Topics — Acceptance

The process of acceptance entails actively letting negative experiences simply exist in our life without trying to change, avoid, or deny them. It enables us to open ourselves to unpleasant feelings or thoughts and allow them to be present without trying to suppress them. Acceptance provides an opportunity to move on more quickly from issues and struggles.1

Acceptance is surrendering to a moment’s experience. It has long been seen as having a positive effect in people’s lives.2 It is closely aligned with mindfulness. Religion and spirituality also emphasize its utility and benefits.3,4,5 The oft-recited serenity prayer is a classic example of the principle of acceptance.6

Acceptance is also a principal tenet of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), an evidenced-based psychological treatment. ACT has been shown to be effective for numerous conditions.

Acceptance helps with the processing of overwhelming feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. People often avoid accepting difficult circumstances because it requires some experiencing of what they perceive as helpless, hopeless, or unacceptable.7 However, as so aptly stated in Stoddard and Afari’s Big Book of ACT Metaphors, “Acceptance does not imply liking or wanting, nor does it represent giving up, giving in, or resignation. Simply put, acceptance means gently holding whatever arises.”8


  1. Barnes-Holmes, D. (2009). Core processes in acceptance and commitment therapy. In J. T. Blackledge, J. V. Ciarrochi, & F. P. Deane (Eds.), Acceptance and commitment therapy: Contemporary theory research and practice (pp. 41–58). Australian Academic Press.
  2. Rogers, C. R. (1995). What understanding and acceptance mean to me. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 35(4), 7–22.
  3. Trammel, R. C. (2017) Tracing the roots of mindfulness: Transcendence in Buddhism and Christianity. Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought, 36(3), 367–383.
  4. Carrico, A. W., Gifford, E. V., & Moos, R. H. (2007). Spirituality/religiosity promotes acceptance-based responding and 12-step involvement. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 89(1), 66–73.
  5. Levenson, M. R., & Aldwin, C. M. (2013). Mindfulness in psychology and religion. In R. F. Paloutzian & C. L. Park (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality (pp. 580–594). The Guilford Press.
  6. Napier, C. (2020, December 18). What Is the Serenity Prayer? Is it Biblical? Retrieved from
  7. Smith, J. (2017). Psychotherapy: A practical guide. Springer.
  8. Jill Stoddard, N. A. (2014). The Big Book of ACT Metaphors. Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications.

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