Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The four approaches to problems: fight, flight, accept or suffer

The theory of radical acceptance (RA) states that there are basically four approaches to any problem (physical, emotional, global, systemic whatever...):
  • fight
  • flight
  • acceptance
  • continued suffering
Fight (which includes fixing and solving, preferably without violence or aggression) requires you to have the power, resources, knowledge, influence and general wherewithal to make the necessary change. Where I choose to "fight" is in my writing, influencing others, healing myself and helping others with my skills and knowledge.

Flight (which includes all forms of avoidance, distraction or altering your perception) requires you to take the safer path where the scary monster doesn't reside. Instead of riding the bicycle past the vicious uncontrolled Alsatian you can choose to take the longer safer path home. Wearing earplugs to block out unpleasant sounds is necessary for sleep at times. Distracting yourself with an activity you can immerse yourself in or focus on can get you out of thinking about the problem or the pain for a while - can give welcome relief and is good if it gets you out of rut but ineffective in the longer term if the problem is still going to be there when you finish distracting yourself. Before using this approach you should evaluate the consequences. Will it cost more, take longer, remove opportunities from your path, isolate you or become an habitual or addictive response.

Accept (pain is pain). Acknowledge the pain, it's there, don't try to change it, don't embrace it, fight it or run away from it - it's just there. Life will go on. You will survive this. This option works well with things you can't change or influence: traffic jams, global economic change, terminal illnesses, loss of a pet, friend or partner. If you can practice it on the traffic jams and other little things outside your control then the response will be may be more easily accessible to you when faced with life's bigger problems.

Suffer (suffering or misery is defined in RA as pain plus non acceptance).

All of us are faced with issues on a daily basis, from the big global ones like us and our planet being enslaved and milked for all we are worth by the half dozen individuals who run the planet, down to the limitations of life in general: death, disease, loss. In between we have the more ordinary problems like crumbling infrastructures that are too expensive to maintain (come across any councils ripping up the bitumen lately because its cheaper to maintain dirt roads), services that are no longer affordable and the increasing workload that exceeds the available resources, job losses due to cut backs and automation, rising costs and a stranglehold of red tape and regulation. A wise spiritual warrior needs to become skillful in knowing what to fight, flee or accept without ever opting for the fourth option of being beaten by the big and little realities of life.