Radical Acceptance as a Change Agent
What is Radical Acceptance?
Radical Acceptance is a distress tolerance skill taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. It turns suffering into ordinary pain! Which may sound lackluster, but if you’ve ever experienced real suffering, the kind that knocks the air out of you or disables you, ordinary pain can be a real relief.
Pain is an inescapable part of life. Every other living creature fights for their spot on this planet, and we are no different. We don’t fight the lion for the zebra, but we do fight for our jobs, and therefore, our resources. We do fight for our relationships when threatened with losing them. Life can be challenging, and it can also be really fulfilling, joyful, and peaceful.
To radically accept, we practice acknowledging and accepting the facts of reality as they are. Without exploding or avoiding. Instead, sitting in a kind, calm state of “it is what it is," not the contradictory typical use of this saying where one tosses their arms up in a state of hopelessness. No, radical acceptance is not acting helpless, being a doormat or being a punching bag!
Radical Acceptance is noticing that denying the facts of reality or fighting them, will not change the facts; rather will keep us stuck in thoughts like “this is unfair", “why me?” and “why now?”. Which only feeds the suffering and prolongs it. So, while pain is a very normal part of life, radical acceptance allows us to manage it. And more than that, it’s believing with your mind, body, spirit that you are okay, and everything is as it should be (not ignoring that change may be needed, but that for now and at this moment in time, it is exactly the way it is).
Radical acceptance takes steps. It’s a process to rewire your brain, calm your body, allow your heart to feel and heal. It first takes noticing that there is something you are not accepting. It takes the desire to change the feelings. It takes preparing yourself for that change, and it takes action. It can take repeated action.
And for all that effort, we can be rewarded with a new ease of being. Eye to eye with the lion. Transported to a place of peace and calm.
Then, moving forward from this place is empowering and radical in itself. It changes everything.