Have you ever found yourself struggling to manage difficult emotions from past experiences that you previously processed and/or healed from?
Have you ever engaged in unhealthy coping behaviors while managing current difficult situations?
If you answered yes to either of the above, know that you aren’t alone as I have too!
A few weeks ago, I personally found myself examining why certain behaviors, fears, thoughts, and emotions continue to appear in my relationships with others, especially since I have done the work to “let it go”.
What I realized is that I had not radically accepted various past and present experiences. Instead, I was fighting the reality of situations, their outcomes and things that were beyond my control, while simultaneously carrying the associated painful emotions.
Embracing the reality of hurtful situations is hard, uncomfortable and may seem impossible. However, embracing reality, instead of fighting it, allows individuals to break cycles of rumination, cognitive distortions (negative thinking) and unpleasant emotions (i.e. guilt, shame, anger, bitterness).
In this blog I want to share with you what radical acceptance means and provide you with some tools on how to not only achieve it, but also help turn your mind towards acceptance of it.
Before we dive into these tips, let’s first understand what radical acceptance is.
Radical Acceptance is a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Tool (DBT) created by known psychologist, Dr. Marsha M. Linehan. In her book, DBT Skills Training Manual, Dr. Linehan describes Radical Acceptance as the complete and total acceptance of reality to decrease the suffering of painful emotions.
Radical acceptance does not mean that you agree with what has happened or passively “give in” to the situation that occurred/is occurring. Radical acceptance is also not the compromising of your personal morals and values.
Instead, it is the ability to accept the reality of the situation in your mind, heart, and body to stop fighting against reality and release unhelpful emotions.
Practicing radical acceptance is not an easy skill. It requires time, patience and a complete understanding of yourself and the situation you are accepting. To fully engage in radical acceptance, individuals should have an in-depth awareness of the painful emotions they struggle with.
So, you may wonder how to achieve radical acceptance and that is what I’m here to help you do.
Keep reading for 10 steps to help you get closer to radical acceptance and then read on for 4 additional tools to help turn your mind toward achieving it.
10 steps for Radical Acceptance:
1.) Observe that you are fighting against reality. Thoughts like “It shouldn’t be like this” or “I wish I can change the past” are examples of you fighting reality. It’s important to see things in the present moment to completely understand what you are going through.
2.) Remind yourself that the unpleasant reality cannot be changed. Say statements like “It happened”, “I can get through this”, or “I can only control what I can control” to begin accepting what cannot be changed.
3.) Acknowledge that something led to this moment. Examine the cause(s) to better process how the situation occurred.
4.) Practice acceptance with not only your mind, but also your body and spirit. Be mindful of your breath, posture, and use skills like half-smiling (i.e. grinning) and willing hands (i.e. open body language, uncrossed legs and arms).
5.) Engage in practicing opposite action by listing what your behavior would look like if you did accept the facts then act accordingly.
6.) Plan ahead with events that seem unacceptable and think about how you should appropriately cope. Sometimes playing it out mentally ahead of time can help you process things.
7.) Mindfully attend to physical sensations throughout your body such as tension or stress. Engage in self-soothing activities (i.e. exercising, reading, journaling, listening to music, etc).
8.) Allow feelings such as disappointment, sadness, or grief to arise in you. It is okay to feel your emotions to better manage them but be careful to not act on emotional urges.
9.) Acknowledge that life is worth living even when there might be temporary pain. Practicing gratitude can assist with increasing these thoughts. For example, if you are in chronic pain, you can acknowledge that even if life is painful, there are good moments and life is worth living.
10.) If you find yourself resisting, complete a pros and cons exercise to better understand the full impact of your choice.
Now that we’ve established ways to get closer to radical acceptance, it’s also important to discuss how to turn your mind toward achieving that acceptance.
In the DBT Skills Manual, Dr. Linehan states that turning your mind is like facing a fork in the road. You have to turn your mind toward the acceptance road, and away from the road of rejecting reality. Turning your mind is choosing to accept. The choice to accept does not itself equal acceptance. It just puts you on the path. To practice the Turning the Mind tool follow the 4 tips below:
4 Tips for Turning The Mind:
- Observe that you are not accepting. Look for anger, bitterness, annoyance; avoiding emotions; saying “Why me?”, “Why is this happening?”, “I can’t stand this,” “It shouldn’t be this way.” When you notice yourself not accepting practice, try turning your mind.
- Go within yourself and make an inner commitment to accept reality as it is.
- Do it again, over and over. Keep turning your mind to acceptance each time you come to the fork in the road where you can reject reality or accept it.
- Develop a plan for catching yourself in the future when you drift out of acceptance.
So, now that we’ve identified some great tips on how to achieve radical acceptance and help turn the mind, I encourage you to practice these tools to help you improve your emotional intelligence to overcome painful emotions, decrease avoidance and improve emotional expression.
Personally, I utilize at least one of the 10 Steps for Radical Acceptance daily. Consistently practicing one of these steps has helped me with mindfully recognizing my emotional urges that are the cause of unhealthy reactions whenever I interact with others who do not share my perspective on certain topics. Engaging in this tool has also helped me with increasing my emotional intelligence on my inability to examine past personal experiences for what they are versus what I think they “should” be.
Spending time engaging in the above tools can help build mastery. There is no order in which these tools can be used and I encourage you to try these steps at your own pace.
If you find yourself having a hard time accepting a difficult reality and notice it taking a toll on yourself and your relationship with others, you do not have to go at it alone. Solid Foundations can help! Learn more at solidfoundationstherapy.com or give us a call at 630-633-8532 today!