People can become confused with the concept of acceptance, especially when it comes to depersonalization and derealization. Let’s make a few things clear in this article.
If you are like me, you know that the only way cure depersonalization and derealization is through acceptance. Yes, that dreaded ‘A’ word.
Some people immediately get what it is. There’s an intuitive understanding of what acceptance means. And then there are the rest of us who struggle to understand what this concept means. Yet still, there’s a part of us that resonates with this concept and knows that this is the real deal.
Part of us knows that all of those supplements we take, the exercises we do, our positive self-talk, or any guided meditation we listen to can’t really work without this attitude of acceptance. We know in our heart that this is the way, but our mind just won’t shut up about whether we understand what acceptance means or not.
Over the years, I have thought long and hard about what acceptance really means to me and my recovery, and I’d like to share my conclusions with you. This is not an authoritative definition for the practice of acceptance – this is just how I understand what it is.
Acceptance is Giving Up Trying to Control the Uncontrollable
At the root of all anxiety problems, including DP/DR, is one thing: control.
Anxious people want to be in control, especially when our anxiety is peaking. We feel like anxiety is an untamed beast that can pounce on us when we least expect to feel it. This anxiety can sometimes morph into depersonalization and derealization, thereby increasing our distress. We then try to control this beast through many measures such as deep breathing, changing our thoughts, or distracting ourselves by counting from one to a hundred. These methods may work sometimes, but it’s never quite settling. We’re always on the lookout for when we might feel intense DP/DR again.
Acceptance, on the other hand, is the act of giving up control over your DP/DR and anxiety. You let them roam wildly and let it create whatever thoughts, feelings, and sensations it is capable of producing.
Many of you might have heard the Serenity Prayer before, and it’s one of my favorite pieces of wisdom that elucidates this facet of acceptance.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Acceptance of your depersonalization is the wisdom that you have no control over it. You cannot control how long DP/DR will last. When you realize that, it frees up so much space inside of you. Trying to control your DP is akin to trying to control the sun from rising up in the morning. You just can’t control when it will rise and set.
I’m not saying that acceptance means living a life enslaved to depersonalization. Rather, it means not wasting considerable energy fighting it. Instead of pleading with it to leave you alone so you can connect with life again, it means doing all those life-connecting activities along with your depersonalization and derealization.
Acceptance is a Long-term Commitment
When people first hear about the magical cure of acceptance, they think that just by accepting their depersonalization or derealization, they will immediately be free of it. Granted, there is sometimes a very quick relief; when your anxiety or DP/DR builds up to a high degree, just saying yes to the scary thoughts will cause the buildup to recede. But more often than not, acceptance is a long-term commitment.
If you are accepting depersonalization just so it will leave you alone immediately, then that is not acceptance at all.
Imagine depersonalization as a guest from far away wanting to stay in your home. We try our best to shut the doors, board up the windows, and not let this unwelcome guest in. In turn, this prevents us from ever leaving our home and connect with the outside world, speaking metaphorically and sometimes literally. Acceptance, on the other hand, means welcoming this depersonalization and allowing it to stay in our home for as long as it wants.
That doesn’t mean that it is the new master of the house. You still hold the key to your home. You try to take good care of yourself, try to do your work to your best capacity and focus on other life-fulfilling activities. In most cases, this is the natural outcome of acceptance since you are not spending all your time boarding up and trying to shut down depersonalization from coming inside. Acceptance gives you the freedom to move in and out, and opens up the windows to the world.
A simple tip here would be to stop looking for quick ways to get over DP/DR. As mentioned above, embrace a long term view. Don’t measure your DP/DR in number of days, instead think of your recovery in terms of weeks or even months here.
Acceptance Means Coming Out of the Closet
How many depersonalized people keep their depersonalization to themselves? What could be more anxiety-inducing than containing and bottling up depersonalization so that other people don’t see what’s happening inside of us? When in a conversation, we try really hard to keep a straight face and seem interested even when the dread and fear are churning us inside out.
When you’ve accepted depersonalization, you no longer feel shameful about it.
Look, we are all humans and to a certain degree we all feel these unsettling feelings. Some of us feel them way more than others, but when we try to push them down so we can pretend to have a straight face, it does more harm than good. It is okay to say to someone that you are feeling depersonalization or anxious. Come out of that depersonalization closet. You’ll be surprised to learn just how supportive people can be when you open up like that.
Acceptance is Not Fighting What Is
When one fights what has already happened or with what is already present, frustration is sure to follow.
Your depersonalization has already risen, it is already present, it is part of reality now. Why fight it? Why waste considerable energy and stress ourselves out trying to contain a feeling that is already present with us? Instead, wouldn’t it make sense to let it stay there and follow its due course, which is to rise, peak and then recede?
A lot of people might see this as a defeat, as if somehow they have lost their fight to depersonalization by letting it run its course.
Remember, depersonalization and anxiety peak and these feelings becomes scarier the more you resist it, so to throw out your arms up and walk away from this fight is not only a courageous action but also the smartest thing to do.
You can’t kill stress with more stress. You cannot fight your way out of depersonalization. Accept your anxious, dreadful DP feelings. Over time, your body and mind will stop resisting these feelings and they will gradually lessen in their intensity. With enough time passing, these once fearful feelings will simply seem more of an inconvenience.
Acceptance is Simple but Not Easy
The practice of accepting and allowing these unpleasant and scary thoughts and feelings is simple but not easy. You are going against what your primitive brain is telling you to do: fight it or run away and hide. So don’t feel frustrated if you are unable to accept depersonalization feelings and let them come and go as they wish.
It’s a simple technique, you just don’t have to resist the unpleasant feelings. But it takes time, practice and commitment to face these feelings. It requires that you tap into the inner strength that you possess. You do possess it. Believe that you are strong and strong you shall become.