On my cynical days, I think…life is a scam – but there is an acronym I came up with years ago (and I have not heard anywhere else, so I am claiming it as mine) – that is part of DBT’s distress tolerance and radical acceptance skills. It describes the four things you can do in any given situation or with any given problem in life – you can:
In any given situation, or with any given problem, there is a solution. Though we may not like it, and it is not always clear, at least 30% of the time we can SOLVE the problem.
Gottman’s relational theories say that there are perpetual and solvable problems in relationships – about 30% of the time, a problem can be solved in the sense that you can do something about it and not have to go back to it over and over again. The other 70% are “perpetual” problems – ones that you need to manage and compromise and keep managing and compromising over time. His theories are about relationship conflict, but I think this is a pretty good representation of problems in general.
Another option is to change part of the problem of the circumstances around the situation to see how it changes things. There are usually several options for change, and sometimes we just need to sit down and think them through.
100% of the time you can change a variable and have it change something about the situation – sometimes, even just by noticing the problem, you can change it.
Here is where the ‘radical acceptance’ comes into play – one option is always to accept the circumstances, situation, or problem as it exists. We may not like it, but this is always an option and we do not often consider it enough. There is a radical acceptance idea that you cannot avoid pain, but how much you suffer is up to you. While I can think of exceptions to this rule, it is for the most part true. We cannot avoid all the things life throws at us, but our attitude about them can significantly increase or decrease how much we suffer in any given situation.
The last option is to ‘stay miserable’ in the situation. This is, also, a valid option. We default to it often enough, but do not always consider that we are making that choice. We always have the option, and if we choose this one, it is important to remember it is a choice.
While most of us do not like to think of it this way, let’s be clear – when we are aware of a problem and we choose to take no action at all, we are choosing to live with that problem. It may or may not make us “miserable” per se, but it makes us feel something, and we are choosing to feel that emotion over one of the other options.
There are a lot of problems in our lives that we do not have sole control over, also. But we can often make one of the other three choices, and those are always available.
So what do you think? Let me know!