life lessons mindfulness

Radical Acceptance

Today is a day to practice accepting something that you really don’t like but have no control over changing, also known as radical acceptance. Yes, this topic is stimulated by the election results but can apply to many areas of one’s life, so this post is not really about politics. It is about how to find some calm when life feels like a storm that could rage on eternally in any which way.
Radical acceptance is a concept that comes from Buddhism, that I first learned about through Marsha Linehan’s DBT work. The concept is that one must acknowledge, and decide to tolerate what is happening as a way of easing the suffering that comes from fighting reality. It involves observation and non-judgment, a choice and commitment.  Radical acceptance is about taking note of what is happening and acknowledging it, as it is, without judgement, wishful thinking, or regrets.

Radical acceptance can be difficult to practice for many reasons; one is that the mind will try again and again to stray to the why rather than settling on what is.  Asking “why did this happen, how could it have been prevented, what does it mean, how will I survive this” are distractions from acceptance.  Cursing and complaining are also distractions from acceptance.  These are examples of wasted energy. It takes a lot of energy to hate something, but if hating it can’t change it, then it is wasted energy.

So, what makes radical acceptance different from giving up or condoning evil? First, accepting something is not the same as saying it is good (remember non-judgment).  Next, giving up involves doing nothing; there is hopelessness and helplessness, a draining of energy and filling with despondency.  That is not what happens with the practice of radical acceptance.

It takes agency to observe and recognize the current state of what’s happening now.  Just as it takes agency to make the distinction between what can and cannot be changed.  Through the choice of acceptance there is a gaining of personal power. And through the practice of acceptance there is a gaining of a grounding energy.  An energy that allows you to go forth and do the things that are within your power to change.  And doing such things will lead to a more fulfilled, satisfied, and healthier you.

You only have control over yourself so what do you plan to do?