Imagine a moment in which you feel powerless and weak against everything happening to you or around you. You don’t like what’s going on, but you know that you can’t change the past, control the present, or predict the future. You can do nothing but say “it is what it is” and fully accept your reality with your mind, body, and soul.
Radical acceptance, a skill from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), can help us get through hardship and distress. Pain is an inevitable part of our existence, however, we don’t have to give unnecessary energy to the word “pain” and turn it into “suffering.” We don’t have to be unhappy, bitter, angry, and sad. Choosing to radically accept the things that are out of our control is the first step toward the Zen life we all dream of.
Radical acceptance is not a new notion; in fact, we have all exercised it throughout our lives in many forms. Radical acceptance is there when we choose to listen to our brains instead of our hearts or, in other words, when we are realistic. According to DBT’s founder, Marsha Linehan, there are a few steps to help practice and smoothly integrate radical acceptance into our lives.
Observe the fact that you question or combat reality (e.g. “it shouldn’t be this way”).
Remind yourself that the unpleasant reality is just as it is and cannot be altered (e.g “this is what happened”).
Remind yourself that there are reasons for actuality (e.g. “this is how things happened”).
Practice accepting with your whole self (mind, body, soul) – use accepting self-talk, relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and imagery.
List all the behaviors you would participate in if you did accept the facts and then engage in those behaviors as if you have already accepted the reality.
Rehearse in your mind what you would do if you accepted what seems intolerable.
Attend to the body sensations as you think about what you need to accept.
Allow disappointment, sadness, or grief to arise within you.
Acknowledge that life is still worth living, even when there is pain.
It is not easy to accept an unpleasant or painful reality. In life, we go through many unpleasant truths, so practicing radical acceptance continuously, even when it seems complicated and challenging, is fundamental to our overall well-being.