How to Cope When Life Isn’t Fair
We all know that life isn’t fair but how do you cope with it? Bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. Unfortunately, you can accept this on an intellectual level, yet still feel frustrated and angry when things don’t go your way.
Sometimes, it’s best to accept that – for the time being, at least – things aren’t going to work out. You can try your best, but your circumstances aren’t always under your control. For example, when someone dies, you lose your job with no warning, or your beloved pet gets sick, you need to face facts – the universe can be an unjust place.
The Power Of Radical Acceptance
If you can’t take charge of a situation, what can you do instead? Next time life throws you a curve ball, try “radical acceptance,” a technique made popular by therapist Marsha Linehan. Radical acceptance is about acknowledging your pain, looking reality in the face, and embracing your emotions in difficult times.
As the saying goes, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is not.” We all face problems, but people who work with the world as it is, instead of wallowing in their feelings, find it easier to move on. Paradoxically, sitting with the pain and accepting it will help you heal faster.
Lamenting the unfairness of life, or refusing to acknowledge reality, is a recipe for further hurt. If you can’t accept what is going on in your life, you’ll become bitter and chronically miserable.
The Danger Of Shutting Down
If you get into the habit of repressing emotions you don’t like, you’ll also become cut off from positive feelings. You will become numb to the world, and unable to feel joy when things do work out in your favor. Trying to hide your feelings or wish them away leaves you at risk of anxiety and depression.
Acceptance takes practice. It’s simple, but not easy. The next time you find yourself at the mercy of an uncontrollable situation, take a deep breath and pause. Tell yourself that you are scared, angry, frustrated, or whatever the emotion may be – and that you accept it. Tell yourself that it’s OK to feel unhappy.
Work On The Small Stuff First
Life is full of minor inconveniences and challenges. The good news is that they give you lots of opportunities to practice acceptance.
For example, when you have to wait in a long line at the grocery store or handle a difficult meeting with your boss, accept that you aren’t enjoying yourself. Realize that all situations arise from a long chain of events, with multiple causes. Tough times are inevitable, but you have a choice in how to handle them.
Radical Acceptance Isn’t Apathy
Apathy is a state of tired surrender, whereas radical acceptance requires you to “tune in” to the present moment. Accepting the present doesn’t mean that you can’t change the future. It just means that there’s nothing you can do about your circumstances right this minute.
In fact, the better you are at accepting reality, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to make positive changes. When you embrace life just as it is, warts and all, you learn that no feeling lasts forever. You’ll discover that you can survive any feeling. You are tougher than you think.
Acceptance, Forgiveness, & Grudges
Finally, acceptance doesn’t mean you have to forgive and love everyone who ever wronged you. Neither does it mean you have to agree with what they did, or try to rebuild a relationship that turned toxic.
However, holding onto a grudge or obsessing over someone else’s behavior isn’t healthy. Your anger or resentment doesn’t punish the other person; it just keeps you mired in suffering.
Instead of working yourself up into self-righteous fury, try to understand what the situation taught you. Underneath the drama and pain, there are bound to be a few useful lessons. By accepting the past, you can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. In time, you’ll discover that radical acceptance is an amazing tool for self-development.
About the author: Lia Huynh is a Milpitas, Fremont and San Jose therapist and counselor who works with clients struggling to radically accept the unfairness that life brings from time to time. If you would like to find out more about working with her in counseling or therapy, click here: San Jose Therapist