“I want to be able to explain to my clients the kind of acceptance that leads to wellbeing and liberation.”

By Ann Weiser Cornell on February 8, 2017 in Blog, Tips

Focusing Tip #546

If you have a client struggling with chronic pain, do you suggest that they accept the pain?

Leslie writes:

I am a psychotherapist specializing in chronic pain. I want to be able to explain to my clients the kind of acceptance that leads to wellbeing and liberation. How would you define acceptance… a definition I can use for my clients.

Dear Leslie:

Great question! The trouble with the word “acceptance” is that it has two connotations. Obviously we don’t want to tell people they should “just accept” their pain.

If the word “acceptance” implies giving up, not engaging, being powerless, I would not want to recommend that to my clients. It’s not that kind of acceptance I spoke about in my book The Radical Acceptance of Everything.

Especially in regard to pain – but also with any felt experience that is problematic – there is often a strong sense of not wanting it to be there.

In my view, “acceptance” means not identifying with the part that doesn’t like an experience and wants to get rid of it.

The first step of acceptance is to acknowledge a part of me that doesn’t accept, doesn’t like, doesn’t want … this experience. We accept the non-acceptance!

The second step will be to simply sense and describe the experience without fighting with it.

“This is how it feels right now.”

A definition of acceptance to give to a client? I’m going to duck the question by suggesting you not use the word. Instead, say something like: “We’ve discovered that when you simply stay present with the actual experience you are having, it tends to get less burdensome and may even shift completely.”

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