How to eliminate stress, regret, dissatisfaction and worry – using Positive Acceptance
We’re all crazy. As a chartered psychologist, I should know.
We fill our lives with irrational thoughts. Every time we have a negative thought such as dissatisfaction, disappointment, regret or blame, or any other thought that’s maintaining uncomfortable feelings such as frustration, irritation or stress, we’re always having an irrational thought.
That’s because, with one exception (see below), we’re either wanting something that’s happened not to have happened, or we’re wanting a situation that exists right now not to exist right now. In others words we’re wanting something to be already different.
Nothing can ever be already different, so in all these cases we’re wishing for the impossible. I rest my case – we’re all crazy.
Another term for wishing things were already different is ‘resisting what is’. The opposite is called ‘accepting what is’, which simply means not wishing something were already different. Many years ago I developed a technique to train myself to ‘accept what is’ all the time. This technique has become known as Positive Acceptance.
It involves developing a habit of noticing whenever we’re wishing something were already different, practically always the case whenever we’re dissatisfied about anything. Acknowledge this is irrational, actually crazy, because nothing can ever be already different. Then drop the thought (easier than might be imagined once we’ve completed the first two steps). Finally re-focus on what we can do, if anything, to change it or otherwise improve the future.
When we ‘accept what is’, there’s only one thing left to think about, what we can do, if anything, to change things now or in the future. Start small (burnt toast, red traffic lights, missed trains) and build up to bigger issues. At least half the time, there’s no need to take action, either because there’s nothing we can think of doing or because it’s not important enough. In those cases – just drops the negative thought.
Soon after starting to use his technique I found myself stuck in traffic and running very late for an important meeting. I realised all the negative thoughts going through my mind, including blaming myself for not leaving earlier, involved wishing things were already different. I immediately dropped the thoughts and made a resolution that I’d never again be late for an important meeting. I committed to always leaving earlier for such meetings to create more contingency. I’ve never been late for an important meeting in the twenty years since – and I’ve used the same approach to change all the unproductive patterns in my life.
After a while this way of thinking becomes automatic, so we no longer have to think through the process. Later still, it’s picked up by our unconscious mind and the negative thoughts just stop arising. There are now thousands of people “paccepting” (positive accepting) many times a day and loving it.
Beware; there’s something that stops pacceptance in its tracks – emotions! Pacceptance is a form of rational thinking and it’s hard to engage in any sort of rational thinking when emotions are pouring through us. One solution is to wait until the emotion has subsided before applying pacceptance.
You can speed up that process by learning to totally accept any uncomfortable feelings.
Earlier I said that all dissatisfaction arises from wanting something to be already different. There is one exception to this; worrying about the future. When we’re worrying about the future (defined by psychologists as ‘ruminating about a negative outcome’), we’re wanting something to be different from the way we think it might be … and we don’t believe we can control it. If we believed we could control it we wouldn’t be worrying. This thought cycle is just as futile and irrational as wanting something to be already different. The only thing worth thinking about is how we can gain more control over whatever it is we’re worrying about.
That leads to a variation of pacceptance that can be applied to the future, so eliminating worry. Whenever we notice we’re worrying, we can acknowledge it’s futile and irrational; then drop the thought (again, easier than might be imagined once we’ve acknowledged it’s futile and irrational) and refocus on what we can do, if anything, to gain more control over whatever we were worrying about, or to otherwise improve the future.
Another technique that can be used to stop worrying, is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Whenever we’re worrying we’re nearly always exaggerating one or both of two things: a) the probability of something bad happening or b) the consequences even if it does happen. Identifying these exaggerations, together with the pacceptance-based technique, helps us to drop worrying thoughts.
Providing us with the means to eliminate dissatisfaction from our lives raises a question: ‘Isn’t dissatisfaction a useful motivator to change things?’
I used to think so, but in my personal experience and that of my clients, I have found dissatisfaction to be a very poor motivator. While there are exceptions, dissatisfaction is generally just debilitating and de-motivating. If we remove it from our lives, we can replace it with much more effective motivators such as a desire or preference for how we want things to be.
‘Accepting what is’ and accepting uncomfortable feelings, are two of the many tools used in a new therapy called Acceptance-Action Therapy (AAT). The personal development equivalent is called Acceptance-Action Training. This is the basis of a ‘Personal Effectiveness and Achievement’ training called ‘The Power to Choose’.
These trainings have dramatically changed thousands of lives. They eliminate stress, regret, dissatisfaction and worry, enhance achievement and success and give us the tools to deal with any challenges in relationships – including weight loss and smoking cessation!
About Graham W Price:
Graham W Price is a chartered psychologist and an accredited member of the British Psychological Society (BPS). He is author of “What Is, Is! The Power of Positive Acceptance”. Abicord Ltd offers seminars, costing £20, that teach Positive Acceptance. See www.abicord.com.