32. Relating to the Situation
I seek the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.
This area examines three elements that define how we relate to our situation: perception of the situation (including the present, past and future), the basic attitudes (acceptance and rejection) and also evaluation of the situation (or life satisfaction).
Before we start, it would be good to first write down a little bit about your life situation (it doesn’t need to be long – make a summary rather than a novel); you will find it useful later on.
Perception of the situation
The more we are aware of our situation the more we can do something about it, which strengthens our sense that we are in charge. Research suggests that an ambiguous state of affairs is often more stressful than knowing even a negative outcome.38 However, there are two obstacles to perceiving our life situation accurately: seeing what is not there and not seeing what is.
Seeing what is not there
We sometimes see what we want to see or what we think that we see, rather than what is really there. How many times have you jumped to conclusions or have perceived a situation in the wrong light? Here is an example: a spot appeared on your face and you go out. You think everybody is looking at your spot, but is this true? Well, the only way to find out is by separating the perception of the situation (what is really happening) from thoughts and emotions (e.g. worrying that everybody will be looking at your spot). The exercise below (never mind its long name) is designed to help us learn to bracket what we add to our perception and see what is really there – which can also be refreshing! Once you get a handle of it, you can apply the same to more complex situations.