The title of this post poses the thorniest of questions. Namely, “Can you truly resolve anything without actively confronting it?” Yet, if you explore your accepting what previously made you angry, anxious, or depressed, you may be able to grasp how “accepting” and “resolving” sometimes can coalesce.
After all, in both instances, understanding a word or deed differently—as in more benignly or less egocentrically—will alter how you feel about it. For then it can’t possibly signify what it had originally. Rather, its essential meaning will have changed, and the unpleasant, distressful feelings it provoked can ameliorate or disappear altogether.
In fact, this psychological phenomenon captures the very essence of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Consider, too, that what caused your agitation may have done so because you took something more personally than may have been warranted. So, if, from a more detached perspective, you can re-perceive the intent of the message you received—or thought you received—you should be able to alter how you reacted to it initially.
There’s another thing to reflect on here. For it’s possible that what the other person said or did may not have been directed at you but rather reflected a negative bias they hold toward others generally. That’s why the derogatory expression “Consider the source” has become increasingly common.
For it implies that a particular person may not be trustworthy—that, however inadvertently, they’ve disclosed a diffuse hostility that would say almost nothing about you, but speak volumes about themselves.
Lastly, it’s vital to consider that your own negative self-bias may have prompted you to falsely interpret their behavior as accusatory, that unresolved issues from your past led you to interpret their behavior as a personal indictment.
The Paradoxical Utility of Being Deceived: Turning Hard-to-Swallow Lemons Into Lemonade
Have you ever felt betrayed by a person you assumed you could trust (and, frankly, which one of us hasn’t)? In this instance, how did you manage to recover from it? Or might you never really have recovered from it at all?
Originally, you probably felt indignant or outraged with the person who deceived you, as well as depressed in recognizing that the friendship was now seriously, or fatally, compromised.
But what if you then realized that you didn’t know the person as well as you thought? Or that your life would now be easier with this person eliminated from it? Or that you learned something that could be invaluable to you going forward?
What I’m suggesting is something that, intuitively, you may have known all along: If you’re willing to acknowledge the arbitrariness or illogic in your earlier assessment, you’ll be less likely in the future to repeat it.
That way, you can replace disagreeable feelings of frustration, anger, and regret with a heightened awareness that will serve you well as you continue to learn more about the cryptic world we all live in. Each time you revise a relatively simplistic conclusion you’d come to, you’ll be one step closer to achieving the knowledge and sophistication that up until now may have eluded you.
And, ultimately, isn’t that what cultivating wisdom is all about? And what could be a more effective way of turning what at first felt like a defeat than to bring a fresh, more enlightened understanding about what happened to you?
The Emotional Closure You Get From Acceptance
It’s only human to feel gratification when you experience yourself as regaining control of your life. And you can get there as your discernment grows each time you scrutinize what’s required from inevitable disillusionments. That’s how such life lessons promote greater self-confidence and how, in general, you can take advantage of initially discouraging disappointments.
For better or worse, contingent on your interpretations, life will offer you abundant opportunities to be edified from the negative things that happen to you—or that, unwittingly, you may have created for yourself.
Moreover, in such instances, it’s not as though you must confront your betrayer to get beyond your upset. It’s much more a matter of accepting that for reasons you may never fully comprehend, their priorities and values differed substantially from yours, and that’s what compelled them to act so contrary to your own interests and ideals.
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Simply accepting this discrepancy is typically enough to get the emotional resolution you—like everyone else—would hope for. True, adamantly staying angry with the offending person might help you feel morally superior to them. But such a self-righteous attitude will also hinder you from more contentedly moving on.
For unless you look at the matter from a charitably expanded point of view, you’re stuck with the irate, self-suffering emotions you originally experienced. This is why, if you’re to get beyond what happened, it’s essential to appreciate the situation from a more enlightened perspective that fosters emotional closure.
Even if, undeniably, you were the one at fault, might you appreciate that at the time you weren’t sensitive enough or simply didn’t know any better?
Or that you were still dominated by outdated defenses, desperately needing to feel better (or at least less bad) about yourself? Or your behavior was (mis-)guided by your ego, which demanded that you see yourself as apart from others and, frankly, better or more “justified” than them?
And all of this calls for developing greater self-compassion, which in the end is the very kindest thing you can do—not only for yourself but, though less directly, for others as well.
© 2023 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.