RADICAL ACCEPTANCE

RADICAL ACCEPTANCE

“Observing desire without acting on it enlarges our freedom to choose how we live.”

― Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

DISCLAIMER

If you’re struggling with depression, thoughts of suicide, or isolation – always seek out a professional. Do not use the materials on this website to replace or delay treatment from a trained medical professional. This website is intended to be used in addition to therapy or other treatments.

The ideas & exercises here are meant to be discussed with your therapist. They may have different or better recommendations regarding your treatment. Please always follow their advice over any material you find on this page.

You’re worth more than you realize – please don’t go at this alone! 

WHAT IS RADICAL ACCEPTANCE?

It can be difficult to face reality when tragedy strikes in our lives. These unpleasant experiences can come in the form of the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or being let down by a trusted friend. On the outside, it can seem like pain is the reason we suffer during these episodes. And no one, in reality, can completely eradicate all forms of pain. Is it the predestined fate of humanity to suffer so badly when the inevitable burden of pain comes crashing down on us?

Maybe we’re actually destined to experience an evolution in our thinking.

MOVING FORWARD

This evolution may come in the widespread knowledge and practice of radical acceptance.  The idea of radical acceptance proposes pain alone is not the cause of our suffering. The incorporation of personal attachment to pain is the cause of most of the trauma we experience. 

The effect of holding on to these painful memories and making them a part of our identity can hinder our growth, suppress our goals, and create a nightmare in our waking lives. It provides us with an alternative to a life filled with sadness and loss. 

Radical acceptance opens up new doorways to healing, personal transformation, and moving on from the past.

When I was first introduced to the notion of radical acceptance during my therapy, I felt like the therapist was asking me to accept all the bad which had occurred in my life. A psychological version of “turn the other cheek.” As a Pagan, I didn’t understand how I could be proactive in my own recovery if I was going to just leave the door closed on such excruciating experiences from my childhood.

That’s not radical acceptance, I quickly learned. Let me explain with an analogy.

Imagine you have a very expensive computer. Now that computer has a finite amount of memory to use for playing video games, editing videos, listening to music, etc. If your luxurious new computer was filled to the brim with meaningless and outdated data, then you would have less memory experience than what you had actually intended to use the computer for in the first place. Would it make sense to keep this obsolete garbage on your machine?

Of course not!

WE ARE, AFTER ALL, A TYPE OF BIOLOGICAL COMPUTER

The human brain is no different. We have a finite amount of resources, energy, and neurons to deal with all of the outside stimuli which are processed by our five senses. When you’ve experienced a lot of trauma, or you are going through a painful situation, you tend to run out of energy faster and require more rest. If we’re spending a lot of time dwelling on things we can’t change, then are we using our fantastic brain to move forward?

Radical acceptance is the ability, awareness, and willingness to to identify the parts of our life which we have no control over. It is also monitoring our thoughts and labeling which thoughts are productive and those thoughts which are not.

Examples of not practicing ACCEPTANCE:

  • My life would be better if only…
  • It isn’t fair because…
  • I can’t deal with this!

EXAMPLES OF PRACTICING ACCEPTANCE:

  • I can only control myself and the present moment.
  • When I struggle against fear, it only causes it to grow larger in my mind.
  • This is reality, and even if I don’t like what’s happening – it is reality.

IS RADICAL ACCEPTANCE THE SAME AS FORGIVENESS?

Some people may confuse radical acceptance with forgiveness. These two concepts are different from each other. Forgiveness is an act of kindness usually towards people outside of yourself. Radical acceptance is an act of kindness towards YOU.  If you are going to a therapist to work through your trauma, I highly recommend bringing up radical acceptance as a talking point with them. Your therapist will have even more ideas on how to best use radical acceptance in your healing journey.

Not everyone has access to therapy for a number of reasons. So I will put a few “best practices” of radical acceptance here for your contemplation:

  • Nothing is black and white, good or bad. Very rarely is anything or anyone an extreme or absolute. Try not to put people on pedestals or demonize them. 
  • Stop thinking about how things, “might have been if only I had done this,” because that’s not reality. Whatever decision you made in the past is unchangeable. The only thing you can control is the here and now.
  • Sometimes we make a bad decision or say something stupid because we aren’t aware of ourselves, yet. When we do become aware of ourselves, we will learn new techniques and going forward our decisions will become beneficial to our own growth and development. 
  • Stop the judgement. Labeling situations as “good” or “bad” isn’t reality. Things just are and if they work for us, we should continue. If they don’t work for us, then we should consider employing some new behaviors. 
  • Watch your thoughts. They have power over you. If you’re experiencing thoughts of not accepting reality, make note of it. 
  • Your five senses exist to ground you in the moment. Use them. 
  • Deep breathing can give you a dramatically different perception of reality.
  • Not all problems have a solution.

MORE RESOURCES ON RADICAL ACCEPTANCE:


VERY WELL MIND has some awesome resources & articles on radical acceptance!


HOPE WAY has articles about DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) & the use of radical acceptance!


PSYCHOLOGY TODAY article on the use of radical acceptance in recovery.


SKYLAND TRAIL has a wonderful article and a few exercises on radical acceptance!


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