Why allowance can work better than acceptance


Dear brain, grant me the serenity to temporarily ALLOW the things I can’t change … because I wouldn’t want to ACCEPT them, since acceptance might be a self-limiting concept that blocks the potential for those very things to actually become changeable in the future.

Eh.. what the? If things aren’t changeable then how do they change? And why have I butchered and de-spiritualised, the serenity prayer?

Let me explain!

We all know there are some things that at this very moment in time, we might need to accept. Say it’s a cold and gloomy winters day and all you can do is rug up and deal with it. You might prefer the sunshine but for now you just accept that it’s winter.

But what if accepting things keeps them habitually locked in place?

Take for example my friend Lucy who always hated winter. Year after year she would complain about winters (which she said exasperated her depression), and found it hard to just “accept it.” So instead, she allowed it, for a time, until she had the resources to literally move to the desert! Sounds extreme, but now she owns a house that roasts in the heat all year round and says she couldn’t be happier.

I’m not saying we should all consider moving to desert just because we might not like winter, but for Lucy a sense of acceptance might have held her back from this adventurous choice and novel solution to her winter blues!

So why use the word “allow”? Doesn’t this word mean essentially they same thing as accept?

I think there’s a subtle but important difference. Accept has a certain futility attached to it; a sense of permanence. I accept this thing which is likely to hang around for good. Allowance on the other hand has a more temporary feel. I allow myself this chocolate indulgence but as of tomorrow I’m going to reduce sugar. To me allowance isn’t a prediction.. you’re not imprisoned by its fate.

There is a popular therapy used by many psychologists called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT for short. It can be very helpful for people experiencing mental health challenges and I love how it incorporates mindfulness. On the other hand I’ve noticed many people using ACT as an excuse to not actually push the boundaries of possibility. To get lazy and to devalue desire.

Mindfulness stems from Buddhist philosophy which sees desire as the root of all suffering. But I personally believe desires are the root of motivation and meaning. Of course sometimes they are destructive or we get addicted to certain insatiable thrills but generally speaking I believe a joyful existence is a dynamic dance between desire, action and allowance.

So how about Allowance Commitment Therapy? .. or should I just allow the the word accept? Perhaps I should accept the word “God” in the serenity prayer rather than replacing it with “brain” to keep the atheists happy. My wisdom says brain/God… what’s the difference… the brain is such as mysterious and commanding beast it may as well be worshiped.







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