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Emotional Acceptance

Secrets Of A Healthy Psyche

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By Riley Kim | 7th February, 2023

Replace toxic positivity with emotional acceptance: embrace your bad and find the surprising benefits of sitting with your negative emotions.

“When life gives you lemons…”

Fresh Lemons

🍋“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is a proverbial phrase prevalently used in society to encourage an optimistic mindset and give courage to those facing adversities in life. Lemons symbolize sourness or misfortune in life, and the act of making lemonade turns them into something positive. However, I would like to confidently say that this saying is not necessarily the healthiest motto to repeat to ourselves and our children.

To those who insist on this saying and exaggerated optimism, I say, “when life gives me lemons, I stay sour like a baby eating lemon for the first time.” 

When I am feeling down or sad, I have a strong tendency to force myself to become happier or at least seem more content. I try with all my might to snap out of the phase, not dwell in my emotions, cut the losses, and turn that frown upside down. This has been part of my family and my Asian culture’s core values - not to express your bad condition and always present a big smile. 

However, as we are all human, there are inevitable days when the emotions are too overwhelming, and the projection of a giant fake grin is just not salvageable. During these times, you simply need to learn to accept it and completely immerse yourself in that emotion.

Emotions are like seasons. There is no summer without winter, no spring without fall. We know not to take it for granted. Everything is comparative. There are happy days ONLY because there are sad days. Learning to appreciate the ups and downs of events in our lives is challenging, vulnerable, and often embarrassing, as you are attempting to stare down to your soul and disclose whatever is rotten.

"There are people who only want the sweetness in life. May God grant it to them. But I want a life that's full of sweetness and bitterness."
—Natsume Soseki, a Japanese author and philosopher.

Emotional Acceptance

Emotional acceptance refers to our ability to tolerate and even appreciate our emotions just as they are. Acceptance requires that we do not avoid or judge our feelings. Rather, we validate our emotions by letting them exist as they are. Acceptance seems almost antithetical to emotion regulation, as it feels like the absence of regulation. However, acceptance has been shown to be a powerful way to reduce negative emotions. Once we stop judging and trying to control our emotions, we can accept our negative emotions, which seem to dissipate on their own mysteriously.

How To Practice Acceptance

Generate some negative emotions.

You could think of the car that cut you off in traffic, all the things you dislike about your boss, or something that makes you sad or anxious.
Once you have drummed up some negative emotions, stop all your thinking and just sit with these negative emotions and be present. Try not to judge them, evaluate  them, or push them aside. Just experience them and try to accept your negative  emotions. Be in your body and feel any sensations that arise as a result of these  emotions. Notice if you are trying to drum up other negative emotions, and  stop.

Sit with your negative emotions and let them be for as long as it takes to  dissipate on their own . After your feelings have dissipated, reflect on this experience.

Ask yourself these questions to learn whether you can accept your negative emotions:

  • Was it hard to sit with negative emotions?
  • Did you find yourself judging your emotions or trying to push them away?
  • How long did it take for your emotions to dissipate?
  • What did you like or dislike about accepting your emotions?
  • Did this emotion regulation strategy work for you? Why or why not?

📌 Key Takeaways

  • A more realistic and easier-to-achieve proverb for those who are tired of toxic positivity: “When life gives you lemons, I stay sour like a baby eating lemon for the first time.”
  • Like the concept of yin and yang, we need to embrace our bad since we humans get to appreciate and enjoy our good days only because they exist.
  • It is natural for us to want to hide our negative emotions, but at times, just accepting them and letting them be is the healthier path.
  • A deeper insight into ‘Emotional Acceptance’ and methods of practicing it correctly that strengthens your psyche (mental state).

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