Managing Your Mental Health, Part 2 – Acceptance

Acceptance.

The fact of accepting a difficult or unpleasant situation. – Cambridge Dictionary

Willingness to tolerate a difficult situation. – Oxford Dictionary

Acceptance is one area I struggle with the most; I sometimes want to slap people when they make it sound so easy.  Human nature is to fight or run away from situations that our brain feels are dangerous, remaining calm in the face of danger goes against that instinct and takes a lot of self-control.

Since I had my breakdown, I’ve struggled to accept what happened to me; I often feel that I’m to blame for what happened, and I spend a lot of time beating myself up.  As well as self-blame, I feel a lot of anger for what happened, towards those who I feel let me down, and at myself for letting it happen.  I used to be quite a laid-back person, but that has gone, and I now struggle to keep my emotions in check. 

My situation is quite extreme; however, I think the current cost of living crisis may be leaving people having to deal with similar emotions of anger and self-blame, and when those emotions hit high levels, it can be very difficult to accept them and the situation that is causing them.

Part of the problem is that we are often in a constant state of fear or stress, and a lot of that comes from the media.  If you look at the reporting on the rise of the utility price cap in the UK, reporters and experts have been speculating on what might happen; basically, the forecast was that by April 2023 the bills would have be astronomical and we were all screwed.  This would have generated a lot of fear for everyone, and for those already struggling to make ends meet this message would have possibly caused terror and complete helplessness because they wouldn’t have been able to see any hope in the future.

Taking away someone’s hope is a very dangerous thing to do because it can lead to the worst-case scenario where people think there’s no way out, and life is not worth living.

We then get reports of energy companies making huge profits, the fear then turns to anger and resentment, and we become frustrated at how unfair the world can be.

So, how do you accept this level of despair and fear?

The level of acceptance will be different for everyone, but I still think it has a part to play, even if it is a small one.

Acceptance isn’t about giving up and surrendering; to me, acceptance is about trying to step away from the negative emotions like fear and anger, because these are toxic for the mind and body.

Japanese scientist Dr Masaru Emoto carried out studies to explore how the molecular structure of water changes when it’s exposed to human words, thoughts, sounds, and intentions; in his research he found that positive, kind words and intentions created beautiful, complex formations in water, whereas negative, harsh words and intentions created disfigured ‘unpleasant’ formations.

When you consider that the human body is approximately 70% water, just imagine the effect that negative media, and our own anger and negative thoughts have, not just on our own body, but others around us?

Acceptance is also about allowing these emotions; we are taught that anger, resentment, and jealousy are bad, and we shouldn’t feel them if we want to be a nice person.  The fact that we have these emotions means they must have some use. I’m still trying to figure this out with my own emotions, but I think it is about channelling these emotions, using them to work towards something better; it’s also good to just acknowledge that you are feeling this way and accept the feelings as neither good nor bad, they just are.

“Start listening to the voice in your head as often as you can.  Pay particular attention to any repetitive thought patterns, those old gramophone records that have been playing in your head perhaps for many years…… When you listen to that voice, listen to it impartially.  That is to say, do not judge.”

The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle

Some historical figures have used anger and injustice as a fuel to make positive changes in society, so they are not completely negative.  I think the worst thing to do is to sit and stew on these sorts of emotions because that’s when they have a negative impact on our health and our mental state.

We can easily start to blame ourselves for the situation we are in, that somehow, it’s our fault.  I have my baseball bat of self-blame, and when I feel down about things or start blaming myself it’s like I’m giving myself a good beating (metaphorically speaking).

In his book called ‘I Love Me’, Dr David R. Hamilton PhD talks about the three stages of self-love; Stage 1 is ‘I’m not good enough’ which is a conscious state that most of us are in; Stage 2 is ‘I’ve had enough’ which is the transition point and is usually accompanied by anger and passion.  Stage 3 is ‘I am enough’ which is characterised by peace and acceptance, we aren’t wasting energy trying to impress others or putting on an act to try and fit in.

Maybe this is where those negative emotions have a use, they drive us from a place where we are putting on an act to fit in or be liked, or where we are taken advantage of and even bullied; to a place where we become true to who we are and what we want to be.

“Self-compassion is an antidote to self-criticism. It’s having compassion for yourself. It’s taking action to relieve pain or disappointment, sometimes with a few kind thoughts or words for yourself…… Self-compassion is soft, in contrast to the hardness of self-criticism.”

David R. Hamilton PhD

I’m not saying that acceptance solves the problem, especially if you are struggling financially; what it will do is help lift some of the pressure, help you to think a bit more clearly, and hopefully help you to take action to try and change the situation.

By accepting what is happening, we move away from the fear response, and then we can start to try and figure out how to deal with a situation.  When we slow our mind out of thinking we become more open and creative, solutions start to appear because we are not trying to force anything.

When we are in a fear-based environment we often feel that we don’t have any choices, we feel stuck with no apparent way out.  We almost become paralysed, self-doubt creeps in and then we become afraid to make changes. 

I think it’s always important to try and remember that we all have the ability to make choices.  I read a book on Ho’oponopono (by Carole Berger) which is the ancient Hawaiian practice of gratitude and forgiveness and there is a part of it that really stood out for me, and that is about choices:

– A Choice is never good or bad, it just ‘is’.

– Our choices were determined by who we were at that time.

– We can only take action in the present.

– The present gives you the opportunity to choose.

The most important thing is to keep making choices; I think we can all be guilty of trying to make the ‘right’ choice, and we fear ‘getting it wrong’; we also feel we have to keep moving forwards, but sometimes taking a backwards step can be just as beneficial; if you take a path that’s not working out for you, what’s the harm in retracing your steps, there will most likely be another path or opportunity that you didn’t see before.

So, what can you do to start accepting the situation?

  • ‘Cancel’ negative thoughts – This is one to get friends and family involved in; if you say something negative get someone to shout ‘Cancel!’ this immediately stops the negative cycle of thinking, you then replace the negative comment with a positive one.  If you are by yourself this can be a bit tricky but try and be aware of what you are thinking and saying to yourself, and try and catch those negative thoughts, think or say ‘Cancel!’ and replace them with positive thoughts.  This can be used with the exercise from The Power of Now (above).
  • Positivity Post-it Notes – Write positive words or comments on post-it notes and stick them around the house in places where you know you’ll see them.  When you see one read it out loud and with as much energy as you can muster.  We have more negative thoughts than positive ones, so this is a great way to try and combat that.  Keep going with this even if you don’t fully feel it, just saying the words can have an impact. 

As you probably know, I’ve done a lot of reading to try and understand my mental health challenges, and the books I always struggle with are the ones on positivity and self-love; I often have a ‘Bah-humbug’ response to them; I think it’s because I feel so far away from achieving the messages they are giving.

“You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.”

Cheryl Strayed

I think the thing to remember is that all this stuff is not easy, but even if we can make small changes, start thinking a little differently, then it’s got to be better than doing nothing.  Feeling positive and self-confident is my Holy Grail as is being financially stable; I’ll keep working on accepting my current situation, taking the bad days for what they are, and embracing the good days, whilst working towards what I want.  It certainly isn’t easy.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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