One of the biggest traps in life is focusing too much on what we have no control over.
Happiness, relationships, health, career, society – we crave control over all of these areas of our lives, yet our powers are limited.
We can’t control our biology. We can’t control society. We can’t control the economy. We can’t control other people, even those we are closest to and care for the most. And many times, we can’t even control our own thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.
This perspective is what the new book F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Solving All of Life’s Impossible Problems is all about. They keyword here in the title is “impossible” – because there are actually a lot of problems in life that are unfixable.
This can be a very sobering and humbling insight. We are so often taught by society that everything that happens to us – good or bad – is what we’ve earned and what we deserve. Thus, we constantly blame ourselves and beat ourselves up when we can’t make a change for the better. Yet that’s not how life works.
What we need to practice is a “radical acceptance” of life’s never-ending bullshit.
Bullshit never ends. Life will always make unpredictable turns, throwing us curve balls, and seeing how we adapt.
You’ll never reach a point in your life where everything is perfect and you no longer have any problems or obstacles. You will never reach a point in your life where the “bullshit” ends. So what can you do? Radically accept it.
Things you wish you had complete control over but you don’t
There is probably an endless list of things you wish you had complete control over – but you don’t. We are always trying to change things that we can’t, which is precisely why we need more “radical acceptance” in our lives.
Here are just a few things you probably wish you could change:
- How people think of you
- Who you find attractive
- Always being healthy and never being sick
- Getting a good job in a bad economy
- What people say about you behind your back
- Saving someone from their own bad decisions
- How your boss talks to you
- Never meeting an asshole ever again
- Your parents and your childhood experiences
- How you feel all the time
- Who likes you and who doesn’t
- Never being offended
- How you physically look
- Any physical or mental condition you have
- Ending global poverty
- Freeing everyone from suffering
Feel a little powerless? That’s okay, you probably don’t have much control over that either.
Now before you get too angry at me, let me say this…
When you can accept those things you can’t control (including your own feelings), you can begin to focus on the small sphere of influence you actually do have control over.
Radical acceptance is powerful because it keeps us grounded in who we are – limitations and all – without trying to be our own “God” or change our lives until they are perfect.
The world is much bigger than you. So you must learn to accept the chaos it will throw at you.
F*ck Feelings is a sobering read on the many things in life we have zero control or power over. It teaches you how to practice a “radical acceptance” of the never-ending bullshit life has to offer us on a daily basis.
The Emotion Machine is a website about psychology and self improvement, so naturally I write a lot about making changes to yourself and your life.
That being said, this always comes with the caveat that there are “real limitations” to how much we can change our lives. I believe in being optimistic and making gradual progress, but I try to keep things grounded and practical too.
A lot of self help literature preaches “magical solutions” and picture perfect results. Who wouldn’t want unlimited happiness, success, and love? But this often only leads to “false hope” and inevitable disappointment.
We often get trapped into wanting what we can’t have. This is one of the biggest challenges we face, because we are conscious beings with a potentially infinite amount of wants and desires.
When life doesn’t give us what we want, it’s easy to blame ourselves and want to try harder to change things. But that’s not always possible.
Sometimes the only rational response to the bullshit life throws at you is…
Radical acceptance comes from the insight that life will never stop throwing you bullshit and it’s not your fault. The key isn’t to get rid of all the bullshit in your life (which is an impossible goal), but to try to do your best in spite of the bullshit.
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