(How to) Accept Reality: A Powerful Way to Feel Better in Difficult Situations!

Do you know what guarantees mental suffering? Being in resistance to what already IS! In fact a lot of human unhappiness, negativity or suffering comes from “resisting” situations that already exist. Like the COVID lockdown…

During this COVID lockdown we’ve all had to deal with a lot of changes and restrictions placed on our lives. And we’re all beginning to tire of them.

So, in this article we’re looking at a surprising way to help manage an difficult situation – acceptance.

What’s wrong with being unhappy (when there’s good reason)?

Well, there’s nothing wrong with being unhappy itself. But we can make ourselves unnecessarily unhappy when we resist ‘what is’.

When we resist what is, we’re in a place of judgement: This is wrong/not right/not fair etc. This makes us unhappy because we are making the situation that already exists wrong.

Or maybe you’re not actively resisting what is, but instead you’re just wishing things were different. This is also unhelpful. It may not be outright resistance, but it makes us dissatisfied by reminding us of what isn’t, while not doing anything to improve the situation!

And as long as we keep thinking thoughts that make the situation wrong or unacceptable, these feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction will stay with us.

So, what can we do when we don’t like a situation?

When we feel dislike in an existing situation there are two main actions you can take:

  1. You can take action to meet your needs and/or
  2. You can mentally surrender to what is

But there are a couple of other helpful steps to follow too…

Here’s a Simple 4 Step Process to Accept Difficult Situations:

STEP 1: Acknowledge What You’re Resisting

When we acknowledge and accept the situation, we move from judgement to acknowledgment – and this allows us to reconnect to our selves.

Ask yourself
  • BE CURIOUS: Where am I resisting reality? (things that already are).
  • GET SPECIFIC: What specifically do I have an issue with? (the more specific you are, the easier it is to resolve)

STEP 2: Take Ownership of Your Needs

Next we need to identify the need/s that are not being met. Right now, perhaps you have a need for some fun, affection, adventure, freedom, ease or creativity.

If you’re wondering what I mean by “needs” – check out this super simple needs list from the Center for Nonviolent Communication.

Ask yourself
  • BE CURIOUS: What is it that I need right now?
  • GET SPECIFIC: What need is not being met?

STEP 3: Accept Reality

Before attempting action, we need to accept the reality that already is.

Ask yourself
  • ASK WITH GENUINE CURIOSITY: Can I stop (mentally) complaining or wishing – and just allow the situation to be as it is?

You may find these first 3 steps enough, and that you don’t want to take further action. And if this is genuinely the case, great!

But BEWARE “Spiritual Bypassing”!

We must take care of ourselves! Our needs are an expression of who we are. Accepting reality is an important step, because it gets us out of a combative approach to the existing situation – a battle we can’t win.

But there is a risk:

  • Sometimes people will choose to “accept reality” but not take care of their needs, because “It’s all good. I’m OK now.”
  • But are you? If we deny our needs or try to pretend they’re not there because we want to be spiritual, they don’t magically disappear. Your needs are your needs.
  • So you should find that accepting the situation, softens or reduces your needs. This is great.
  • AND we should not force ourselves to settle for accepting a situation when there ARE things we can do to feel better.
Which leads me to…

STEP 4: Take ActionViktor E Frankl Choose Attitude Quote with Butterfly (Fierce Kindness)

The chances are, if it was an easy situation to fix you would have already done it. So these actions are about meeting your needs.

In this step, think about your need/s that are not being met – and take action to make yourself more comfortable.

This action can take the form of physical action AND/OR it could be be a mental action to simply surrender to what is – and let go more fully.

  1. Take action to meet your need/s. And if there’s no obvious way to meet your need – get creative! For example:
    • If you need a hug, everyone is out and you’re still supposed to be social distancing, grab a pillow instead.
    • If you’re feeling trapped and need “freedom” but can’t go out, perhaps you can watch an expansive nature documentary, do a guided meditation or write a poem about what freedom means for you.
    • What inventive ways can you think of to meet your need/s?
  2. OR simply surrender to what IS. Perhaps you can’t change the situation or meet your need in any meaningful way. Your final option is to go a step beyond acceptance to SURRENDER. You can choose to change your thoughts about the issue and FULLY ALLOW whatever is bothering you to just “BE” without resisting.
On Surrender…

Surrender is a powerful tool. You let go of the wish that things are different – and fully embrace what is. This can be hard to do – it’s a feeling thing rather than a doing. Relax your body, your muscles – those hunched shoulders, that tense jaw and/or pelvic floor muscles and ALLOW yourself to allow what is. It’s OK. The situation is not going anywhere. Let it be.

You’ll know this has worked when you feel some spaciousness around the issue and your body feels naturally more relaxed.

TIP: If you believe in God (in whatever form) you may also find it helpful to say something like, “I choose to let go, and give this to God” (or goddess or spirit or a higher power of your choice).

NOTE: You may also notice that once you let go, you feel sad or disappointed. In this case, sadness is good – because it connects you with your deepest self. Look at the sadness, acknowledge it and perhaps you’ll see what’s really going on deep down. Once truly acknowledged and felt, the sadness should pass naturally. Click here for a 3 Step process to take care of “difficult” emotions


Life doesn’t always go our way (if only!) So accepting reality is an empowering and powerful practice for our happiness and personal growth.

When faced with an unpleasant or difficult situation, choosing to do nothing or complaining about something you can’t (or won’t) change, will only make you suffer more.

So, when you notice you’re feeling unhappy, first acknowledge and get clear on the cause AND the need that’s not being met.

Then accept the situation as it is right now. And finally either 1) do something about it or 2) choose to surrender – let it be/go.


Eventually this crisis situation will end, and we will come out stronger if we keep learning about ourselves and our world. Remember these 3 core areas:

  1. Connection to ourselves: This crisis provides a unique opportunity to slow down, and get to know ourselves!
  2. Connection to others: We’re all finding ways to increase our connection to others – especially those who matter most.
  3. Connection to something bigger than ourselves. This week, consider that surrendering to the fact that we can’t control everything can be extremely freeing.
Remember: “Change the world, start with you!”

You may also like:

Image of Person looking out of the window, accepting a difficult situation by Chinnapong via Shutterstock

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.