This morning my husband and I were reading Melody Beattie’s daily journal, “The Language of Letting Go.” Today’s tidbit was on acceptance of our thoughts and emotions. My husband brought up a great question, “What about irrational thoughts and emotions? Are we supposed to accept them, too? What do we do with them?”
I believe we must accept all thoughts and emotions no matter how irrational. Acceptance isn’t approval. It doesn’t involve judgement. Acceptance is simply allowing something to be what it is. Let’s say the irrational thought is, “No one likes me.” Unless every person we have ever come into contact with has told us they do not like us, this is an irrational thought. What emotion is attached to this? Usually something along the lines of sadness. OK, how do we practice acceptance with this irrational thought? Just notice it. “I’m thinking no one likes me. I’m feeling sad about that.” Give the thought and emotion space. It is what it is. Let it be what it is without judging it for a time. Keep it isolated to this thought and feeling at this time. Watch the tendency to snowball — adding more and more examples or irrational thoughts. Snowballing will tear you down and isn’t useful. After a few minutes of acceptance, ask yourself what you want to do with it. Do you want to simply let it go? If so, take a deep breath in and as you exhale, imagine the thought and emotion just disappearing. Move on with your day. If the thought and emotion show up again, just do the same thing you did the first time: acknowledge, accept, release.
Next week I’ll follow-up with how to process the irrational thought and emotion if you don’t want to simply let it go.