Acceptance vs Acquiescence

I happened upon a post written by Will at WillSpirit which beautifully explains the idea of acceptance when one is feeling really awful and perhaps suicidal as well. I’ve encountered people’s disbelief that acceptance could possibly be helpful and in fact people often seem to think it’s potentially dangerous. I’ve never done well addressing that issue because while I understand the healing nature of acceptance intuitively I’ve not been successful in articulating it. Will does so very clearly by making a distinction between acquiescence and acceptance. So simple, but it’s never struck me so clearly. This is most of Will’s post copied with permission here:

I wrote an essay about acceptance that was kindly placed on one of the blogs at PsychCentral by Tom Wootton of Bipolar Advantage. It drew an interesting comment there, and between that reader’s remarks and my response, some important aspects of acceptance were highlighted. Here is the comment:

What about a seriously debilitating mood problem, like suicidal depression? Acceptance of that could lead to suicide. Or a mania which causes a person to think s/he is being called to break into the White House to deliver a message from God? These are extremes but they do exist within the parameters of manic-depression/bipolar disorder. Acceptance is good if your disorder only takes you from “normal” levels of depression to non-extreme manias. But we need to be aware that medication can help people whose moods sway wildly.

Here’s my answer:

You make a good point, but I think you are talking about acquiescence rather than acceptance. It’s a fine distinction, but an important one. Acceptance, as I am using the word, means embracing reality. People become suicidal because they believe their mood to be intolerable. They literally can’t live with it; suicide is the opposite of acceptance. People often say, “I feel like killing myself.” In this case, acceptance means acknowledging that one is having suicidal urges, and then living with them. To kill oneself would be to reject everything and acquiesce to self-destructive tendencies. (read the rest here)

Will’s post reminds me of another post I printed of Jayme’s about how she embraces all the painful feelings she experiences. Her piece is called How I deal with mental breakdowns.” It too is all about deep acceptance of oneself without that leading to destructive behavior. For her that embracing of her reality ultimately meant transforming and healing herself completely. I believe it can be this way for all of us. There are comments below Jayme’s article from people who thought what she was advocating was dangerous. Her post is worth revisiting. Both these pieces support and build on each other.

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