On accepting reality

When I first heard advice about accepting reality, it made me mad. I immediately thought it was just another way to say that I should “Get over it! Quit making a big deal out of nothing. Don’t take into consideration how hurt you are.”

Accepting reality is actually not about ignoring painful emotional experiences. In fact, a wholehearted openness to reality includes the acceptance of all that you experience. In other words, openness to experience includes attention to feelings, hurt, and pain.

When people fail to pay enough attention to the natural painful consequences of a situation, they may get stuck in the situation. Pain is a flag that generally calls for action to prevent or minimize harm.  That is not to say that accepting hurt over and over again is the same as accepting reality. If a person is able to look at a situation with their eyes open, they can recognize that the hurt they are experiencing is information. Once pain and hurt is acknowledged and attended to (ie, accepted), there are increased options for reducing pain.

Sometimes people will stay in situations that are hurtful or hopeless because they are avoiding the reality of confrontation or change.  Sometimes situations are experienced as overwhelming and people experience themselves as without power to bring about change. Accepting hopelessness and despair is not the same as accepting reality. Hopeless and despair include negative predictions about the future, whereas acceptance of reality is simply a willingness to recognize or acknowledge the current moment for what it is right now.

Remember that the acceptance of reality is not the same as the approval of reality. And acceptance of what is does not mean being passive or failing to act when action is called for. Acceptance of reality starts with an open heart to just this moment. And accepting just this moment does not mean accepting one’s entire future.