The Counselling Process: Tools for Acceptance

This is How Positive Change Happens…

surfTools for Acceptance

One of my trainers shared this insight with me: “As therapists, we’re assisting people to befriend reality”. Sounds simple enough yet, it can be very challenging for all of us to identify, confront, and befriend the realities of our own lives and life in general sometimes. We have a tendency to try to run away from, minimize, or protest reality. We might get some temporary relief from those defense mechanisms, and on a deeper level, we also end up giving ourselves and others more suffering.

One of the tools I find helpful for accepting reality comes from David Richo’s work, “The Five Things We Cannot Change”. Richo identifies and encourages us to accept these five qualities of life as a way to experience less suffering and more happiness. As he says,

There are five unavoidable givens, five immutable facts that come to visit all of us many times over:
1. Everything changes and ends.
2. Things do not always go according to plan.
3. Life is not always fair.
4. Pain is part of life.
5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

Since I’ve been working with accepting these “immutable facts”, I’m less shocked and surprised when any of these five things happen in my life or life in general. I still feel my emotional reactions like sadness or anger. Less shock or surprise helps me to be able to process through the experience better because I get less stuck in “I can’t believe______________happened”. Instead, I go to “I can believe_______________happened”. That perception helps me to feel more accepting, stable, and emotionally honest as I go through yet another inevitable challenge.

Accepting reality doesn’t always mean inaction. It means when we attempt to change something, we do it from a place of acceptance of what is rather than denial of it. We can apply the Zen saying, “This being the case, how shall I proceed?”. That orientation provides a different and more positive quality to our approach that can help challenges to resolve more quickly and effectively.

It can be sobering, even kind of disappointing, to accept these five things we cannot change about how life works. And it’s also brings a feeling of relief and peace to give up, even just little, railing against the way things are.

“The Five Things We Cannot Change” by David Richo


Counselling Tools | Individual Counselling