Radical Acceptance

A key component of radical acceptance is not fighting reality. It is the cornerstone of DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy). Radical acceptance can be defined as the ability to accept situations that are outside of your control without judging them, which in turn reduces the suffering that causes them.

Radical acceptance is a distress tolerance skill that is designed to keep pain from turning into suffering.

It’s easy to confuse the idea of radical acceptance with unhealthy states of being like giving up, complacency, or settling for less. The typical argument runs something like, “Acceptance is for losers. I refuse to accept my lot. I’m going to keep striving until I get to a better place.”

But radical acceptance places no restraints on wanting a different future, no restraints on motivated behavior meant to change the present set of circumstances. In fact we could make the existential argument that acceptance is the necessary prerequisite for any future change. As Carl Rogers once put it, “When I accept myself as I am, then I can change.”

In our view the heart of radical acceptance has two fundamental parts. The first is seeing the present clearly for what it is and the second is realizing that despite the various unwanted elements of this present situation there also exist all the necessary elements for happiness and fulfillment right now.

Radical acceptance is accepting the facts of a situation without responding by throwing a tantrum or putting our head in the sand. It embodies my favorite mantra, it is what it is.

Mind you, radical acceptance is not approval or agreeing with what happen, but rather completely and totally accepting the current facts, EVEN IF WE DO NOT LIKE THEM. By choosing to accept things out of our control, we prevent ourselves from becoming stuck in unhappiness, bitterness, sadness, and in a perpetual state of suffering. Completely totally and accepting this fact is challenging, but liberating. It frees up all the the energy we are using to fight reality to effectively cope with the situation and take care of ourselves.

Radical acceptance takes lots of practice and counseling can help you develop the skills to cope with distress. It is a difficult skill but a skill that can transform your life.

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