"Transforming Emotions with Acceptance - Responsive, not Reactive" by George Pitagorsky

Successful performance is measured in accomplishing objectives and managing change and transformation in any organization, as well as in personal life. Depending on personal and organizational values the objectives will include health and happiness, social responsibility, profits, and sustained growth.


The ability to manage emotions is a critical success factor. It promotes responsiveness rather than reactivity. With responsiveness comes the ability to perform optimally in the face of challenges like annoying co-workers, unplanned change, complexity, and uncertainty.

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash
Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

Accepting Whatever Comes

An attitude of acceptance is a key to the self-awareness and self-management that are the foundation of emotional intelligence - the capacity to perceive and regulate emotions. Two wisdom quotes point the way:


“The great way is perfect like vast space

Where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.”

(From Verses on Faith Mind by Sengstan, the Third Zen Patriarch)


“All that is necessary then is to rest undistractedly in the

immediate present, in this very instant in time.”  --Pema Chodron


It's that simple, realize that everything is perfect just the way that it is and rest undistractedly. Simple but not so easy. Also, and at first glance, accepting and resting seem to fly in the face of the desire to succeed. Everything doesn't appear to be all that perfect, and resting undistractedly in the midst of daily life is a challenge, to say the least.

Photo by Bruno Figueiredo on Unsplash
Photo by Bruno Figueiredo on Unsplash

Mind the Gap

So, what if you can’t rest undistractedly, just yet, in the face of inner challenges like anger, anxiety, or depression and outer challenges like tight deadlines, changing objectives, and uncooperative others?


You begin with the inner challenges, the ones that are triggered by the outer ones. Neuroscience and personal experience tell us that we have a very short gap between trigger and reaction. A reaction seems instantaneous. Your partner or client criticizes your work and there is an eruption. With mindfulness, the gap between the trigger and the reaction widens. The process doesn't take any more time, you just notice the emotion before it takes over, so you have an opportunity to choose a response. With awareness of the emotion early in its life, you can apply a technique to avoid reactive behavior.

Photo by Evelina Friman on Unsplash
Photo by Evelina Friman on Unsplash

Stepping Back and Accepting - The RAIN Technique

RAIN is an example of a technique for managing emotions. RAIN - Recognize what has come up. Accept it. Investigate to see how it feels in the body. Non-identifying with the emotion.


The technique promotes not identifying. As soon as there is the presence of mind to recognize the emotion, there has been a stepping back - a mental shift into the awareness of what is happening internally and externally. Then there can be acceptance. Acceptance is based on the idea that whatever is, is. You cannot change the past. You cannot change the immediate present. You can do something about the future.


Accepting an emotion is more than a moment of intellectually saying "Ok, I am experiencing anger" to yourself and then moving onto investigating. Accepting implies being with the feelings without having to do anything about them. It’s not scratching the itch. Being with, though not wallowing in. 


As with all meditative techniques, beware of emotional bypass. It is easy to suppress the anger or put on a happy face in order to sidestep the depression. 


Recognition and acceptance alone are enough to allow the emotion to lose its power as your perception of it changes. The emotion may not immediately disappear, but you will have space between it and you. It has become an interesting phenomenon, an object of mindfulness. You can mindfully observe the emotion and the way it operates, investigating to create more space by identifying, though not analyzing, the physical sensations you are experiencing.

Photo by William Recinos on Unsplash
Photo by William Recinos on Unsplash

Cultivate Optimal Performance

The RAIN technique is a training to get to the point of immediately recognizing emotions as they arise and, by accepting them, not being reactive. Mindfulness and techniques like RAIN are not meant as a means to "feel good" or avoid emotions. Instead, they enable the objectivity to accept the current situation as it is - with all its imperfections. With acceptance you are better able to do what can be done to successfully achieve your objectives. Increasingly, you allow yourself to enter a flow that promotes optimal performance.


If you wish to explore the ability to apply mindful awareness and the ability to be more responsive and less reactive, join us at Moment to Moment (M2M) Mindfulness Discussions.  REGISTER FOR M2M



George Pitagorsky’s mission is to guide people to create healthy, happy, and highly effective teams, organizations, and communities. He has decades of experience as a globally recognized project, program and process management expert, teacher, and technology executive. His experience includes six years as CIO for a multi-billion-dollar government agency, and as a principle in a technology start-up. As Director of Program Development George brings over ten years of experience in that role for an international learning organization.

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