Acceptance is a psychological construct that is based on the realization that a purpose, goal, or situation is irretrievably compromised and cannot be pursued. We may find it difficult to accept the end of a significant relationship, the loss of a loved one, or the onset of a serious illness. But even small disappointments or everyday changes can challenge our ability to accept. However, acceptance is not something simple, rather it is the conclusion of an often painful process that in some cases may require professional support.
The three emotions often predominantly present in a condition of definitive and irrevocable frustration of an important purpose are sadness, anxiety and anger. All three are generators of an unpleasant state of mind, but not useless and maladaptive, Lorenzini argues.
Sadness encourages the withdrawal of investment from the lost purpose forever and reinvestment in substitute or entirely different purposes. It allows one to abandon impractical strategies and find other substitutes. It is an emotion that, involving the suspension of many activities and a lack of interest in the outside world, allows a withdrawal into oneself from which one emerges renewed. New interests replace old ones.
Anxiety is understandable and even useful because the subject suddenly finds himself operating in a radically changed context and therefore much less known and predictable than the previous one. An overabundance of alertness can be a useful investment to ward off the dangers of a new and unknown situation.
Finally, anger, which is directed towards those who are held responsible for the damage suffered (others, fate, God or oneself). Anger towards those responsible for the damage is a protective factor against the recurrence of the harmful situation. It is a sort of threat not to try again. Anger towards oneself, the most seemingly dysfunctional anger, also protects against reckless or self-damaging behavior that may have been the cause of the damage.
Acceptance therefore serves to suspend useless investments and associated negative emotions, to recreate a new balance and to prevent the recurrence of damage. In summary, acceptance is a useful mechanism for a rational use of resources. It consists of a behavioral attitude consisting in the suspension of unnecessary activities. It does not mean, however, that there are no negative emotions of sadness, anxiety and anger that are instead useful.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)