Radical Acceptance

In outpatient I had to pick a DBT skill and present it. I wanted to share what I put together with y’all. I chose this topic because it’s one that I have a hard time with. Unlike mindfulness where you can refer to your breath, this idea is a little more abstract with nothing physical to be able to rely on for grounding acceptance.

  • Marsha Linehan the creator of DBT had some things to say on radical acceptance.
  • Radical acceptance is – Moment by moment letting go of having to have what you wanted and accepting reality how it is.
  • “You need to radically accept that you want something you don’t have and its not a catastrophe” – ML
  • “You only have to radically accept the moment you are in, and the past.” – ML
  • “In order to change things you have to accept them otherwise what you’re trying to change is something else that you think is reality…and if you want to change it you work on changing it which is perfectly legitimate also.” – ML

Clean Pain vs Dirty Pain

-These are types of pains we have when accepting or not accepting.
-Clean pain example: “I’m sad and I’m human and this is a normal response.”
–Dirty pain example: Fighting against something that gives us clean pain to try to find relief and avoidance/nonacceptance is causing suffering.
–Letting go transforms suffering into more ordinary pain which is part of life.
–When you spend time fighting yourself you aren’t learning how to be a friend to yourself.

Letting Go

Another way to think about letting go is to think of your mind as carrying a backpack.  If you need to go from point A to point B and you get tired somewhere in-between you may be carrying too many unnecessary things in your mental backpack. Getting rid of things that no longer serve you or are not useful to carry will lighten the load and you will be able to make it to your destination quicker and easier. What can you let go of to lighten your backpack?

  • Another way to practice Radical Acceptance which I have personally used and has worked for me is to write down “I accept (reality)” (ex. “I accept that Ryan and I are no longer in a relationship together”) several times being mindful and taking breaks if I feel myself zoning out so that I am focusing on the meaning of what I am writing, writing it in different ways, (ex. “I accept Ryan is no longer my boyfriend”) and reading these aloud to myself.
  • This has benefit me in being engaged in the statements of the reality of the situation. Over three days doing this I noticed myself letting go a little more every time and coming to acceptance of reality as how it is (not to say I like it, but that’s where other DBT skills come in).

How Hard is Radical Acceptance?

It’s a process that requires a lot of energy but it CAN be done.
Some things are easier to accept than others.
As Marsha Linehan said, When we accept reality as it is, we can move forward to change things if we want to, but if we don’t accept reality as it is we’re addressing change to something that’s not real and that’s going to prolong suffering and make no changes moving forward.
Radical acceptance is hard and further you can’t measure acceptance like you can mindfulness and your breath. But trust how your body and mind transform pain as you accept and let go. When we accept we can move forward.

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