Oftentimes, life includes really challenging and painful events. Our non-acceptance of these events only adds a level of suffering to an already difficult situation. Thank goodness there is a skill to help with this tendency. This week we are highlighting the liberating skill of Radical Acceptance! 

When we feel helpless we often have thoughts that fight against reality including: “why me, this isn’t fair, nothing ever works out for me!” These thoughts are not helpful and they increase our already dysregulated state which impedes problem solving. If we get stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire these thoughts will not provide any relief nor will they help us get home, in fact they will add more grief and exhaustion.  

A colleague of mine used an analogy that really stuck with me about Radical Acceptance that I would like to share with you now. He said ,”fighting against reality is like playing tug of war with a rope tied around a brick wall- you can pull and pull and pull and that wall isn’t coming down, you will just be tired and frustrated; Radical Acceptance is deciding to gently drop that rope.” Once we decide to drop that rope we can reallocate that energy into something that will actually be helpful whether that’s problem solving, self compassion, or distress tolerance skills.  

Try Practicing Radical Acceptance By: 

  • Acknowledging you are fighting reality (we have to name it to tame it!)
  • Recognize the event has happened and no matter how much we don’t like it , it will not change 
  • Remind yourself that there are causal factors to this moment 
  •  Attend to your body sensations (heart rate/muscle tension etc.) 
  • Practice accepting with your entire mind/body and spirit (this is the radical component) and can include: paced breathing, willing hands, half smile, imagery or calming self talk
  • Practice opposite action and engage in behaviors you would do if you did accept it. For the flat tire example: call a tow truck/AAA/or a friend to come help, or get out of your car jack it up and put the spare tire on 
  • Allow sadness and disappointment if they arise with self compassion 
  • Remember that even with painful events, life is worth living   

“Remember when you are feeling willful, fighting reality and feel yourself getting worked up – drop the rope!”

Written by: Dr. Krystal Lopez 

Quote by: Dr. Kevin Rowen

Photo by: @brett_jordan on Unsplash

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