We’re halfway through the core processes of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)! We’ve talked about contacting the present moment and defusion, next up: acceptance.
Acceptance is sometimes confused for tolerance. Acceptance is opening up and making room for painful feelings, sensations, urges, and emotions. While tolerance means enduring these things, acceptance means not struggling with them – you give the painful feelings, sensations, urges, and emotions space and allow them to be. You allow yourself to not fight, resist, run, or get overwhelmed from them.
Similar to how we use defusion to acknowledge our thoughts and watch our thinking, acceptance is also allowing things to simply be and for us to open ourselves up to what we are experiencing, instead of immediately reacting or problem-solving. This does not mean that you have to enjoy or like everything that you are accepting. Acceptance allows you to make room for all you are experiencing and allows you to then make choices to act in ways that align with your values (what we will talk about next week!).
For example, ending a relationship sucks and all the negative emotions that come with a break up are awful (like sadness, rejection, loneliness – just to name a few). Acceptance would mean you allow yourself to experience these feelings and you aren’t mean to yourself for experiencing them (like telling yourself to “suck it up” or “stop being sad”). Of course, you don’t like those negative feelings, but acceptance lets you be human and allow things to be simply be.