Acceptance – A Valuable Life Skill

Traffic is a common stressor for many, and something most of us can relate to in one way or the other.

We have all experienced being stuck in a car, a bus, or on a plane waiting to take off. For those of us sensitive to other people’s energy and emotions, the change of atmosphere when a delay is unavoidable is palpable. The longer the wait, the higher the discomfort, and not only for empaths.

And while one has the option to get off the bus, getting off a plane that’s waiting to take off is highly unlikely to be successful.

So, what can we do to be less impacted by such happenings?

First of all, it’s essential to become aware of what is going on within. What causes the anxiety and the stress when, in fact, life offers a rare moment – and sometimes a seemingly very long moment – to pause.

Resisting the fact that the journey has come to a halt creates stress. In that very moment there on the plane, what’s in our power to change? The pilot of the aircraft is bound to follow the instructions of traffic control. Traffic control adjusts the schedule according to what’s happening overall in the airspace. Airspace traffic is affected by weather conditions and the timing of inbound and outbound flights at other airports. So really, what’s in our control here?

Imagine for a moment that we accept waiting in a starting position for the next 20 minutes. We take a deep breath, lean back, and surrender. Notice the immediate change in our mind – rather than being flooded with thoughts of what should or shouldn’t be, we focus on how to spend this waiting time now with the most ease and comfort. The shoulders drop, the facial muscles relax, the breath becomes deeper, and perhaps we notice the nervous system switching into relaxation, and suddenly there is more space within.

True acceptance allows us to come back to the present moment. It trains us to embrace everything without judgment or a reference to the past or future.

Accepting what is in that very moment enables us to discern how to engage with the situation.

In the famous Serenity Prayer, the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.”

Life confronts us with events we have no control over. Rather than fighting against what is, it is helpful to learn how to adapt to the situation. Whilst the external is a fixed part of the equation, our response to it is not, at least not in theory.

In reality, most of us live a life based on a collection of assumptions, expectations, rules, and patterns that have been ingrained in us since we were little. We live on auto-pilot, quickly ready to judge others who live life differently.

Only when we become aware that our internal framework of beliefs determines how we see others and the world, we can start asking the question “Is it really true?”

Contemplating the answer to that question might help us realize that resisting reality is futile and a waste of energy, especially when we insist that the world ought to function in a certain way.

Accepting what is and deciding whether and how to respond to it saves energy. That energy can then be used in a more efficient way to initiate the changes to steer life in a more desirable direction.