Radical Acceptance

Imagine the person who causes you the most aggravation in your life right now. Maybe it’s a loved one who, despite your best efforts, continues to make bad decision after bad decision. Perhaps it’s a friend who is always calling and complaining about their lives, but never takes your advice. It could be a co-worker who is always getting promoted or praised, even if you don’t think they deserve it. Now imagine how it would feel to simply accept that person for exactly who they are in this moment. Stop yourself from thinking about how to change them or what you need to do to “help”. Chances are you’d feel a little bit lighter and that knot in your stomach would be a little bit smaller.

This is the practice of radical acceptance.

A skill often taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, radical acceptance is something we can all benefit from. It can seem obvious and deceptively simple. But, when practiced, can lead to a significant change in perception and outlook on one’s life. It is, at it’s core, accepting reality for what it is. It does not mean we like it or agree with it-but that we fully and completely accept it. We accept that our loved one makes “bad” decisions, we accept that our friend complains and we accept that our co-worker gets praised at work. It is when we try to change things that are not ours to change, that we end up suffering.

So, what is ours to change? We can alter many things to help reduce our suffering. We can change our feelings, our perceptions, our judgements and our actions and reactions. Notice these changes do not include things that are outside of ourselves. Other people’s feelings, perceptions, judgements, actions and reactions have to be accepted or we end up fighting a losing battle. This is where the suffering comes in. Do you have a family member that does not share your political views? Accept that their views are different. This does not mean you can’t share your views or the reasons behind them-but don’t get caught up in changing their mind. Simply accept that they are who they are and that they are going to have opinions that differ from yours.

This leads us to the idea of non-judgement. Part of radically accepting the world as it is, is learning how to do so without labeling it as “good” or “bad”. Why is this important when practicing radical acceptance? It’s much harder to accept something that we judge as “bad”. When we view a situation negatively, we automatically think of how to change it or how we would prefer it to be. When we look at the political views of that particular family member as “bad”, it is much more difficult to accept that person as is. That judgement begins to color how we see the person as well.

Let’s go back to the example of the person in your life who aggravates you the most. Chances are you’ve placed some very definite labels on their actions-you’ve categorized what they’re doing or the situation as negative. Maybe you feel it’s unfair or disappointing; maybe it feels like they’re being rude or mean. Now, try taking those labels away from the situation. Instead, trying viewing it for what it is-without judgement attached.

Learning how to radically accept the world around us can be difficult. Chances are there are many things happening around us that we don’t like and wish could be different. There are probably people in our lives that act in ways that drive us crazy. Practicing radical acceptance can help us recognize what we don’t have control over and how to live life on life’s terms. Do you have trouble accepting you can’t change others? A licensed mental health professional may be able to help. Contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors and get the help you need.


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