How to practice acceptance if it doesn’t go easy

You might already know that sleep comes when we feel safe, not pressured, and at peace. And if we aren’t okay with the idea of not sleeping, then how can we feel safe and at peace? The vicious cycle again.

Acceptance allows us to rediscover that feeling of safety and let go of trying. But let’s be honest: practicing acceptance isn’t easy at all. If it was, we all would quit our sleep struggles way faster. 

Today I am going to troubleshoot one of the most common barriers to acceptance: 

“No matter what I do, I just can’t accept this!”

Education around sleep is a base

Fear comes from the place of uncertainty. When we don’t know how things work it is difficult to accept and let go of control. How can we accept if we aren’t even sure what it is that we are accepting? 

This is why acceptance is best paired with education.

When you know what is happening to you and why things get clearer. Education takes away that mystery component from insomnia.

We can learn how sleep works, what the sleep cycles are, why we wake up at night, how anxiety works, how hyperarousal manifests itself in our bodies. We learn that sleep is our innate function and nothing can break it. We can completely trust our bodies, they know how to sleep without our help. It is only the fear that makes it harder for sleep to come.

Education is not the same as looking for the “cure”. When we google remedies and how-to’s our goal is to escape the feeling and force sleep. Education is the exact opposite: we are willing to dive into the topic, see things for what they are and be willing to face our fears. 

By demystifying insomnia, we make it easier to accept and let go of control.

Look where it’s the darkest and you will find nothing in there

Acceptance can’t be forced

When we do even the best practices with the (secret) intent to make sleep happen, it eventually backfires. Things like awareness, self-kindness, acceptance don’t work if we approach them strategically. We might try hard to accept, but there is a tiny voice inside that checks on us: “Are you there yet? Have you accepted enough? Where is the result? I feel no change”. Naturally, we feel disappointed. We did acceptance and it didn’t work. (See how we look at acceptance just like at another quick-fix remedy?)

Luckily, we can spot that tiny voice and bring it to the surface of our awareness: “Aha, I am trying to accept, but I also hope this will make me sleep.”

There is nothing particular we need to do about it at this point. Being aware of our secret intentions is enough to limit their influence on us. 

Acceptance is a 100% thing

We can’t accept only 60% or 90%, because the rest is still non-acceptance. And non-acceptance means pressure, efforts, resistance – it creates conflict.

So we’re stuck with a puzzle: to feel better, we need to accept things as they are and let them be, but we can’t force acceptance. What to do next? The answer might surprise you: accept that you can’t accept. 

When we feel that accepting is not an option at the moment, that we can’t be at peace with what we’ve got, not only do we suffer from that but we also blame ourselves that we can’t accept. That’s double pressure.

When it is really hard to accept things, can we accept the fact that we are currently not in the mood of accepting? Can we forgive ourselves and stop trying to accept? 

The truth is you don’t have to accept if it doesn’t come naturally. Acceptance is achieved not through force but through understanding. And maybe today is not the day when you can accept, and that’s okay. You aren’t undermining your progress. You are listening to yourself and allowing things to be even if they aren’t perfect. That’s the ultimate acceptance.