The Practice of Radical Acceptance

Acceptance is the only way out of suffering.

For thousands of years, religious and spiritual traditions have advocated acceptance and surrender as a way to manage the challenges and stressors of life. This deep spiritual wisdom has helped people survive and thrive during periods of turmoil and upheaval.

As a psychologist, it would be foolish to discount the strategies that have helped people for thousands of years and think that psychological principles, which have only been around for 100 years, had all the answers. After graduating with my PhD in 2003, I began studying spirituality and religion. In every religious belief system, acceptance and surrender were prevailing themes that helped people overcome difficult circumstances and manage overwhelming pain. However, we do not have to be religious or spiritual to surrender or accept our circumstances.

The practice of acceptance and surrender is a valuable life skill. Accepting the unacceptable can feel radical,  which is why psychologist, Marsha Linehan coined the term, “Radical Acceptance” nearly 30 years ago. She discovered that clients who radically accepted their emotions and circumstances experienced a significant reduction in anxiety, depression, suicidality, and self injurious behaviors.

Since 2003, I have helped my clients radically accept their emotions and circumstances, and I have observed the same incredible reduction in symptoms as Linehan. Unlike the clients in psychiatric hospitals Linehan worked with, my clients are extremely high functioning. When my clients have practiced radical acceptance, they have transformed themselves and their lives in ways that did not seem possible.

At times radical acceptance feels like weakness and we’ll do everything in our power to resist rather than accept. I can even feel the incredible resistance within myself when I try to accept the unacceptable. But I know that radical acceptance is the only way out of suffering. This is why I gradually and gently move myself and my clients toward acceptance. Once we are there, true freedom and clarity arises. In this clarity we can calmly approach our emotions or circumstances, and solve our problems with wisdom.

Below you will find three skills that will help you on the road to radical acceptance.

Basic Principles for Accepting Life On Life’s Terms

SKILL #1: RADICAL ACCEPTANCE

  • Everything is as it should be. Everything is as it is.
  • Freedom from suffering requires ACCEPTANCE from deep within of what is.
  • Let yourself go completely with what is. Let go of FIGHTING REALITY.
  • ACCEPTANCE is the only way out of hell.
  • Pain creates suffering only when you refuse to ACCEPT the pain.
  • Deciding to tolerate (endure) the moment is ACCEPTANCE.
  • ACCEPTANCE is acknowledging what is.
  • To ACCEPT something is not the same as judging that it is good, or approving of it.
  • ACCEPTANCE is turning my suffering into pain that I can endure.

SKILL #2: TURNING THE MIND

  • Acceptance of reality as it is requires an act of CHOICE. It is like coming to a fork in the road. You have to turn your mind towards the acceptance road and away from the “rejecting reality” (“I don’t have to put up with this!”) road.
  • You have to make an inner COMMITMENT to accept.
  • The COMMITMENT to accept does not itself equal acceptance. It just turns you toward the path. But it is the first step.
  • You have to turn your mind and commit to acceptance OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. Sometimes, you have to make the commitment many times in the space of a few minutes.

SKILL #3: WILLINGNESS

  • Cultivate a WILLING response to each situation.
  • Willingness is DOING JUST WHAT IS NEEDED in each situation, in an unpretentious way. It is focusing on effectiveness.
  • Willingness is listening very carefully to your inner wisdom, acting from your inner self.
  • Willingness is ALLOWING into awareness your connection to the universe—to the earth, to the floor you are standing on, to the chair you are sitting on, to the person you are talking to.

Contact me: If you would like coaching on how to practice radical acceptance, please contact me through my website to schedule an appointment.

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