DBT Peer Connections

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Radical Acceptance: What it is and How to Do It

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Author: Rachel Gill

Radical Acceptance Graphic by Rachel Gill

Are you an emotionally sensitive person or familiar with the following statements? “Don’t take it so personally! Just get over it! You shouldn’t let things bother you so much!” Do you wish you could let go of things that bother you but do not know how. If so, then read on.

In Dialectical Behavior Therapy, we learn a specific skill on how to go about “not taking things too personally.” We call it Radical Acceptance. What is Radical Acceptance, why is it useful, and how does it help one to “get over it?” The simple answer is. Pain + Non-acceptance = Suffering and likewise, acceptance is the entrance to change and the exit to suffering. To this end, Radical Acceptance is a way to change the way you think to change how you feel and therefore respond to stressful, emotionally arousing situations more effectively.

So how do you Practice Radical Acceptance? First, you have cultivate willingness. That is you have to want to accept whatever it is that is causing you to suffer emotionally and that you cannot change. Then you commit to turn your mind toward accepting over and over, noticing wilfulness to resist acceptance (without necessarily judging yourself for it), and cultivating willingness to continue practicing Radical Acceptance even when you do not feel like it.

A few important things to know before you start practicing; first, Radical Acceptance is not a goal but a task. This is because people do not have the means to truly come to a state of pure Radical Acceptance; the human experience is a never-ending ebb and flow of thoughts, emotions, body sensations, learning and environmental contexts, ever-changing, Therefore, so does the mind. Simply stated, just because you accepted something today does not mean you will accept it tomorrow.

Now, you may be thinking that Radical Acceptance is an easy enough concept to understand, there are, nonetheless, some important tips to follow that hopefully reduce your frustration with practicing. a) Radical Acceptance sounds simple to do, but is actually quite hard to do b) Radical Acceptance is a task not a means to an end or instantaneous all-purpose solution. In other words, practice does not make perfect; practice makes improvement. c) Start with things that are less distressing which are easier to gain acceptance around instead of going for your biggest acceptance tasks first. It is easier for a person to Radically Accept another driver cutting him/her off in rush hour traffic than past trauma related to childhood abuse. d) Willingness to practice and recognizing one’s willful resistance toward practicing aids in building mastery of Radical Acceptance.

Now that you know the basics, I hope you try Radical Acceptance and let me know how it works for you.

Love, and kindness,

Pinki Tuscaderro (aka Rachel Gill)


Author: Rachel Gill

I am a survivor on mission to synthesize balance from division, to find dialectical healing, learn to love what I am feeling, live in the now, show my peers how.

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