Problem solving vs problem acceptance

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Where are you at in holding the balance of facing a problem and solving it, fixing it, changing things... and problem acceptance, not condoning the problem but DBT-style "radical acceptance" of "it is what it is" and perhaps accepting what can not be changed.

I get praised by therapists and others, and have since I was a small child, for resourcefulness and problem solving skills. Therapists miss the struggle and dismiss my concern about not enough problem acceptance because they think I'm just being hard on myself when I say I think walking away sooner and saying less would have been better...

The thing is, I am terrible at accepting what I can't or shouldn't or don't need to change. Sometimes I have far better things to do. For me, it's not about fixing people, like friends, but systems and specific roles that mirror roles of abusers. I end up being terrible at walking away from issues at times. For me, it's very different than codependency, but for some, it could look like codependent behavior.

I don't like speaking up, taking action, etc, and sometimes it terrifies me. It's not comfortable, it's just slightly less terrifying thanhelplessness as helplessness is so intertwined with trauma for me. Strikes fear to my core to be helpless.

But I've been thinking a lot about how accepting a problem doesn't make me helpless. Somewhere along the way I adopted the very distorted idea that if I do nothing then I'm just letting myself be a victim -- when in reality, it's a way to still exercise my power and responsibility, sometimes far more effectively. I can clearly see this for others but I've had a massive blind spot for myself.

I know other trauma survivors are much more comfortable with problem acceptance and struggle with problem solving. Sometimes problem solving can mean speaking up assertively, which can also be deeply intertwined with trauma histories as well and trigger all kinds of anxiety on that end of the spectrum.

I don't want to lose the advocacy abilities, I want to save them for when I choose, not feel habitually compelled by fear to use them. I don't want to be helpless and never act to affect the world around me, but sit with the discomfort of what can't be changed with greater ease and less frustration. I want to be more flexible in my approaches.

How does this shake out for you? Do you error in one direction or the other? Have you found anything that helps with flexibility and balance in the two approaches?


A lot of the time, I tend to let the other person have their way. Or I give into a situation instead of fighting for my rights. There's a situation at my job, where I get talked into working overtime, when I should say that I'm tired and need to go home.

Then too, when I get home, I have to fight off urges to overeat, or oversleep, etc. Sometimes I manage, sometimes I don't.

I'm definitely interested in watching this thread.

Rani G2

Strikes fear to my core to be helpless
I've been thinking a lot about how accepting a problem doesn't make me helpless. Somewhere along the way I adopted the very distorted idea that if I do nothing then I'm just letting myself be a victim
want to be more flexible in my approaches.
Still doing the work and dealing with the aftermaths of relational trauma and attachment issues, so I’m still in the middle of a Tornado.. cannot speak of directions and balancing. The pulling forces come from all directions depending on situations..
Unfortunately I sometimes lack the capacity to perceive situations where I was able to assert myself when I was in a adult-self-state.. where I was not judging my behavior through a I’m-up-you-are-down-I-am-the-victim-you-are-in-power lens. Even while interacting with a random person and he/she has an opinion and I have one too.. and I might not say mine right away.. then this is being seen as weakness or I wasn’t able to fight back. It’s always blown up/ out of proportion. When people act in certain ways, there is a part that wants power and a part that wants to be submissive in order to survive.. different states have different motivations and survival instincts.
Being aware of parts, their tendencies, monitoring on a metacognitive level.. it’s work all the time. I know this ain’t good advice, just to say...I understand.


Have you found anything that helps with flexibility and balance in the two approaches?
Ageing. Not at all helpful to you prolly but I had to get beyond tired of fighting battles I didn't need to volunteer myself into before I would begin to learn to let them go over my head.

Something about realising others do not get to define my reality might be part of it. As in I realised I'd been living as if others saying something or behaving a certain way meant my reality was invalid.

But actually, others can do or say a gazillion things and I don't have to agree or give them any attention at all actually.

The thing is, I am terrible at accepting what I can't or shouldn't or don't need to change.
Maybe explore this a bit more.

Is there something about some of us who've grown up in an abusive family that makes us feel we are responsible for everything?

Sorry this is very rambly


I think, out of personal struggles that have to do with this, xhat makes it even trickier is that problem solving also needs its part of radical acceptances. In the path of solving a problem, there are certain parameters that simply cannot be changed, or at least not at the pace we would. And these ones shouldn't be fought. Generally, people's behaviours come in that category. You can call someone out or being mitigating or supportive, you can't control them neither positively or negatively. They are distinct from our will. For best and worst.

But beyond acceptance and problem solving, what you seem to be talking about here, at least to my understanding, is the affordance of trying to solve something. Can it be solved, but at the price of a lot of my energy and for a mediocre if not absent outcome for me? Is that worth the effort? And moreover, is my effort acknowledged? Is my effort always going in the same direction and never retributed? Am I helping out or helping someone at my own expense? The latter is a very good criteria to identify abuse or potentially abusive situations or relationships. So, you can have situations where you could do something, but you don't want to.

I spent an awful lot of time helping someone at my own expense and getting mostly horrible abuse in return. Not only, but mostly. Did my actions change something? It did change something. It did damage control. But did that solve his problem? Not an inch. Did that bring anything good to me? Only the good idea I have of myself. Would having withdraw from this relationship in its first bad developments have improved my sanity and progression? Very likely.

In general, I have a capacity in life to move mountains and to force situations through. It is possible, yet very difficult and scary. But if there are things you can force, there are generally easier ways to get around situations instead of affronting them like smashing your head against a wall.

And yes sometimes things are so messy and potentially explosive it's better to just burn the entire suitcase and leave as fast as possible. These situations are ones were bringing corrections and reformation is an ordeal for a probable very small outcome. Situations were problem solving skills are useful are the ones where the problem is small and our agency over it big.

And sometimes, you do have agency over something and might have a probable good outcome, but you just don't want to. And that's okay. Not every single of problem on the planet is demanding to be solved.

I have to say it's since I experienced violence, which is a very inamovible thing somehow if that makes sense, that I have a complete fatigue to thing that hurt my brain and my feelings. In a sense it's a bit like getting old, in the sense that I had to get conscious of my own limitations. No matter how much I want it, there are some things that aren't possible and never will. Or will not anymore. And yes there is a sense of helplessness about it and this, in itself, is hard to accept. That we are finite and have shortcomings, and that it's normal. It's not the proof we're insufficient, no matter some people might try to manipulate us in that belief.

I guess that the entire thing is about knowing what we can do, what we want to do, what are the likely outcomes, how much energy we can afford to allocate and to which benefit. Also, is the situation an actual problem? Sometimes we perceive something as requiring action but there isn't anything to solve. What is unsolvable isn't a problem. It feels silly to state this like that, bit for me it really helped with this need of having to fix situations.

Now in such situations instead of being frustrated I try to see it as a relief. Pfew, something that I don't have to do! This is the great side of radical acceptance.

Mantras I have:

Can't fix it, then screw it. (The boldness of the sentence helps me too)

Things that we can't solve aren't problems.

It's not that I cannot, it's that I don't want.

I prefer to allocate time and energy towards something else.

Situation X might not change much with or without my intervention.

It's not because a situation would benefit of my intervention that it necessarily needs me to intervene.

I can have a certain influence, but the outcome is probably not be worth the expense.

If I'm feeling obliged to do something, it's most probably the sign that something isn't okay and that taking distance might be the wisest thing to do at least for measuring the parameters here.

Hope this answers your question. Leave it aside if it doesn't
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