The Skill of Radical Acceptance
by Alicia Gillett, MSW, RSW
Do you find that you often ask yourself “Why me? Why now? Why can’t so and so be more the way I’d like them to be? Why did my friend or family member have to do that?”
Radical acceptance is a way to better cope with day to day disappointments, frustrations and larger life issues that we can not necessarily change. This skill can help to reduce suffering and the emotional toll that rejecting reality can take on our lives. Integrating this skill into your life is a journey, but certainly a worthwhile one that can leave you feeling more empowered and in control of your feelings.
Firstly, radical acceptance DOES NOT mean that you agree with someone or something that happened or that you are condoning certain behaviour. It is choosing to accept, with every fibre of your being, situations of the present and past that have caused you disappointment, frustration and pain. When we struggle to accept our reality as it is/was, we actually open ourselves to more pain and suffering. Radical acceptance is practicing to accept things as they are, even if you don’t like them, to lessen the overall negative impact on your life.
There are many day to day experiences that present us with opportunities to practice radical acceptance on a smaller scale (i.e. getting stuck in traffic, forgetting your lunch at home). In these situations, you can choose to let this bother you throughout the day, which might mean engaging in road rage or berating yourself for what was a silly mistake. Alternatively, you can choose to accept that traffic happens and find ways to relax during your drive or remind yourself that you can easily pop out to buy lunch. Practicing radical acceptance with smaller, day to day challenges, can help you to form a solid basis for how to apply this skill with larger issues (i.e. accepting negative childhood experiences, accepting situations where friends/family have let you down).
The next time you find yourself falling into a pit of anger, bitterness or unhappiness around situations you have little control over, remind yourself that this is an opportunity to try something different. You can take the time to acknowledge the situation and your feelings, then choose the path towards acceptance, which can make pain/disappointment more bearable and enhance your quality of life.
If you would like to explore this skill further and how you can apply it to your life, feel free to book a complimentary session so that we can discuss this together.