In life, bad things happen. Radical acceptance is the process of learning to accept those negative things that are unchangeable. By using mindfulness to remove yourself from your emotions, accepting that bad things happen to the best of people and understanding radical acceptance is a process, you can practice this technique and feel better overall.
What Is Radical Acceptance?
Radical acceptance is a part of dialectical behavioral therapy, and works well for borderline personality disorder and substance use disorders, explains Simon Frasier University psychologist Alexander Chapman in an article published as “Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Current Indications and Unique Elements” in Psychiatry in 2006. Like cognitive behavioral therapy, DBT assumes that by changing the way you think, you can change your responses to things that happen. DBT focuses on enhancing abilities, such as improving an individual’s ability to calm down, and uses the skills learned to reduce unwanted behaviors. Radical acceptance is the part of this process that teaches people to accept events and feelings instead of fighting against them.
Mindfulness is a critical part of radical acceptance, and more and more practitioners are embracing mindfulness as a way to heal, according to social worker and psychotherapist Laurie Meyers in a 2007 article featured on the American Psychological Association entitled “Serenity Now.” To practice radical acceptance using mindfulness, you must first learn to see your feelings as separate from you. Find a quiet place and sit or lie down with your eyes closed. Take a few deep breaths and observe your emotions and uncomfortable physical responses without judgment -- just specks of snow floating by in the air. Visualize yourself as the observer, watching the snow, but not responding to it. Snow is not the end of the world, just cold. Once you are able to use mindfulness to separate your feelings, you will be more able to accept them as things that just are, as opposed to things you must fight.
When bad things happen, humans have a tendency to blame. Radical acceptance teaches you to understand and accept that bad things happen, that these bad things are a part of life and that fault is irrelevant. If you find those pesky blame thoughts coming up, try a mantra like, “Bad things happen to the best of people.” Over time, this will help you to accept bad things when they occur and move on to the things you can change.
Give It Time
Radical acceptance takes practice and time, notes Karyn Hall, director and owner of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston, Texas, in an article titled “Radical Acceptance,” published on Psychology Today in 2012. If you’ve spent 30 years thinking a certain way, do not expect that radical acceptance will come easily overnight. Be patient, practice in every situation you are able and, over time, radical acceptance may become second nature.