Accepting What Is Within Your Power to Change Will Set You Free
What is radical acceptance? Let’s start with what it is not. It is not approval of what happened. It does not mean that you are excusing bad behavior or that you are ok with it. You are not absolving the person who hurt you of all responsibility. You are not allowing the betrayal or infidelity.
You are acknowledging reality so that you do not have to suffer and so that you can choose to change it. Fighting reality only intensifies our emotional reaction and creates suffering. Suffering is optional.
WISE WOMEN KNOW
Suffering is optional. Through acceptance of the way things are, we free ourselves from the past and create a new and better future.
Radical acceptance requires that you look upon yourself, others, and the world in an entirely new way. You must be willing to let go of your ideas about how things “should be” and simply accept the way things are… in this present moment. When you radically accept something, you are completely releasing judgment of it and avoiding any attempts to fight against or change it. For example, if you were to radically accept this present moment in time, it means that you would acknowledge that everything that “is” right now is the result of a very long and complicated chain of events. You are responsible for some of this present moment and you are not responsible for some of this present moment. Many events have happened to bring you to precisely where you are right now.
WISE WOMEN KNOW
“The curious paradox is when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” – Carl Rogers
Once we accept reality, we can consider if we’d like to change it. We can say: “OK, this happened. How do I want to handle it?” In other words, practicing acceptance actually leads the way to problem solving. By practicing radical acceptance, you still react. But your reactions are less intense, and they don’t last as long as they would if you focused on fighting. Another benefit is that you typically spend less time thinking about the situation. And when you do think about it, it triggers less emotional pain for you. People often describe a feeling of being “lighter,” “relief,” “like a weight has been lifted.”
With acceptance, your suffering dissipates. The pain doesn’t disappear. But because you aren’t suffering, the pain becomes more bearable, and dissipates over time.
Women often get hung up on the idea of forgiveness during divorce—they cannot bring themselves to forgive a cheating husband who has abandoned them and the kids. Radical acceptance presents an attractive alternative if you are hung up on the idea of forgiveness. It has nothing to do with the other person. It’s completely about reducing your personal pain.
Gail worked with a psychiatrist during her divorce who told her that in order to move forward, she needed to forgive her husband for having an affair with another woman. Gail wasn’t ready to forgive and could not take the necessary steps to end her marriage. She was so locked in to the pain and suffering, that she could not let go of the cycle and move forward with her life. When Gail shifted her focus to accepting that she could move forward by practicing radical acceptance, things began to shift for Gail. She recognized that she could let go of the cycle of pain, and yet still hold the other person completely responsible for his behavior.
Radical acceptance takes lots of practice. And understandably, it might feel strange and hard. But remember that radical acceptance is about acknowledging reality – not liking it or contesting it. Once you acknowledge what’s really happening, you can change it and start to heal. Radical acceptance has nothing to do with being passive or giving up. To the contrary, it’s about channeling your energy into moving on. Follow the steps below to embrace what is so that you can move forward and live your life on your terms:
☐ Mindful Action Steps
✓ Create a new mindset. Instead of resistance, practice acceptance to embrace the things you cannot change. While engaging in your mediation practice, repeat this mantra: I may not be happy about this result, but I accept it.
✓ Change your perspective. Outcomes depend heavily on factors beyond our control. Your spouse has decided he wants a divorce. You have to share custody of the children. You will have to go back to work. Fighting these realities may have a more negative impact on your emotional wellbeing than the problem itself. Instead of fighting these realities, accept them and lean into them. Practice this mantra throughout the day when things don’t go as planned: Perhaps there is another way to look at this.
✓ Choose peace of mind. Accept and move on from your history and how you feel about it. At some point, fighting because you are “right” and have been “wronged” is self-defeating and keeps you stuck. Minimize the self-talk about what shouldn’t have happened so you can move on. Practice this mantra when the chatter in your head becomes deafening: I’d rather be at peace than be right.
✓ Allow yourself to process pain. Accepting the way things are doesn’t mean we escape pain. In fact, it can open the door to experiencing necessary mourning because we resist the urge to numb our feelings. Accepting reality gives us the space to work through our feelings effectively. When engaging in your meditation practice at the end of the day, allow yourself to feel any discomfort you may be experiencing. Envision a healing golden light encompassing your body and bringing you peace. Breathe that golden light into whatever part of your body is feeling tight or anxious and experience the relief it brings. Repeat this mantra: I am safe.