Requirements for Acceptance

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the principles and requirements of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
  • Recognize the potential impacts of emotional awareness and detachment on acceptance.
  • Identify the difference between small and large forms of acceptance and the role of radical acceptance.

Most people think of acceptance as an event, something you do once in awhile when life has defeated you, but it’s much better to think of acceptance as a skill. A skill implies the existence of underlying principles that can be put into play and practiced, yielding improvement. That’s certainly true of acceptance. Let’s think through what acceptance requires.

First, Acceptance Requires Emotional Awareness.

Some people are in denial about the emotional effects of their situation. They need to honor the fullness of their emotions by allowing themselves to feel. Their resistance is so strong that they block their emotions from their mind.

Second, You Must Know that Acceptance is an Option.

They don’t know what it is, they don’t understand it, they have never consciously chosen it, they don’t know what it feels like, so they have no way to experience it as a singular event or cultivate it as a skill. Having no frame of reference they see acceptance as defeat or resignation, when it’s neither. So they actively refuse acceptance.

Third, Acceptance Requires Detachment from Circumstances.

With acceptance, you have decided that your internal or emotional world will no longer be hitched to, or dependent upon, circumstances in the external world. When you couple your emotions to external events, you become a follower to these events. With acceptance, you have decided to be the leader internally and emotionally, simply because you recognize that it is you who chooses your reaction. You take back the power over your emotions.

Fourth, Understand that Resistance is Futile

If you believe that resistance will eventually prevail, you’re likely to keep fighting, keep holding on to what would otherwise be lost. With acceptance, you understand that continued resistance is likely to be futile and will only increase your suffering. People have all kinds of reasons not to accept reality. None of them matter. When you choose acceptance, you have arrived at a way to move forward while decreasing your investments.

When you cultivate acceptance as a skill, you are committing to an ongoing day-to-day awareness of your emotional attachments. You are no longer simply navigating your relationships and circumstances based on your automatic behavior or emotional habit systems. Instead you strive to be aware of your emotional attachments, your investments. There is no anxiety without attachment, no suffering without attachment. You are aware of the limitations of your power in any situation and you strive to be involved but not attached.

You also recognize acceptance large and small, and practice both in your everyday life. Here’s some small examples: If a guy cuts you off in traffic, you don’t give him emotional command of your inner world. Instead, you let it go. If your mailman makes a mistake and fails to deliver you mail a particular day, you let it go. If there’s a short delay in repairing your car, you let it go. You give yourself permission to feel good about these, because you know you’re practicing for bigger things.

Here’s some larger examples: If there’s credit card fraud, you do what you can to minimize your losses, and then you let it go. If your house is destroyed in a storm, you decide that the full on trauma of an intense emotional response would be too much to bear, so instead you thank the Universe that no one was seriously hurt or killed, and you begin to make plans to rebuild. In none of these situations are you callous or unaffected, you have simply chosen your response. That’s your option, your birthright, as a free willed being. You cannot coerce the Universe into behaving the way you desire, but you can choose your reactions. This doesn’t mean that you ignore reality or suffocate your feelings, it literally means that you decide to limit your reaction and cope constructively as reality allows it.

Radical Acceptance: Acceptance without Judgment of the External Situation.

In other words, it is what it is, whatever it is. Negative emotions follow negative judgments. Particularly when unfairness is involved, there’s the appraisal that “This should not be,” resulting in anger and protest and maybe even desires for revenge. This entangles you further into the situation, consuming emotional resources that might otherwise be used for problem solving and self-care. Worse, you now have to deal with both the situation AND with your judgments and emotions, a double whammy. Why make things worse? Radical acceptance frees up cognitive and emotional resources that would be consumed by recycling these negative thoughts and emotions.

Below are statements that combine intense negative judgment and intense emotion reaction. Some of these thoughts are about reality, some of these thoughts keep asking why and protesting, and a few represent accusations directed against the self. All represent entanglements that prevent you from easily detaching from the situation. Most of the time, we are not even aware of them.

  • This situation is completely unfair.
  • I should not be in this situation.
  • God should not be doing this to me.
  • My situation is terrible.
  • What did I do to deserve this?
  • I absolutely cannot tolerate this.
  • I will never get over this.
  • No one will ever understand this.
  • No one else has to cope with things like this.
  • Everything is against me.
  • I have the worst luck.
  • I am my own worst enemy.
  • I hate feeling the way I do.

As you can see from the above statements, refusal of reality is actually a refusal of the intense negative emotions that accompany reality. Radical acceptance often involves a level of emotional detachment, but sometimes emotional detachment is not possible. In this case, radical acceptance involves an acquiescence to intense emotional pain, for example, when finally accepting that some losses cannot be avoided.

Reading Comprehension Questions

1. What is one of the main requirements for acceptance according to the text?

  • A. Ignoring reality
  • B. Emotional awareness
  • C. Suppressing emotions
  • D. Being unaware of one’s circumstances

2. According to the text, what does acceptance allow one to do?

  • A. Ignore negative situations
  • B. Cultivate emotional awareness on a daily basis
  • C. Avoid negative emotions entirely
  • D. Prevent all forms of suffering

3. What is radical acceptance as defined in the text?

  • A. Ignoring reality completely
  • B. Acceptance without judgment of the external situation
  • C. Acceptance accompanied by intense negative emotions
  • D. Acceptance that includes constant judgment of others

4. According to the text, what is the impact of refusing reality?

  • A. It increases personal happiness
  • B. It leads to emotional detachment
  • C. It is actually a refusal of the intense negative emotions that accompany reality
  • D. It aids in problem-solving

5. How is acceptance described in relation to external events?

  • A. Acceptance requires one to be a follower of external events
  • B. Acceptance involves coupling emotions to external events
  • C. Acceptance means that one’s emotional world will no longer be dependent upon circumstances in the external world
  • D. Acceptance requires external events to behave in a desired manner


1. B. Emotional awareness

2. B. Cultivate emotional awareness on a daily basis

3. B. Acceptance without judgment of the external situation

4. C. It is actually a refusal of the intense negative emotions that accompany reality

5. C. Acceptance means that one’s emotional world will no longer be dependent upon circumstances in the external world