naturally than acceptance. Yet struggling against life creates stress, conflict and judgment of ourselves and others.
Upset and Judgment
Resisting the moment always creates upset. Upset keeps us in the lower centers of the brain. In the survival or emotional state, we can’t see from anyone else’s point of view or access our brilliance. Any chance of conflict resolution is inhibited.
Disappointment and anger bind us to our judgments. We refuse to question our ideas about what should or shouldn’t have been, attacking anything that contradicts them. But people need empathy—not our judgments—to grow and change.
In addition, resistance entrenches old behavior patterns in the brain. As we passionately declare, “That shouldn’t be!” or, “This should be!” we program the brain to be resistant and reactive. We solidify our beliefs and behaviors, setting ourselves up to be triggered again.
Instead of accepting the moment and problem solving, we approach challenges from the perspective of, “That’s not how it’s supposed to be!” Ultimately, what we resist, persists. Resistance does not create change; it stagnates change.
Chronic stress is another side effect of resistance. Demanding that the world go your way creates struggle. We try to force people and situations to meet our expectations, then feel frustrated and disappointed when they don’t.
Naturally, this leaves us in a state of stress. How can we possibly control and change the universe? This moves us into a reactive style of discipline and communication that damages relationships.
Why Do We Resist the Moment?
If resistance creates and worsens our problems, why do we do it? Many of us were parented and disciplined with negation, which may have caused our struggles with acceptance.
Examples of negation include:
- What should you be doing right now?
- Where are you supposed to be?
- Where do your toys belong?
- There’s no running in this house!
As a result, our brains are programmed with notions of what should and should not be. Your instinctual reaction to a moment likely involves judgment, whether good or bad.
In Conscious Discipline, we work to create a pause between stimulus and response. When you catch yourself judging the moment, stop and take several deep breaths. When you’re composed, you can consciously override your automatic judgments.
It’s our choice to negate or accept any moment. If we choose negation, we deem ourselves and everyone in the moment as “not good enough.” On the other hand, acceptance allows us to compassionately accept ourselves and everyone in the moment as good enough.
Outcomes of the Power of Acceptance
Acceptance is a prerequisite for change and transformation. It allows us to reach the optimal brain state, where we can offer empathy to others and solve problems. When we accept what is, we integrate the brain and can access our brilliance.
We’re able to consider how each person may perceive a situation differently, freeing us of damaging judgments and expectations. Truth becomes relative and compassion becomes real.
Outcomes of using the Power of Acceptance include:
- Giving and receiving empathy, kindness and compassion without feeling a sense of sacrifice.
- Setting limits and boundaries without placing conditions on love.
- Sustaining relationships with communication skills that draw you closer to people and help you feel understood/understanding rather than distant and judged/judging.
Using the Power of Acceptance with Children
When we use the Power of Acceptance with children, we validate their inner world. We send the message, “I see you and I hear you.” We respond to the child as they are, not as we believe they should be.
Imagine that a child is resisting bedtime. We could respond by resisting their resistance:
“What have I told you 100 times? You know better! You’re supposed to be in your PJs by now. You know I have to work tomorrow and be up by 7:00!”
With this response, we don’t offer empathy or guidance. We don’t help the child manage his emotions or even provide instructions on what to do. We simply express frustration that the world is not going our way. Ironically, we’re modeling the same behavior that we don’t want to see from children.
Alternatively, we could accept the moment and the child, reach the higher centers of our brain, and offer empathy:
“You were hoping you would get to stay up late. It’s hard when it’s bedtime. Breathe. You can handle this.”
With this response, we stay present in the moment and coach the child through their feelings. Instead of engaging in a power struggle, we can teach new skills, resolve the conflict and find solutions.
The Power of Acceptance and Emotional Regulation
Of course, it’s not always easy to choose Response B above. Emotions often get a bad rap. If your upbringing was like mine, your well-meaning parents may have unconsciously ignored, dismissed or punished your emotions.
You may have heard:
- It’s not that bad.
- Don’t worry about it.
- Quit fussing; it’s no big deal.
- Don’t think about it. Do something else to get your mind off it.
Perhaps your parents rescued you from your emotions, saving you from your poor choices. If you left your homework on the table, for example, a parent dropped it off at school so you wouldn’t suffer any consequences. Since you didn’t experience a consequence, you forgot your homework again. This time, you were berated: “How could you forget again? Do you even bother to think?”
This response to your disappointing choices placed your focus on their anger instead of on your remorse. As a result, our adult perceptions of emotions are often skewed. We often lack the ability to handle difficult emotions. We may allow the experience of positive feelings, like happiness and excitement. We’re less inclined to feel sadness, anger or fear.
But again, what you resist, persists. The more diligently you fight against your feelings, the more stubbornly they assert themselves. Eventually, we will act them out with aggression, tantrums, name calling, whining, manipulation and other hurtful behaviors. If we instead let our feelings bubble up, feel them and accept them, they will dissipate.
The Myth of “Bad” Emotions
In fact, there are no “bad” emotions. All emotions serve an important purpose in our lives. They are our internal guidance system and moral compass. They tell us when we get off track and nudge us to return to a path of love.
We don’t need to control our emotions. We need to become aware of them, manage them, listen to their messages, and then learn how to express them more appropriately. Of course, none of this is possible without the Power of Acceptance.
Until we feel our feelings, we will not allow children to feel theirs. Once we can accept our feelings, we can coach children to accept and manage their own feelings in a healthy manner.
Final Thoughts: Power of Acceptance
Despite our wishes, plans and best efforts, the world will not always go our way. Children (and adults) will not always behave the way we prefer. We can struggle against this reality, creating stress and conflict and focusing on problems rather than solutions.
Or we can embrace each moment and the people in it instead of ignoring, distracting, escaping or denying what’s happening. This does not signal resignation or agreement. It provides a frame of mind that promotes change and allows access to empathy and problem solving.
Yes, the repairman is running late again. Yes, little Timmy just threw his balled-up homework at your head. Yes, traffic is backed up for the fourth time this week. Yes, progress reports are due and you’re behind on lesson plans. Yes, you feel hurt and angry.
From the position of “Yes, this is happening,” you can manage your feelings, provide a wise and empathetic response, and teach children to manage their emotions constructively too.
- Join me for in-depth online learning experiences about the Seven Powers and Seven Skills.
- Watch Managing Emotional Mayhem: Conscious Comedy Skits with Dr. Becky Bailey and Certified Instructor Amy Speidel.
- Visit Shubert’s School or Shubert’s Home to see practical, room-by-room tips for Conscious Discipline implementation, along with photo and video examples.
- Explore Premium Resources such as the 2018 Elevate SEL Conference Breakout Session: Compassion in Action—We Care Center and Kindness Tree and the 2019 Elevate SEL Keynote Session: Empathy-The Highest Cognitive Skill Possible and the One Everyone Needs to Survive.
- If you’re new to Conscious Discipline, start with the foundational Conscious Discipline book.