What is Radical Acceptance and how can it help?

Radical Acceptance (Linehan, 1993) is an important skill that is taught as part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (a type of Cognitive and Behavioral therapy that incorporates Eastern mindfulness techniques). It involves accepting life events without resisting things that we cannot or choose not to change. This skill is often misunderstood – one big myth is that radical acceptance means agreeing with or excusing something that has happened. In reality, acceptance is not the same as approval. It simply means that we are acknowledging reality (what has happened or what is happening currently). This is an effective technique, because fighting something that we cannot change often amplifies our emotional reactions and pain.

We fight reality in many ways, for example, by judging a situation, or by saying something “should or shouldn’t” be a certain way, saying “that’s not fair,” or “why me?!” This type of thinking may just lead to more suffering. The next time you notice that you aren’t accepting reality (look for anger, bitterness, annoyance, avoiding emotions), look within yourself and make an inner commitment to accept the situation as it is. Continue turning your mind towards acceptance each time you find yourself rejecting reality.

Three Stages of Practicing Radical Acceptance:

  1. Accept reality is what it is (the facts are the facts)
  2. Accept that the event or situation creating our pain has a cause
  3. Accept that life can be worth living even with painful events in it

More references:

Radical Acceptance Part 1

Tartakovsky, M. (2015). What It Really Means to Practice Radical Acceptance. Psych Central.