Steve Daily

The Importance of Radical Acceptance

Friday, August 12, 2016
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Steve Daily

Radical acceptance is a skill named by Marsha Linehan that is taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is simply accepting reality as it is, instead of continuing to think persons and situations should be the way we want them to be or think they should be. Dr. Linehan came up with a clever little formula to help explain radical acceptance. The formula is: Pain + Non-acceptance = Suffering. In life there is going to be pain. It may be physical pain or emotional pain. When we accept pain in the present moment instead of fighting it, we are able to work through it. However when we don't accept the reality of a painful situation and choose to fight it, we create more pain in our mind that leads to suffering.

If Jeff is fired and he accepts the situation, he will experience some normal anxiety and disappointment. It may be helpful for him to examine factors that led up to him being fired. Acceptance will allow him to move forward with his life. However, if Jeff gets caught up in non-acceptance he may ruminate for days and weeks about it. He may get lost in blaming others for the unfairness of his dismissal, wallow in self-pity, and stew in fantasies of getting even. He could also get stuck in self-blame and tell himself over and over that he was stupid, and he'll never find a job as good as the one he had. Refusal to accept the reality of the situation makes things worse.

If Lily is in an abusive relationship she'll remain stuck, if she refuses to accept the reality of her boyfriend's ongoing verbal and physical abuse. She may begin to believe it is her fault, and the the abuse will stop if she just does the right thing. Non-acceptance of the reality of the situation will keep it going. However, Lily will be empowered to end the relationship when she understands that she is not the cause of her boyfriend's abusive behavior. Once she realizes the reality of the situation, she can begin planning what action she needs to take to protect herself and to move forward with her life.

Are there areas where you feel stuck, because you continue to think persons or situations will change when there is no evidence to support that they will? How might radical acceptance empower you to make positive changes in your life? What steps can you take to be more accepting of reality. Remember acceptance does not mean that we like reality. It simply means that we need to accept the reality of a given situation, and respond mindfully instead of simply thinking others or situations should be different when they're not.