A Coaching Power Tool Created by Christine Ernst Bode
(Transformational Coach, UNITED STATES)
Acceptance and Resistance Defined
The Oxford English Dictionary defines acceptance as
agreement with or belief in an idea, opinion, or explanation; willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation.
Resistance is defined as,
the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.
Let he who would move the world first move himself.~ Socrates
Over the centuries great thinkers in all disciplines from Socrates to Carl Jung to George Orwell recognized that acceptance is the key to intrinsic freedom.
Every day, whether we’re aware of it or not, we make hundreds of choices. Do we hit the snooze or get out of bed? Walk or run? Speak up or remain silent? Live consciously or wear blinders? Among the most fundamental choices we make is how to react. Do we resist the change or do we accept it? It is a choice between embracing fear or forgiving, letting go. The chosen path reverberates in the mind, body, and spirit to create the individual’s reality.
In resisting we hold firmly to what we want the truth to be rather than the reality of the moment. We take a detour into darkness and place the focus on how we were hurt. The issue happened in the past so by investing time and energy resisting reality, the present moment is missed. This opens us up to be defined by the slight, change, or loss that occurred. Energy follows attention, so by keeping the focus on resistance we remain hurt and angry. For many people this is a familiar and therefore “comfortable” place to be, making the behavior more imbedded and the shift more challenging.
By accepting, we forgive and release the struggle to change that that cannot be changed. Acceptance is often a process that comes in waves and has a range of difficulty corresponding to the depth and breadth of the issue as well as the individual’s level of consciousness. The only way to be free to embrace the moment is to accept what happened and leave the impact and residue of that experience behind. In the moment of acceptance is the truth of new beginnings and the beauty that had been held at bay by resistance. It allows us to move from oppression to freedom, from victim to liberated. Acceptance is being vulnerable; this is where home of human connection lies.
We cannot change anything until we accept it. ~ Carl Jung
The Trajectory of the Choice
There are endless situations that can result in resistance.
Here are a few examples.
- Being laid off or fired.
- Feeling slighted by a friend.
- Ending a relationship.
All of these scenarios can be painful and arduous to get through. Think about a situation like this in your past and how it played out. Was there a time in which you got stuck resisting the incident or did you accept it and move on? Are you still stuck? If the attention remains in the past, doors to the present go unrecognized and the person can become stuck. There is no movement or growth in being stuck.
However, if we spend some time processing and accepting the change/loss, opportunities and new ways of thinking can emerge when the dust settles.
John was laid off from his job. He and his boss, Max, were friends so when it happened John was surprised, angry, and hurt. He thought that he was smarter and more hardworking than his colleagues and felt that if someone had to be laid off it shouldn’t have been him. When the two of them sat down to talk Max told John how much he respected him and his work then explained that John’s salary was the highest in the company and he could no longer afford to pay it.
Because John felt slighted and hurt he embraced his resistance to the reality of the situation. He stopped talking to his former boss and colleagues and became increasingly more resentful. When he looked for another job the people interviewing him sensed his anger and bitterness and didn’t hire him. John became fearful that he wouldn’t find another job and because he wasn’t talking to Max he didn’t have his support in the process. Eventually John took a job that was a step down from his previous job in both position and salary. He blamed Max for his misfortune.
John was upset, but he accepted that this was a business decision and it was not personal. The next week John asked Max to meet with him to discuss a strategy for John to find another job. With the support of his former boss, John soon found a job similar to the one he was laid off from with a salary slightly higher than the one Max’s company paid.
Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune~ George Orwell
Coaches can work with clients to reframe their perspectives by using powerful questions to explore the underlying beliefs. This will help the clients define actions that will move them through the resistance towards acceptance.
- What is the current impact of this resistance in your life?
- How do you envision the situation in three months if there is no change?
- Was there a time in the past that you experienced something similar?
- How did you handle it?
- Did that approach work?
- Are you willing to see this situation differently?
- Do you think you had a part in creating this issue? If so, what was it. If not, further questions based on the client’s specific situation can be asked to reframe the perspective so the client has insight into the relationship dynamic and, therefore, his/her role.
- What fears, concerns, or obstacles come up when you think about letting go?
- How do you envision the situation in three months if you accept the situation?
- How does this align with your values and beliefs?
Become mindful is the starting point for change; additional tools can be helpful to reframe perspectives.
- Creating awareness of the train of thoughts occupying the mind.
If we drag the past into the present we program the future to be like the past. Miracles occur in the present.~ Marianne Williamson
Gaining acceptance can be a process. Resistance can be complex as with an illness or death or it can have long history such as issues from childhood.
Underlying beliefs often fortify resistance. It may take some time for the client to recognize the connection between the patterning, conditioning, or underlying beliefs and the effects of the resistance so it is important to be patient and support the client during the time it takes them to adjust their perspective.