Acceptance vs. Suppression

A key behind seeking happiness within is that we cause our pain (and joy). Events carry no happiness or misery, they simply are; happiness or misery are our reactions to events. We can narrow things down even further by focusing on pain and noticing that it’s our resistance to events that causes pain.

This resistance takes many forms, from obsessive thought, suppression, attempts at denying what is, to fear and more.  Ironically, this resistance is an attempt to avoid the (illusory) pain of events. Worse, it forms a vicious circle that goes something like this:

  • We encounter an event we think will be painful.
  • We resist that event.
  • That resistance causes pain.
  • We blame the event for that pain.
  • This reinforces our belief that this event is painful, ensuring we react similarly the next time we encounter it.

The antidote is acceptance.  However, this is tricky because it’s easy to turn acceptance into a form of resistance. For instance, I can “accept” things, hoping that by doing so they will go away.  That’s not acceptance.  Then there’s the other extreme, the “everything is fine, and I’m already enlightened school”.  This can discourage doing anything about our situation.  Let’s face it, everything is NOT fine — if it was, why would we need to say it?  That we are on a path — that these paths even exist, is a testament that things are NOT fine. So there’s a balance to be struck.

Is our greatest asset on the path curiosity? I mean genuine curiosity which asks what is, without an agenda. I’m talking about the curiosity of a person looking at something new, or picking apart something to see how it works without any thought of gain, or that it should be this way or that.  Could we be curious about our lives, about our reactions?  Can we pick apart our reactions for no other reason than to see what makes us tick?  Can every thing that arises — “good” or “bad” be met with genuine curiosity?  Is genuine, total curiosity = Nirvana?

All this was motivated by this work on acceptance in mindfulness practice:


2 thoughts on “Acceptance vs. Suppression

  1. Hi BR! As always, I’m late to the party. Today I finally had some time to read.
    I see this article as going back on your usual topics, with the little addendum of curiosity. It does seem to me that people with lots of curiosity (like Richard Feynman) tend to be happier, maybe because they retain this sense of childish wonder. Maybe by looking at everything with unprejudiced eyes and genuine wanting to know it is possible to escape the fear of pain. I’ll give it a go, though unfortunately curiosity seems to be one of these things you’re either born with or aren’t. I’m luckily in the first category, but I know plenty of people who just aren’t ticked by much of what they see. Which is a shame…

    1. Great to hear from you. Yes, this goes back to later topics, and even the curiosity angle isn’t unique :).

      It is a shame that not everyone can take satisfaction in satisfying curiosity. I keep wondering if it’s a skill that can be developed…

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