Radical Acceptance is a distress tolerance skill used to keep pain from turning into suffering. You can consider it one of few options you have for a problem that occurs in your life, also including solving the problem, regulating your emotional response to the problem, tolerating the problem, or staying miserable. In a world where lots of things feel out of our control, Radical Acceptance is an important tool to have.
At first, it may seem like Radical Acceptance means that you are approving of certain things or allowing yourself to roll over when faced with problems. This isn’t the case. Instead, it is the practice of fully accepting circumstances that we can’t change and not allowing the distress of this control or overcome us.
By refusing to accept our circumstances, we turn pain into suffering. In other words, we continue to add pain. By practicing radical acceptance, we allow ourselves to feel pain and acknowledge our feelings, but also to continue moving forward. It is not only exhausting to resist reality, but it is a completely futile effort.
Here are 10 steps to begin practicing Radical Acceptance:
1. Notice that you are resisting reality. “It can’t be so!”
2. Remind yourself that reality is unpleasant and you can’t change it. “It is what it is”
3. Remind yourself that there are causes for reality. “This is how things happened”
4. Use your whole self to practice acceptance. (mind, body, spirit— this is where coping tools and mindfulness practices comes into play)
5. Identify all of the behaviors you would engage in if you did accept the facts and then engage in those behaviors as if you have already accepted the facts.
6. Imagine, in your mind’s eye, believing what you do not want to accept and rehearse in your mind what you would do if you accepted what seems unacceptable
7. Notice and acknowledge any body sensations that accompany the discomfort.
8. Allow feelings of disappointment, grief, sadness, etc. to work their way through you.
9. Acknowledge that there is still hope and value to life, even when there is pain.
10. Use pros and cons when you feel yourself continuing to resist reality.
At first, these concepts can seem abstract. But with practice, you’ll come to realize how simple they are. We will talk more about controlling/accepting our problems next week!