Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Resistance and Acceptance

Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. 
-Katherine Mansfield

There is a difference between knowing that something is true and accepting it. Even when my husband moved out to start a new life with his paramour, clearly demonstrating that our marriage was over, I still maintained hope that he’d come to his senses and set things right. I think I knew deep inside that the marital wound was fatal, but my hopeful heart kept arguing, “Yes, but. . . ” My heart and head were in conflict.

I’ve talked to widows and hear time and again that though they know their spouse is dead, some part of them still believes he or she will walk through the door. It seems as if some losses are so monumental that it takes a while for us to accept what is without resistance. More than anything, it’s the resistance to reality that keeps us from moving forward.  

What do I mean by resistance? Resistance is an internal argument with reality. It’s a mental dispute characterized by words like should and shouldn’t. She shouldn’t have died. He shouldn’t be able to treat me this way. He should still be here with me. This shouldn’t be happening. I shouldn’t have to experience this. Sound familiar?

The problem with this line of argument is that reality always wins. No matter how much you think things should be different, things are just the way they are and they’ll stay that way until they change. Choosing to argue when reality always wins is just plain futile and more than a little pig-headed. Being attached to the belief that things should be different is also the reason we suffer.

So how do we learn to cut through resistance and accept things as they are? Glad you asked. It’s simple really. It's a matter of uncovering your thinking errors, examining whether your beliefs are objectively true, realizing that it's your attachment to the thought that causes suffering, and realizing that you can choose to surrender the thought and the harm that it causes.

A brilliant woman named Byron Katie explains the process in her book Loving What Is. You’ll be amazed how simple and direct the method really is. I wish I’d known this secret years ago. It would have made all the difference.