At this point in the climate crisis, there should no longer be anyone who supports increasing our subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. We should have politicians who can stand up and make brave decisions.
These thoughts fill me with a mixture of anger and anxiety. I can reduce my distress if I listen to the emotions beneath this initial reaction.
Our lived experience is created by the stories we tell ourselves. These narratives often only include partial information. We all think that the world should be a certain way. We all believe that we are right. Most of us believe that if we are right, that means others must be wrong. As a result, the world that we live in has a single viewpoint that ignores our own personal blind spots.
The climate crisis is a very clear example of how distorted our world view can be. Although warnings about this crisis have been around for decades, very few of us have actually been aligning our behaviours with urgent action. We told ourselves that since we recycle, we do our part for the environment. Adding a compost bin suddenly made our lifestyle green. While there was truth that these actions were better than nothing, reality was that these incremental changes were insufficient.
We feel anger, anxiety and distress when our narratives are in conflict with our experience of reality. Once we can accept the reality that we are denying, we -surprisingly – feel greatly relieved. This frees us to take more effective action.
And so, in a world that is in crisis, it becomes urgent to accept reality in order to deal with the problems at hand.
If you read this blog, you recognize the urgent need for climate action. And yet, I’m sure there are other realities that you still struggle to accept. For me, the fact that so many people are still in denial about climate disruption is a reality that I still struggle to accept.
So, how do we accept reality?
The first step is to identify that we are not accepting reality about something. The word “should” is a red flag. Anger is another useful indicator. There is a high likelihood that reality is not being accepted any time that we make a judgment about something.
The second step is to change our reflexive response and feel. Our tendency is to respond with anger or to distract from the situation. Seldom do we venture below the tip of our iceberg to the painful emotions that may arise and allow ourselves to be in touch with them.
Radical acceptance is always accompanied by an emotional experience, usually that of sadness. It is usually felt throughout the entire body. It can come over us like a wave. After the emotional experience passes, we are left with a feeling of calmness. This is how we know that we did it right.
The most common concern with attempting radical acceptance is that acceptance is understood to mean agreement. So with the example above, if we accept that people are still denying that there is a climate crisis this would mean that we will agree that they do not need to change their ways. However, radical acceptance is based on the understanding that for meaningful change to occur, acceptance of the current situation is first necessary. Only once we have accepted that the world is not as we wish it to be, can we see it clearly enough to make the changes that we want to see.
What is reality encouraging you to examine more closely?
Nate Charach is a psychiatrist who works at a community hospital and has also completed his permacultural design certificate. His emotions urge him to combine these skills to create thriving communities that are in harmony with nature. With his clients, he attempts to work in partnership to find common meaning and value from their challenges.
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