One Tip to Decrease Suffering in Your Life

by Henrik Edberg

One simple yet powerful thing you can do to remove quite a bit of suffering from your life is to be accepting.

The funny thing about a problem is that the negative feelings you may feel because of it do to a large extent not come from the problem itself.

It comes from your resistance to the problem.

And, of course the problem already is – you can’t go back in time and change something – so resistance is a bit unnecessary.

Much of the pain in your life is needlessly created in your mind. You may fear something. And it might be a little dangerous. But often we add probably 80 percent or more to the problem with the help of our minds. We build these spectacular negative fantasies of what may happen if we do something. When we finally do what we feared those fears pretty much never materializes.

One way to decrease such negative feelings as fear and not build big and scary mind-monsters is to be accepting. When you accept what is, then your problem – the trigger of those monsters in your head – loses much of its power to take over your mind. It just is, like a tree or brushing your teeth or the keyboard under my fingers. It doesn’t have much of an emotional power over you.

More solutions and less ice-cream

The point of accepting isn’t to give up and just accept that what is now will always be. The point is to remove that negative emotional weight in your mind that you create by resisting.

The sooner you accept something, the sooner can you start to use more of your mind to focus on finding a solution. I have previously written about how you can become more productive if you focus 80% of your time and energy on finding a solution and only 20% on dwelling on the problem. A lot of people do the opposite. I believe that learning to become more accepting and to accept things quicker is a vital key to being able to work in this more effective way.

Another use of acceptance is if you have impulses and habits you don’t really like and that are not so beneficial. If you’ve had a bad day maybe you want a big bowl of ice-cream. Maybe you feel this way just about every time you’ve had a bad day.

Instead of resisting it and empowering it accept this need. It might not solve your problem the first time you try it, but I have found that it lets you see your behaviour pattern with more clarity. The pattern has less energy than if you had resisted it and it becomes easier to let go of that need for the ice-cream for the night. Over time these responses to a bad day will have less power over you. You’ll have more control of what you want to do, not what some automatic thoughts and emotions tells you to do.

To remove a habit like this one you may want to add a replacement. If you just stop doing something there might become a vacuum that your mind wants to fill. If you eat a lot of ice-cream you may want to fill your kitchen with fruit and vegetables as a replacement and as something to snack on when you feel the need.

The upsides and a practical method

Now, how do you learn to become more accepting and to accept things quicker? One important part is to realize what’s in it for you. When you realize that you can have less suffering, become more effective and live a more pleasurable life you become a whole lot more keen on being accepting. With these reasons in mind I have found that I play less mind games with myself. I just try to accept what is a soon as possible since I know there are upsides in it for me.

I´d like to close this article with one practical method for decreasing resistance and for accepting more easily.

If you have read this blog for a while then I’m sure you have heard about it before. But the reason I keep mentioning it is because it’s simple and more effective than you might expect at first. Here is what you do:

When you feel a negative feeling then accept that feeling. Don’t try to fight it or to keep it out (like many of us have learned throughout life). Say yes to it.

Surrender and let it in. Observe the feeling in your mind and body without labelling or judging it. If you let it in – for me the feeling then often seems to physically locate itself to the middle of my chest – and just observe it for maybe a minute or two something wonderful happens. The feeling just vanishes. And your mind stops putting in new energy into the problem.

Acceptance is a pretty powerful stuff. You may be surprised at how this simple thing can change how you think, feel and live.

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{ 11 comments }

barret October 17, 2007 at 6:34 pm

thanks for the “loser talk”…

Trula October 18, 2007 at 1:38 am

Surrender and let it in. Observe the feeling in your mind and body without labelling or judging it.

Ooooooh, that is very good advice! I need to practice this more myself.

Martin Wildam October 18, 2007 at 9:50 am

I would like to add something to your practical method to learn acceptance: When you let the feeling in it is also a good thing to name the feeling when you have let it in. For example “Fear of loosing my job”. This helps me usually to identify similar feelings and then I can choose trying to identify the root problem why those feelings rise up. When I named the feeling and it does not go away itself I think of putting it aside tenderly.

When putting negative feelings aside is difficult for you, thinking of the GTD “actionable” strategy may help: If there is a possible next action according to the experience you made when the negative feeling came up then DO IT otherwise acceptance is easier because you are conscious that there is nothing to do about the issue.

Amrit Hallan - Lifeonomy October 18, 2007 at 10:56 am

Great thoughts on the importance of acceptance. Acceptance is the first step to words a solution. When we accept that there is a problem and when we accept that, that problem is causing us great distress we are in a better position to deal with that problem. It is just like knowing the enemy in order to destroy it.

Kacper October 18, 2007 at 4:18 pm

Hello.

In my case, I have impression that I quite often accept a problem, but this doesn’t remove too much fear or stress. But on the other hand, this stress very often helps me to get more mobilization and motivation in finding solution.

Inspiring post for me. Thanks and greetings.
Kacper

Ravi Vora October 18, 2007 at 10:49 pm

Instead of simply “accepting,” I like to think of it as “letting it roll off your back.” Forget about it and move on. If you don’t dwell on the negative, it can’t affect you.

Thomas October 19, 2007 at 1:39 pm

This post reminds me of this post:
http://www.jamesbrausch.com/?p=58

Henrik Edberg October 19, 2007 at 4:17 pm

Thanks for all your different insights on acceptance. I really appreciate them.

Melanie Painter November 6, 2007 at 3:08 pm

Good advice, what you resist does indeed persist so acceptance is a great step in actually letting go of something, if you keep on brushing fear, grief or other uncomfortable emotions under the carpet, they will rise up to bite you on the ass! Sometimes it’s natural to feel scared, especially if you’re stepping out of your comfort zone, so acceptance and kindness to yourself is key. As ever, inspiring reading.

Sudhir November 26, 2008 at 8:35 am

Hi, very good article. Yes accepting a problem, should rather call it a challenege or a ISSUE makes it far more easier to focus on the solution. What you resist will persist as Robin Sharma has put it in his book & its true. When we stop resisting & accept the issue,60% of the time we find solution has been right there staring in the face. Resisting just uses up lot of energy & tangles up the mind in just coming up with unproductive thought pattern which further causes anxeity & fear.
Thank you again for the article.

Maggie A October 19, 2009 at 4:36 pm

I would like to say thank you, for i found this article very useful and comforting and the lovely comments as well.
” What you resist, persist”.
Very true indeed, we should all keep this in mind when facing negative emotions.

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