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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Taking Back Control of Your Mind: The Power of Acceptance

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 2nd 2011

unlock mindRecently it’s been very windy out here in Southern California; Pasadena even declared a state of emergency. The other day I was walking outside and I knew I had about 5 minutes until I reached my destination and I couldn't help thinking, "It's windy, I’m cold, I’ve underdressed for this weather and I’m going to be uncomfortable when I get there." So how is this significant to your life?

As I was walking I really wasn't aware of much else, except that this was really unpleasant. How I was contributing to the unpleasantness wasn't in my awareness in the moment.

As I came to a stop light there was a man standing next to me who I turned to and said, "Man, this is unbelievable." Although he looked pretty calm and replied, "Yup."

In that moment something happened, my mind took the discomfort to such a ridiculous extreme popping me into a space where the question arose in my mind, "is this really that unpleasant, it's just wind."

I realized in that moment that it wasn't only windy outside, but there were gusts of debris of automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) being kicked up my mind too. I had a choice to both accept the windy coldness and become present to the experience or to fight it.

As I chose to just accept the reality of it and realize that I'd be in it for the next minute (4 minutes of fighting had elapsed), I noticed that my facial muscles had been tight and they started to relax as did the rest of me. To this day, it still amazes me how this happens.

This experience is so similar to how we work with stress and difficult emotions. When we fight sadness, fear, shame or anger, we end up creating tension in the body which makes us feel constricted. When we're constricted it's easier to get our buttons pushed.

There's a field of psychology called Psychosynthesis that calls this living in the survival personality.

Accepting the moment doesn't imply that you're ok with it, it simply means being aware of the reality of the moment and not fighting it.

In fact, my experience in my life and working with the lives of others has shown me that the opposite approach of welcoming the experience and giving it space creates a feeling of greater peace and ease even though our minds might predict an opposite result.

So next time you're experiencing something difficult, see if you are fighting what's there and in that moment, that space, choose to accept that in that moment, that's reality. See if you can take it one step further and actually welcome the difficult feeling as just a guest in your house.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Interesting - Jay - Dec 2nd 2011

As I was reading this, I found myself with muscles clinched.  I read the part where you said your muscles relaxed, and mine did instantly.  My anxiety and uncomfort is coming from a bad breakup where I still love her, but she doesn't feel the same for me.  It's hard being rejected, but ultimately, I need to except the reality and embrace it.  

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