Things in our lives happen that are out of our control. The car breaks down. We get a shocking health diagnosis. People leave. The college you had your heart set on doesn’t accept you. Sometimes painful and unexpected things happen in our lives that we couldn’t have anticipated.
Often these things shock us (understandably so) and can lead to lots of “shoulds”: it shouldn’t be like this; this shouldn’t have happened; and, I shouldn’t have to deal with this. With these “shoulds”, we push back against the reality that whatever happened actually happened. We reject the idea because it’s painful and hard.
Marsha Linehan, the founder of DBT, says in her manual, “The path out of hell is through misery. By refusing to accept the misery that is part of climbing out of hell, you fall back into hell. “ When we respond with “shoulds”, we reject the reality of the circumstance in front of us. In doing so, we are momentarily protected from it… We also are stuck in it.
Only by first accepting the reality of our circumstances can things then start to change. Acceptance of the things we cannot control must happen before anything can change. It is painful and miserable to turn away from the “shoulds” of what we wish had been and turn towards “this is what happened”. However; turning towards reality means we can start healing and hopefully change our circumstances in the future. We can heal, grow, and problem solve.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference” – Serenity prayer