The DNA of Resilience – Acceptance
In the last Blog, we talked about resilience and adaptability. Next in the Blog series “The DNA of resilience” is the concept of acceptance. According to Zanna and West in their Neuroscience article – Epigenetics and the regulation of stress vulnerability and resilience, state that “environmental challenges can also precipitate psychiatric disorders in susceptible individuals. Why any given experience should induce one brain to adapt while another is edged toward psychopathology remains poorly understood. Like all aspects of psychological function, both nature (genetics) and nurture (life experience) sculpt the brain’s response to stressful stimuli.” This is an important comment to understand at the beginning of this blog.
Epigenetics is a relatively new field of study. According to the dictionary, it is defined as the “study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.” In other words, this field of science studies those elements which are “on top of” or “in addition to” the traditional genetic basis for inheritance. In terms of Resilience, the idea of acceptance is viewed as an epigenetic part of the DNA, which makes us who we are. Fascinating
When faced with some sort of life adversity, do you exercise “emotional resilience” and accept what is happening? Do you proactively seek to improve the outcome of that moment in your life? Has acceptance of the situation made a difference to the overall situation and its outcome? If you have the willingness to accept the situation, then that wiliness to accept is an integral part of resilience to life and the adversities of life.
In our culture, the word “acceptance” is generally associated with resigning ourselves to situations or not trying to change them. This is often seen as a weak human characteristic. It’s not!
“Accepting what is” is very different. It means not wishing something was ALREADY different. Wishing things were already different is wishing for the impossible. Almost all unhappiness, dissatisfaction and stress involves wanting something to be already different. The only exception is worrying about the future.
“Accepting what is” is helpful in any challenging situation, whether or not we can immediately change it. When we “accept what is” we focus only on what we need to do to resolve the situation or improve the future.
If I’m under pressure to meet a deadline and I’m unhappy or stressed about this, I’m not “accepting it
“Accepting what is” involves saying to myself, “this is the situation right now. It makes no sense to wish it were already different and I’ll gain nothing by doing so”. If I totally “accept what is” I can focus on what I need to do to resolve the issue or make it different: meet the deadline, ask for help, change the deadline or whatever.
People who “accept what is” focus on solutions, not problems, so they don’t feel stressed. Some people naturally “accept what is”, but for most, it’s a skill, which like any other skill, needs to be learned and practised.
One technique that’s been used to train thousands to “accept what is” on a daily basis, is called Positive Acceptance. It entails creating a habit of noticing whenever we’re wishing something were already different (always the case whenever we’re dissatisfied about anything), recognising this is irrational because nothing can ever be ‘already different’. Then by dropping the thought and refocusing on what we can do to improve the next moment or the future, we are on the way to positive acceptance.
Challenge negative thoughts
It might be very challenging to drop a negative thought, but if we have embraced, the first two steps, it becomes surprisingly easy. Always start small. Say using burnt toast or red traffic lights as an example. Tyr with these simple and everyday moments and build on them when you get more confidence. With practice and patience, you will find that you can apply these techniques to really stressful situations in your life.
If you want to use positive acceptance, then you will need to wait until the immediate emotion has subsided before accepting what is, and soon it will become automatic, and the regret, dissatisfaction, and stress will gradually disappear from your life.
Resilience and acceptance are closely linked. By practicing and implementing it into our life, you will become more fulfilled.