Many therapy clients will enter into treatment with a statement similar to the above. They do so when reflecting upon a painful event that has happened to them. Sometimes, they offer this ‘can’t believe it happened to me’ when reflecting upon an entire series of events, encompassing years of their lives.
There are a number of variations of this cognitive process. The internal dialogue could include, “I can’t believe this is happening” or “I can’t believe he/she did that” or even “I can’t believe I did that.” All these variations point to a similar cognitive process where the mind keeps resisting an experience or series of experiences.
Why is this important?
This is the mind stating a belief as if it’s a casual comment. It is not casual at all.
The mind is proclaiming, against all reality and history, that I refuse to believe this happened or is happening. This refusal is much, much more than just a comment, or casual thought. This represents an internal perspective that positions my client in an extended battle against the facts. They are, in essence, living a battle against reality.
There is no doubt that the event or events happened. Or perhaps, in the case of COVID, the event is STILL happening. And yet, they are refusing to simply accept reality. They are in a constant fight.
But here is the bottom line: They will lose. (But only 100% of the time.)
When we hold a position that fights against reality, we are proclaiming our refusal to stand with reality. This ‘thing’ or event happened. IT may be tragic. It may be painful. It may be life-changing. Any of that may be true…and more!
However, when we position ourselves against reality in this way, with an internal belief that will not let us accept the facts, we are stuck. I repeat STUCK.
But it gets worse. Because when we get stuck in this way, we get stuck in a big drama play. We are not just in pain. We keep repeating the mantra, with emotions that become more dramatic (and thus painful) with each and every denial of reality. “I just can’t believe it” is predictably filled with tears or anger, or fears…all hugely engaged in the battle against acceptance. Again, stuck. Very stuck.
How Do We Get ‘Un-Stuck?’
It begins with the obvious. We accept. With thoughtful, careful inspection, we accept reality.
Not just a quick, passing thought like, ‘Oh, I get it, Dr. Cale. Acceptance is important.’
To be honest, comments like that are often worthless, because no real work has been done. The mind must come to accept the facts of reality, no matter how painful, in order to move on.
The secret juice, so to speak, begins and ends with acceptance—full, complete honest acceptance of the facts.
The mind is typically quite capable of processing events that happen to us. Not perfectly. But we will get through these events and process them adequately if we keep the mind calm and focused on reality.
How do you begin? You begin by making certain that you change the internal mantra that, in any way, resists reality. You abandon all comments like, “I can’t believe…”
Each and everyone is relinquished to the truth. What happened… it happened. Whatever is happening now…it is happening. This cannot be argued. This cannot be changed.
It All Begins With “I Believe It. It Happened… I Accept It. It Happened.”
Please note that this may seem a bit lacking in empathy or understanding of the pain involved. I promise you that this is not the case.
There is much more pain, sometimes for years, when we resist or fight against what happened to us. We can remain in daily pain right now if we fight against the facts of the COVID world we live in.
So, it begins with I believe it… it happened. And then, I accept. I accept it happened (or is happening now.)
The mind is remarkable. It is only, however, remarkable at solving problems with dealing with reality. It is not good at finding solutions when we fight against reality.
Thus, once we turn toward what we might call radical acceptance, the mind can begin to do its magic. We are now using our resources to deal with reality. Not battle against it. (Remember: we lose that battle 100% of the time while wasting our life away.)
So, have faith in your-SELF! Just notice what happens once your beliefs are aligned with reality, rather than opposed. The mind, and all its’s capacities, can begin to find solutions, let go of painful histories, and even relinquish fears. That path may not be easy. It may not be painless. But it is a path out, rather circling the same problem over and over.
Get out of the loop. Start the internal practice of repeating truth: It happened. Or it is happening. I accept. I accept. And I move on…starting today.