Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Closure or Acceptance

"I just want closure."

"Now that this is over, we can look for closure." 

"Our nation wants closure on this difficult time."

We often hear these wishes for closure. A wish for closure is often a wish for the cessation of the emotional pain associated with a specific event. The idea that, at some point, a painful emotional experience will be finished has become an expectation. 

But consider this definition: Closure is the act of bringing to an end a process that was characterized by ambiguity or uncertainty. Getting closure on an event means that we no longer have to wonder what happened. It means that we know something we did not. It does not mean that we stop hurting. 

In fact, there is no specific point at which a painful event stops hurting emotionally. That's not to say that we have to be in pain forever. But the process of coming to heal from emotional wounding is not done in a single act, in a single moment. And further, setting up an expectation that it does is setting up an expectation that will further hurt us.

Instead of looking for closure, I encourage working for acceptance. 

Acceptance is a process in which we work to be at peace with the world as it is, including our reactions and emotions. Instead of a single moment, acceptance is a process that takes time and effort. When we work towards acceptance, we begin to tell ourselves that we will no longer feed into our pain, instead, we will cultivate healing. It is important to note that acceptance is not a passive state: It is a series of actions designed to grow our internal capacity to find peace in the world. Acceptance comes from within us, whereas closure comes from outside of us. 

We all, each one of us, face challenges in life. We all have difficulties. And, we all have a choice as to how we cope with them. We can choose to seek closure, and expect that emotional pain will stop when we find it. Or, we can move towards acceptance, with the recognition that emotional pain lessens over time and with effort. 

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