"Resignation is a daily suicide", wrote Balzac. And he wasn't wrong. When life hits us hard and problems pile up, we may think resignation is the only alternative. We believe we have no choice but to grit our teeth and resign ourselves to bad luck.
But resignation does not alleviate suffering, but rather perpetuates it by immersing us in a pessimistic vision. In fact, a study conducted at the University of Manitoba found that people who respond with resignation to a cancer diagnosis have a higher risk of suffering long-term psychological disorders.
What is resignation? The psychological meaning
To give up is to give up on changing things, to be satisfied with what happens, even if it hurts us. It is a surrender in the face of obstacles, not because they are insurmountable but because pessimism or nervous breakdown prevails. Therefore, it implies a passive attitude towards the facts.
The concept of resignation does not imply an adaptive response to reality, but rather submission to a reality that surpasses us. By resigning ourselves we run the risk of assuming the role of victim or starting to feel sorry for ourselves, telling ourselves that we can do nothing to change the situation we find ourselves in.
Thinking that “this is what has touched us and we cannot do anything to change it”, we are trapped, we do not move in the direction we want, but we orbit around bad luck.
3 differences between resignation and acceptance that we should all know
1. Resignation generates impotence, acceptance leads to serenity
The emotional states that generate resignation and acceptance are very different. When we resign ourselves, we usually feel defeated. By giving up, we feel we are unable to make the necessary change. This creates a feeling of failure and helplessness which can even lead to depression.
Instead, when we practice acceptance, a state of calm and serenity is generated. Acceptance helps us focus on the things we can control to change what we can, so that we feel confident in ourselves.
2. Resignation arises from yielding, acceptance from reflection
Resignation arises from giving up, from the feeling of not being able to do anything to change what happens to us because every effort will be useless. Often it is the result of a pessimistic or defeatist attitude towards life, it is to think that “this is what touched me and I cannot do anything to change it”. Resignation, in fact, often arises from a nervous breakdown.
Instead, acceptance is usually the result of a deeper analysis of the circumstances. It involves acknowledging that things are not going the way we would like and accepting reality, but with a resilient attitude. We accept what we don't like because we know it's the first step in changing our situation in some way.
3. Resignation condemns us to suffering, acceptance helps us heal wounds
Resignation is usually the coup de grace to motivation, which condemns us to immobility and passively suffer what happens. Originating from a feeling of helplessness, it usually does not involve a deep root cause analysis, thus preventing us from learning from our mistakes. Resignation, in fact, keeps us bogged down in the problem, suffering without finding a way out, condemning us to a sort of continuous samsara.
Acceptance, on the other hand, allows us to take a psychological distance to see things in perspective. It is a conscious process in which we immerse ourselves in the situation and understand it better. This allows us to understand our role, discover our mistakes and learn from them. Therefore, acceptance is essential to put the pieces back together and recover us.
The passage from resignation to acceptance
Understanding the differences between resignation and acceptance will allow us to choose how to react to life's problems. Acceptance involves seeing things as they are and also as they are not. Resignation, on the other hand, involves deciding that things are as they are and cannot be changed.
We practice acceptance when we say: “It's raining today, I'll take an umbrella“. We resign ourselves when we say: “Today it's raining, the day will be a disaster”. While with acceptance we assume a pragmatic, neutral and non-judgmental attitude, with resignation we assume a negative attitude that adds to our problems.
The problem is that we don't realize it, so we continue to accumulate resignation upon resignation, until it reaches the point where the weight prevents us from moving forward. The first step is to realize this and understand that we need more acceptance and less resignation.
A study conducted at the University of Milan found that when problems become chronic there is an inflection point in which we choose to resign ourselves and suffer in silence or take the path of acceptance and resilience.
When we choose radical acceptance, we see reality more objectively. We analyze the problems and decide how to act. We are aware of the adversity and damage they do to us, but instead of just suffering passively, we ask ourselves how to limit their influence.
When we resign ourselves we only see the negative side of the situation and assume that what happens to us is something immutable, which condemns us to continue to suffer. To get out of resignation we must stop judging the things that happen to us by classifying them in terms of "good" or "bad". We must also understand that everything changes and evolves continuously, including the situation that makes us suffer today. So the next time we reach that tipping point, we need to remember that the alternative to resignation is acceptance.