Some emotions aren’t easy to manage, while others aren’t easy to accept. Examples of this could include: loving someone who hurt you, resenting someone who cares for you, or feeling sad after reaching a goal. In fact, learning to accept emotions is one of the goals of therapy.
This can often be a difficult task. In a study conducted by the University of Virginia and Harvard University, the experts found that a third of the participants who’d been asked to spend twenty minutes alone with their own thoughts cheated by picking up their cell phones or listening to music.
In the area of psychology, in frameworks such as Hayes’ acceptance and commitment therapy, the acceptance of emotions is considered important. Experiential avoidance, according to this perspective, is the total refusal to experience unpleasant feelings, thoughts, or emotions.
You try by all means possible to avoid or run away from unpleasant emotional experiences and, in doing so, you increase the discomfort. Every time you deny or resist something, the pressure increases and you end up worsening your own distress.
Immediacy and total satisfaction
If you think about your daily life, perhaps you’ll realize that you devote a good deal of resources to avoiding things that are bothersome, boring, or irritating.
For example, a few decades ago, if people took a photograph, they had to wait days for it to be developed so they could see it. You had to cope with the uncertainty of whether you were going to look good in the photo or whether it was focused correctly. That was the way things were.
These days, you can instantly see a photo you take. No waiting or uncertainty. If you don’t like the photo, you just delete it and take another one, until you feel happy about how it came out. This is just one example of many that you could pinpoint in your life where you demand immediacy and total satisfaction.
Perhaps you’re thinking that this example is quite mundane compared to the heartbreaking issues that life throws at us. You’re right. But before you deal with these more difficult issues, it’s a good idea for you to practice flexibility and tolerance in everyday situations that arise and treat them as learning opportunities. Here are a few examples.
Daily opportunities to learn to accept emotions
A whole day without your cell phone
Could you accept the challenge? Do you think you’re capable of doing it? If your answer is no, then you probably have a certain degree of dependence on your cell phone. Human beings value convenience so much and have such a low tolerance for boredom that they need constant stimulation to avoid falling into these traps.
To start training yourself in this area, a good way of learning to accept emotions could be to turn off your cell phone for a whole day and devote that time to doing other tasks.
Don’t cross on the red light
This is another daily opportunity to learn to accept emotions. You know the feeling. You get so bored waiting on the sidewalk for the traffic light to turn green that you look to see if there are any cars coming and try to cross quickly.
If you see that there’s no chance of crossing, then you start to think what a long wait it’s going to be and that you always get the red lights. Then you think, “I’ll get my cell phone out while I’m waiting!”
Instead of doing this, train yourself to wait until the light turns green. Drink in the situation that you’re contemplating, feel your emotions, and then, when the light changes, cross the road calmly.
Get in the longest queue
Another example that can help you accept your emotions is to force yourself to choose the longest queue at the supermarket or bank. This is a good way to accept boredom or discomfort.
You might think, “It’s taking so long to get to the cashier”. But when you have such thoughts, try to say to yourself, “I’m fine here, I can take this opportunity to connect with myself”.
Have breakfast while you have breakfast
We could also say have a shower while you’re having a shower or have a conversation while you’re having a conversation. You may understand what we’re getting at here. What we mean is that, when you do something, try to only do that one thing.
It isn’t healthy, on an emotional or intellectual level, to do several activities at the same time. In fact, multitasking is the perfect way to increase stress.
Delay your answers a little
Try not to answer your WhatsApp messages immediately. Wait a little and try to cope with the impulse. This is a good way to train yourself for when you have to manage more intense impulses.
Try waiting for 15 to 20 minutes before answering. Feel the discomfort of this lack of immediacy and accept it.
A day without television
The television is another way of hiding your emotions. Another good option is to stop filling your empty moments by turning on the TV.
Delay the next drink
In many cases, alcohol is a way of relieving short-term stress and boredom and trying to feel good. However, it’s important to know that this can be a real trap.
Alcohol can gain ground and become your worst enemy. Be careful with it! A beneficial option is to delay the next drink. Hold back the urge to drink and cope with the emotion as you would any other emotion. This also applies to other drugs, such as tobacco and anxiolytics.
Enjoy the traffic jam
If you find yourself in a traffic jam, enjoy it. Instead of cursing left, right, and center, why not take advantage of the moment to listen to music, watch the sky, or observe the drivers around you?
As you can see, learning to accept emotions means not living anchored to the culture of immediacy. These days, you want everything in a matter of seconds or minutes and you think you couldn’t live any other way. But you’re capable of being much more flexible and tolerant if you set your mind to it. If people could do it in the past, then you can do it now.
Remember those women who had to wash clothes by hand, as washing machines hadn’t yet been invented. Instead of complaining, they tried to enjoy it. They met with friends or neighbors to wash clothes together, chat, and enjoy their time together.
We could cite many similar examples to the ones we’ve mentioned today. The “right-now culture”, in many cases, simply trains your intolerance.
Ask yourself whether you really want to be a part of it and what you could do to start to remedy it. In this article, we’ve given some examples, but there are many more situations in which you can start to learn to accept emotions. Find those in your life, treat them as a challenge, and start being more flexible.
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