Today I've been thinking about the concept of Radical Acceptance mostly because I'm having a difficult time with it right now. I have a medical condition that causes a great deal of pain, has no known cause, and treatment options that don't work well. So my doctor can neither help me prevent the symptoms or effectively treat the pain. Now I realize that many people are dealing with far worse situations. This is not a life-threatening problem or even a major life changing problem, but its really uncomfortable and unlikely to end.
So I have two choices. I can get really upset and wallow in the pain, tell myself that it's unfair, why did this have to happen to me, etc. Or I can figure out a way to accept it. This has been going on for months, and for months I've been going with plan A. I've been whining, complaining, getting worked-up and spending hours on-line trying to find a website or a blogger or someone who can tell the opposite of what my doctors have said over and over again. There is no known way to prevent or treat this condition. Plan A is not working. It's only making my feel worse when I'm trying to find a way to feel better.
USING RADICAL ACCEPTANCE TO EASE PAIN
Moving on to Plan B, Radical Acceptance. Radical Acceptance occurs when we accept what we cannot change without fighting it, without judging it and without trying to control the experience. Keep in mind that accepting a situation is much different than approving of it. You do not have to like something to radically accept it. In addition, radical acceptance does not mean accepting everything without questions. It means accepting what cannot be changed, and being open to making the changes that are possible and necessary.
Usually, when we perceive pain, whether physical or emotional, we tense up our muscles turning them into an armor against the enemy pain. Next, our minds start to spin wondering why this pain is happening and how can I stop it...now. These instinctive actions were necessary when we where hunters and gatherers and the enemy was a wild animal bent on killing. Our world has evolved past that threat, but our minds and bodies have not. The problem is when we tense-up and try to think our way out of pain, the pain doesn't go away it intensifies.
PRACTICING RADICAL ACCEPTANCE
When we radically accept pain, we open ourselves up to the experience. We relax our bodies, slow our breathing and experience each moment as it unfolds. We stop trying to figure out what we did wrong to bring on the pain. Instead, we tell ourselves it won't last forever, and it won't destroy us.
We all have to accept pain at some point in our lives. Whether you are waiting for an OTC medication to kick in to quell a migraine or you are fuming with anger after an argument or you have a chronic condition that you must tolerate on a daily basis practicing radical acceptance can help. I am not suggesting that it is a miracle cure, but it will decrease your suffering.
Start today. What do you need to radically accept?
This blog post is part of a series called Improve Your Life with DBT. If you would like to read previous posts or if you would like more information about learning DBT skills, please visit me at Rebekahshackney.com.