Accepting we are where we are right now is hard. 

We don’t want to accept it. 

The word “acceptance” it feels like we’re saying something is okay, that it “should” exist, that it’s “right.” 

That’s not how I think of “acceptance.” 

If we’re going to do anything about a situation we hate, a situation that causes us pain, we first need to accept that the situation is as it is. 


That it is as painful as it is. 

That it is exactly as bad, exactly as f*cked up, as it is. 

There’s a reason why Step One in the Twelve Step model of addiction recovery is all about acceptance— because without accepting a situation is as bad as it is, we are powerless to meaningfully do anything about it. 

You can’t actually change something if you deny it’s even real. 

Meaningful trauma recovery begins with accepting that we have been traumatized. 

Sometimes it means accepting we were abused— sometimes by someone who should have taken care of us, kept us safe, done the OPPOSITE of abuse us. 

Sometimes it means accepting we were neglected— sometimes by the very people who SHOULD have paid attention to our needs, reinforced our personhood, helped us develop into people who could handle life. 

Sometimes it means accepting we were abused in a way OTHER than physically— which, believe it or not, can be a much tougher task than it sounds like. 

After all, many of us can wrap our heads around physical abuse as “abuse.” Physical abuse often leaves marks or scars. Physical abuse can be qualified by how often and how hard we were hit or otherwise physically attacked. 

Non-physical abuse, such as emotional or verbal abuse, can be much harder to accept. 

We often don’t want to call it abuse. 

We often don’t want to concede that it hurt us at all— because, after all, we weren’t hit, right? 

The truth is that emotional or verbal abuse can f*ck us up in even more complex ways than physical abuse— and if we’re going to meaningfully recover from years of such abuse, we have to first accept that it happened, and it exacted the toll that it did. 

Part of us might think that if we refuse to accept our pain is what it is, that it resulted from what it resulted from, then we might not have to deal with its reality now. 

We might be able to just keep brushing it off. 

We might be able to get away with pretending it didn’t hurt as much as it did, and it didn’t wound us like it did. 

The thing is: non-acceptance of something’s impact doesn’t negate that impact. 

It just hamstrings our ability to do anything about it. 

Non-acceptance— that is, denial— that a situation is EXACTLY as bad as it is, in EXACTLY the ways it is, doesn’t make the situation NOT bad. 

It just means we can’t take action to make it better. 

Nobody LIKES embracing the “powerlessness” that is encapsulated by Step One of the Twelve Steps. 

In fact, there are PLENTY of people who walk out of Twelve Step meetings when they hear Step one recited. We HATE thinking of ourselves as powerless. 

But we are. Powerless, that is. In a way, anyway. 

We are powerless to change the fact that the past has led us here. 

We are powerless to deny or disown the exact impact everything in our life has had on us, up to this point. 

We are powerless to ever have a better past. 

We never WILL have a better past. 

But in accepting our powerlessness to change reality in this moment, we paradoxically gain the power to change reality from this point forward. 

If we’re going to proactively write the rest of our story, we need to accept that the story has been EXACTLY what it’s been so far. 

We’re not starting from scratch— even if, in a way, we are. 

Change starts with acceptance. 

Not liking. Not approving of. Not giving up on changing. 

Accepting what is— right now. 

One thought on ““Acceptance” is such a lonely word.

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