Finding Acceptance to Find Solutions

When something goes wrong we often have a natural desire to deny that something undesirable has happened. We might try not to think about it or to rewrite history in our minds. We often experience this in a series of ‘what if’s’ or ‘if only.’

What if I hadn’t done that? Would things have worked out better? If only I hadn’t said that, everything would have been ok.

The truth is we can’t possible know how things might have worked in different circumstances and in any case it doesn’t matter. We can’t change the past. Going back over and over what has happened, trying to re-imagine it will only prolong the experience and prevent you from moving forward.

However, trying to force yourself to move on without really engaging with what has happened can also trip you up. It can prevent learning, which means you repeat the mistake in future or that you are fighting to push thoughts back, meaning you don’t have your full cognitive capacity to respond to what has happened and find solutions.

This doesn’t mean that if something goes wrong and you don’t get upset there is something wrong. It may be that you are just managing what has happened very well. Perhaps you have trained yourself to approach things going wrong with equanimity and find this beneficial. This is a good thing – but do check that you have properly engaged with what has happened and properly taken in the consequences.

There a number of ways you can approach acceptance when something goes wrong.

Accept the Emotion

When something negative happens, we inevitably experience an emotional response first. This is ok (see “Working with Negative Emotions“). It may help to allow yourself some time to feel upset, frustrated, angry etc. and acknowledge that you feel this way for a good reason. It isn’t wrong to feel an emotion or to give it space. However, you don’t have to let it take complete control. It may, for instance, help if you allow yourself an allotted time to feel upset while you look after yourself and then a deadline when you are going to move on and start acting on what has happened e.g. “I’ll be upset this evening and then do something about it tomorrow morning.”

Accept the Reality

You can’t change what has happened, accepting the new reality is a key step in making the best of it. It might help to acknowledge it out loud to yourself (Saying, “Ok, X has happened”) or you might want to write it down or tell someone else. This brings the event out of your head and into the real world, so you can start dealing with it.

Accept the Consequences

Be careful that your emotions don’t run amok with this one – they can create all kinds of dire consequences that will never actually happen but that you believe in the moment. Use the techniques in “What Is The Real Problem?” to help with this. It may help if you can use calming techniques first, such as 7/11 breathing, mindfulness practice or walking in nature, so that you can be sure you are considering the genuine consequences of what has happened. Identify what the real problems and consequences are now, so you can start to problem solve and move forward

Accept the Positives

Few things in our lives are 100% bad. But when we are upset about something we often want to deny that any possible positives might arise from the situation. However acknowledging and accepting any positives can regenerate hope, overcome despair and therefore motivate you to act and move on. Positives might be that you have learned something from what has happened that will strengthen you in future or it may create new opportunities that you may have missed before (For example, if you’d planned to work and now can’t, does it give you the chance to see friends?). It may open up the possibility of doing something to help with your wellbeing. Just because there may be a silver lining, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a bad thing. But allowing for some positivity can be better for your wellbeing and your future.