Radical acceptance is when we accept our reality as it is, even when we don’t like it or want to. It is a means of managing instead of resisting the things that we cannot change. Radical acceptance is basically a distress tolerance skill that is meant to keep pain from turning into longer term suffering. Just to clarify it is not that we approve of something completely, but we choose to accept it because we cannot change it. Therefore fighting it creates all sorts of pain and suffering. In order to free ourselves from this negative spiral, we have to first accept reality as it is and learn how to make things more bearable. We do this by recognizing what is in our control and acting on it.
A current example is living through the Corona Virus pandemic. It is totally outside of our control. Nobody likes this reality but nonetheless we are living through it and have had to accept that it is happening. We cannot avoid, deny or resist this reality. Some people have lost their lives to it, others have lost their jobs and homes. We are having to radically accept that this virus exists. As challenging as this is we can still maintain a sense of calm by focusing on things that we can control instead of what we can’t. This helps to create a sense of order in a time of distress and vulnerability.
The way we think about a situation can make the difference between effectively coping and becoming overwhelmed. We can take better care of ourselves and others if we use our energy to be more pro-active in doing what we can. In respect of Covid-19 it could be ensuring that we all wear face masks, keeping our hands clean and sanitized, limiting social interactions in close proximity and seeking medical attention if symptomatic. All of these things are within our control. If we only focus only on the negatives and fear the things that we cannot control we risk increasing our anxiety levels and removing our peace of mind.
The following are some tips to help you radically accept things in your life that you may not be entirely happy about right now:
- To accept something is to acknowledge what is. Life can be tough, it is not fair or easy. Admitting this fact helps you understand and accept things that are out of your control.
- Focus on what you can do not what you can’t do in any given situation. Know what is in your control and what is not. Draw up a list if it helps to visually see your options.
- Generally speaking what is in your control is what you think, say, do, act and how you respond or react to others. What is not in your control is what other people say or do, how they think or act, and their behaviours. Also external things like environmental changes, the weather, the current pandemic, the economy, etc are not within your control.
4. Radical acceptance occurs by dissolving your inner resistance and results in peace and understanding.
5. Accept that some things just cannot be changed. Like the past.
6. Sometimes you just have to say ‘it is what it is’.
7. You might not like it or even agree with it, but it’s not always possible to get what you want despite your best efforts. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree on matters.
8. Acceptance comes from deep within the self.
9. Accepting a situation does not mean you are giving up, it simply means that you recognize and understand your limitations in the current situation.
10. Radical acceptance frees you from suffering and anxiety. Instead of denying your reality you can begin to move forwards and create a new path for yourself.
Remind yourself “every event of my life has brought me to now, this current reality. Right here is where I am supposed to be.”
Radical acceptance also helps with self- improvement and self- acceptance. According to Psychologist Carl Jung, we all have a shadow self, he stated the shadow is the unknown dark side of the personality. It encompasses all the things we hide. Traits that might be viewed as negative such as jealousy and greed are often not openly expressed but hidden away. Acknowledging the shadow exists and integrating it into the whole self is healthier than denying its existence. Keep the traits you like and work on those you wish to change. It will help you to become more accepting of yourself. Own your reality and who you are.