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  • Writer's pictureConstance Nash

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Life as It Is

"It is what it is” is a life-saving way of thinking.

In therapy, the idea of radical acceptance is based on the notion that our suffering is not caused by pain, rather our attachment to the pain.

Radical acceptance is a coping skill used in dialectical behavioral therapy, with roots in Buddhism and Carl Rogers’ notion that one must first accept before they are able to create change.

Radical acceptance can assist in reducing suffering, as unpleasant emotions experienced for a prolonged time cause real problems.

Oftentimes, our negative reactions to unpleasant emotions are there because we are resisting the present experience.

Radical acceptance is when we are actively choosing to stop fighting our current experience, stopping our impulsive and destructive reactions, and letting go of any bitterness.

It is easier said than done, but the benefits of practicing radical acceptance are worthwhile.

This practice may not the only way of coming to a resolution, but it is a healthier way of thinking during problems/situations in which we have no control.

Simply put, to practice radical acceptance is to look at an experience from the past or present moment and be willing to acknowledge that we do not like what is happening, but that, simultaneously, there is nothing that we can do to change or fix it.

Here are some indications that radical acceptance might be beneficial for you…

  • You ruminate on past experiences well after they are relevant.

  • You blame yourself for everything bad that happens in your life.

  • You feel stagnant and hopeless in life.

  • You feel angry toward the world and the cards you’ve been dealt.

  • You are engaging in maladaptive coping mechanisms(abusing food, drugs, alcohol, etc.).

Should you be experiencing these symptoms, then radical acceptance may benefit you immensely.

Now that we’ve done some digging into whether radical acceptance is right for you, here’s an exercise to put it into practice.

  1. Write down what is bothering you

  2. From what you have written, identify any harsh realities of the situation you need to accept (You are looking for the facts and not the judgment or opinion you have about something).

  3. Think about this reality that you need to accept, and remember to say “it is what it is, this is what happened, and it can’t change”.

  4. Write down the events that led to this unpleasant experience.

  5. What would you need to tell yourself in order to accept this, and what would it feel like to accept this reality without judging yourself for it?

  6. How would your behaviors change if you accepted this reality, and how would the world feel to you if you were in acceptance?

  7. Where in your body are you carrying your resistance? (Maybe engage in some progressive muscle relaxation or meditation to find out)

  8. Review how you are now feeling, and take note of your emotions- be willing to sit with that emotion momentarily.

  9. Now consider this- despite how painful this reality is… what makes life worth living?

“Radial acceptance is the willingness to experience ourselves and our lives as it is”- Tara Brach

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