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Acceptance Is Not Resignation, and Resignation Is Not Acceptance

Acceptance Is Not Resignation, and Resignation Is Not Acceptance

Though acceptance and resignation may appear to mean the same thing, there are huge differences in terms of attitudes and perspectives, especially when considering the psychological aspects of our lives.

Acceptance typically contains the concept of assent, approval, or saying yes. The term implies a non-judgmental mindset. According to Eckhardt Tolle, acceptance is “surrendering to the now.” Sharon Salzburg, Tara Brach (Radical Acceptance), and Jack Kornfield, all with Buddhist orientations, view acceptance as embracing a situation as it presents itself in the here and now, without judgment. Acceptance involves an awareness, or mindfulness state, that everything changes – impermanence is the only certainty. Acceptance is a positive interactive choice on how to view the present, past, and potential future.

Acceptance is the key to serenity in twelve-step programs. Michael J. Fox said, “Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is, and there’s got to be a way through it.” This is especially true in coping with terminal illness. It implies holding a space for hope. Marsha Linehan discussed the practice of radical acceptance in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) as letting go of what isn’t possible. She stated, “Radical acceptance rests on letting go of the illusion of control and a willingness to notice and accept things as they are right now, without judging.”

Renowned psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross related that acceptance is the fifth stage of processing grief. One cannot resolve or process grief without first acknowledging what has happened and establishing itself as reality. The question that often arises is: Is there really a choice when there is only one option? Oddly enough, the answer is yes. In the case of acceptance, we are saying yes to an attitude or perspective. We are acting like the Stoic philosophers. We are identifying “the thing in itself” and “choosing our responses.” Acceptance can be applied to things past and present as an affirmation of what is or what has happened. It is not a judgment of good or bad.

Resignation, on the other hand, seems grounded in, focused on, and determined by the past and carries on into infinity. It is tied to the judgment that the current situation is not good and will continue to persist throughout eternity. It is a passive, helpless, hopeless, powerless state of being associated with fatalism and nihilism. These are defeatist attitudes that live in the realm of “nothing will change, so why bother?” This often leads to states of depression and/or anxiety. Even in playing chess, resignation is surrendering to the fact that the game is lost without the ability to win or draw. It is accepting the hopelessness of the situation.

To move from resignation to acceptance, one must first be aware and mindful of the current situation and reflect on it clearly, without prejudice or predetermined ideas. We can employ a sense of tolerance and gratitude in our examination of the situation. We focus on what may be possible to change and create a plan of action that has the potential to positively impact the situation. This is not a passive process. It requires courage, hope, and perseverance.

To move out of resignation, we need to stop judging outcomes or situations that happen as good or bad. We also need to understand that everything is constantly changing and evolving, including the situation that we find ourselves in. The clearer we see the situation and its cause, the more likely we will be to influence the direction of change. To make changes, we must use our resources, including reaching out to others – be they friends, family, sponsors, or therapists – and explore what it is we are seeing, thinking, and/or feeling. We need to ground ourselves and process our perceptions, projections, and prejudices. We end with, “I may not like this situation, and this is what I must deal with. Life is worth living even when there are painful events.” We can then move through despair, loss, grief, and denial (resignation) to what is now possible (hope, acceptance).

A window opens.

James W. Osborne, MS, LPC, has been one of Natural Nutmeg’s 10Best Winners for Holistic Psychotherapy/LCSW/Counseling every year since 2018. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 40 years of clinical experience. He employs mindfulness, Jungian psychology, gestalt psychology, ACT, EMDR, and value-based techniques unique to the individual to support positive health changes. His undergraduate degree is in philosophy, and he views psychotherapy as philosophy in action.

You can contact James at: ProNatural Wellness Group in Berlin, CT, at 860.829.0707