Updated: Feb 2, 2021
Radical acceptance is an aspect of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT); DBT teaches 4 key skills which include Distress tolerance, Mindfulness, Emotion regulation and Interpersonal effectiveness. Radical acceptance is all about a change in attitude, intentionally changing the way you look at things. If something bad happens, or something goes wrong then blaming others or getting angry or cross about it might be a normal reaction. But this doesn’t change the situation and the problem or pain still exists, or may be worse because of the blame or anger. Getting angry can cause you to lose focus on dealing with the problem – ‘blinded by rage’, the emotional response overrides the ‘wise mind’ response.
Being angry or critical about something that has happened can stop you from being able to get on with sorting out the problem – being stuck in the past of what has happened prevents you from dealing with the present and the future. Radical acceptance is all about seeing that there has been a chain of events that started in the past – some events may have involved you and some events may have involved other people – they come together to lead you to the present situation. Denying or fighting against the chain of events won’t change them, radical acceptance means accepting that chain of events has occurred.
Accepting that the events have occurred does not mean agreeing with them, or saying that they are right! It does not mean a bad thing that happened is ok, it just means that you will accept that it has happened and now you need to deal with the consequences.
Here’s an example:
Jack went for a walk up a hill with Jill, they went to get some water from a well at the top of the hill. Unfortunately Jill’s bucket had a hole in it, so having walked all the way up, Jack was cross that they had to go back down again, on the way down he fell over and hurt himself. If only Jill hadn’t brought a broken bucket then none of this would have happened – Jack was angry now! Jack has a few choices, he could lash out at Jill for bringing a broken bucket, he can scream and shout about the situation, maybe smash the bucket totally? Or he can try radical acceptance – “ok, Jill never mind about the bucket, we can find a first aid kit for my poorly, and then go back up with a new bucket”. He might be able to say “it is what it is” or “well it’s happened now, might as well get on”… accepting that the chain of events has happened and can’t be changed allows Jack and Jill to go back up the hill and fetch a new bucket of water…
Radical acceptance will take time to develop and is usually incorporated as part of the distress tolerance and mindfulness skills, suspending judgement and accepting the moment – a change in attitude:
· Accept the reality – it is what it is.
· Accept that the present situation has a cause.
· Accept that life can be worth living in spite of the present situation.
If you are easily overwhelmed by emotions then this is an area where we can work together using DBT skills, including radical acceptance, to help you find alternative ways of responding to these situations - life changing skills.