It is what it is.
That, in a broad nutshell, is the core principle of radical acceptance. Indeed, it’s a simpler concept than it might seem — and it could help you simplify your life and let go of unneeded suffering.
But how do you know if radical acceptance is right for you?
While this psychological philosophy has gained lots of attention for its effectiveness in helping people better accept their reality. This simple act can help with all sorts of problems, as it helps keep you from holding on to negative feelings or feelings of conflict that simply cannot help you move past a given situation.
Although it is quite popular, radical acceptance is not for everyone, nor does it apply to every scenario. It’s just one potential tool to help you navigate the negative feelings and long-term suffering that can go along with unproductively resisting reality as it is.
Is it time for you to embrace radical acceptance? Read on for a deeper definition and 10 steps on how to actually go through the process, or determine whether it is right for you in a given situation.
Radical acceptance is one component of a larger set of psychological protocols known as dialectical behavior therapy or DBT.
DBT and radical acceptance are often used to treat personality and mood disorders, ADHD, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and substance abuse. It can also help people negotiate everyday interpersonal conflicts in a more productive way.
While the word “radical” can often conjure up unpleasant images, in this context it simply means to pursue something fully, to be “all in,” so to speak. So, radical acceptance means fully accepting life as it exists around you.
To be more specific, radical acceptance means making your peace with things you can’t change or control. For example, if your boss asks you to work over the weekend, or you discover a fly at the bottom of your milkshake, or your friend stops returning your phone calls, there’s not a lot you can do about those things. Accepting reality as it is — especially when it involves things that aren’t fair or desirable or healthy — can be painful, but according to DBT and radical acceptance, this will save you from suffering over the longer term.
As Karyn Hall, PhD, a DBT-certified clinical psychologist and author on a variety of topics, put it, “radical acceptance is about saying yes to life, just as it is.”
According to Marsha Linehan, the founder of DBT, radical acceptance can be broken down into 10 distinct steps, from increasing awareness to better processing reality, no matter what it might contain in the moment.
- Be aware of when or whether you may be questioning or fighting reality.
- Remind yourself that reality, even in an undesirable or unpleasant moment, cannot be changed. In other words, it is what it is.
- Remind yourself that reality has causes.
- Practice accepting with your mind, body, and spirit all together. This could mean self-talk, therapy, meditation or relaxation techniques, or other means of finding alignment.
- Think about the things you would or could do if you did practice radical acceptance.
- In your mind’s eye, imagine accepting something you do not want to accept and rehearsing how you think this acceptance might play out.
- Pay attention to body sensations as you think about what you need to accept.
- Allow feelings of disappointment, sadness, or grief to come and go naturally as you move through the process.
- Acknowledge that life can be worth living — in fact, it can be great — even when there is pain.
- Practice listing out the pros and cons of practicing radical acceptance in a given situation.
Radical acceptance has for many years been a part of many self-help playbooks, even if it does not always go by this name. For example, the first line of the famous “serenity prayer” often associated with addiction recovery reads: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”
No matter how simple the concept is on its face, it can be far easier said than done to accept reality as it is, especially if it involves things that you think don’t or shouldn’t belong there. But that’s where radical acceptance comes in. Go all-in on acceptance and see if this technique can help you do away with significant suffering.
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