I often hear clients tell me that they can’t accept it – that if they accept it, they feel like they’re approving of it; they feel like approval for a traumatic or bad situation is an injustice. This is particularly true for the clients I see that have dealt with sexual assault or traumatic loss. They become stuck in their pain with this notion that they have to remain underwater, unable to breathe – that holding their breath honors what they lost. Raising your head above water and letting out that exhale, though, doesn’t have to mean that you’re leaving your loss behind. It can mean that you’re moving forward, carrying your pain with you instead of allowing it to be the anchor that holds you down.
Radical acceptance means acknowledging reality for what it is – pleasant and unpleasant, wholly. In this case, acceptance is not synonymous with approval.
Radical acceptance removes judgment from every aspect of the situation.
It removes the feeling that the situation isn’t fair, that you should have done something differently or the situation shouldn’t be that way, and that you have anything to be ashamed of.
Radical acceptance facilitates honesty.
We often subconsciously deny pieces of what’s happening around – or more often – within us. It means that we can look at the situation and say “you know what, this just sucks, and that’s what we have to work with right now in the present moment”.
Radical acceptance ends suffering.
When we fight our reality, we’re constantly treading water; when we stop, we’re able to relax and simply float. Suffering is exhausting, overwhelming, and optional, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
Radical acceptance does NOT mean passivity or giving up.
It isn’t giving up to acknowledge your reality for what it is in the moment – you are always able to monitor the situation and take action when you’re able to. It doesn’t mean that you sit back and say “wow this is just terrible, I’m going to do nothing about it” – it means that you see the tools you have, and you work on yourself to gain more. You aren’t able to change the situation, but you are able to improve on yourself, and to work with what’s within your control.
Further reading: Brach, T. (2003). Radical acceptance: Embracing your life with the heart of a Buddha. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
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