What is Radical Acceptance?

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Hi there, I hope you did something just for you today ❤ Practicing self care is important, even if others like to call it selfishness. It’s not, you’re just taking care of you. So read a book. Watch a move. Eat ice cream. Do something that brings you joy. You deserve it!

Today I’d like to share about the technique called Radical Acceptance. I learned about it in the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Workbook. I’ve mentioned this book a few times now, so if you’ve been following along, you can probably tell I like it. A lot.

In truth, I’ve been dealing with some big things. Mental health has always been a struggle for me, and as an adult I’m having to learn things children are usually taught. Emotion regulation. Coping mechanisms. The fact that it’s ok to feel my feelings. Being vulnerable. Self Care. The list goes on.

Woman teaching her child. Learning.
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One thing that has been really helpful in cultivating inner peace is the technique Radical Acceptance. I touched briefly on this technique in my post How to Stop Letting Others Control Your Mood, but I think it warrants its own post.

So what is Radical Acceptance? Basically, it’s when you accept a situation for what it is.

One thing that throws a wrench in this is judgement.

Judgement can have a negative connotation, but it’s actually just coming to a conclusion or making a decision about something.

That person is rude.
That sweater is pretty.
That man is ugly.
That woman is attractive.

The main piece of Radical Acceptance is letting go of these judgements. Letting go of labeling a situation as good or bad, and instead accepting that it just is.

Our examples from before could evolve in our mind to leave either a negative or positive imprint.

That person is rude, and that’s bad.
That sweater is pretty, and that’s good.
That man is ugly, and that’s bad.
That woman is attractive, and that’s good.

Radical Acceptance encourages you to let go of these judgements. To see situations for what they are, then let go of any feelings that crop up. To not seek out whether something is negative or positive, but to simply give it a nod, and move on with our day.

Sounds great, right? But you’ve been making judgements for as long as you could form coherent thought. So where the heck do you start?

Thought, exploration. Judgement. Where do I start?
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One way to start is to take note of how many judgements you make in a day. I actually wrote my judgements down for two days, then went back to see what I had written.

I realized I spent a lot of time labeling things as good or bad, positive or negative. That time, when I could have been living my life, was totally wasted to judgement!

And the worst part? Once I started down a path of judgement, I tended to keep on judging.

I don’t like this sweater.
I don’t like any of my clothes.
I’ve gained a lot of weight recently.
I’m not attractive.
I’m worthless.

See how it can spiral?

What if when I made the judgement “I don’t like this sweater” I simply gave it a nod and moved on?

Yep, I don’t like this sweater. That’s true.

Moving on…

How much more peaceful does that sound?

But sometimes it’s harder to stop that spiral than to simply smile and nod. Sometimes you need to employ a coping mechanism.

What does this look like?

You’re running late for an event. You are feeling stressed. You say to yourself “My partner always makes us late”.

By doing this, you are labeling your partner as a tardy person, possibly implying a lack of respect for the time of others. This stirs up feelings of anger, then old wounds start cropping up.

My partner made us late today.
My partner was also late to that dinner with my family.
My partner doesn’t care about other people’s time.
My partner is just a disrespectful person.
My partner doesn’t care how I feel.

Wow, that escalated quickly…

What can you do when the emotions are intense and you’ve already fallen down the rabbit hole of judgement?

Well, you can choose to crawl back out.

It’s honestly that simple.

My partner does care how I feel.
My partner is not a disrespectful person.
Yes, my partner was late to dinner with my family, but there’s not much you can do when work runs late. And they were pretty stressed that day.
My partner was not the only person running late today, I could have helped them get ready or reminded them of the time sooner.

See how we climbed back out? You’ve reversed the negativity and reminded yourself of reality.

Now, you can accept it.

You’re late. You’re never going to be not late because you were pissed about it. So why not show up late holding your partner’s hand, as opposed to slamming doors and glaring at them across the room?

Accept the situation for what it is, and move on.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Inner peace. Radical Acceptance. Meditation. Happiness.
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That brings us to another key piece of Radical Acceptence: accepting the role you played in the situation.

I know, I know. It’s not fun to think about. Trust me, it’s my least favorite part too. But bear with me, because it’s important.

Let’s circle back to the situation where you and your partner were running late to an event.

Heckin’ frustrating.

I hate being late. I get so stressed out. My anxiety goes through the roof and steam practically shoots out of my ears. It’s not fun – for me or the people around me.

So I employ my coping mechanisms. Some deep breathing, some balloons full of stress and frustration floating away on the breeze. Then I get to Radical Acceptance.

Yep, I’m late. That is a fact.

Now I need to accept that my partner is not the only one who is late today. Yeesh, I know. IT’S ALL THEIR FAULT THOUGH!

But is it?

We had to leave by noon to be on time. I started getting ready at 11 am, which would have been enough time for me. I noticed my partner was still scrolling through the black hole of YouTube, but I decided not to remind them of the time because I’m not their mother. They started getting ready with 10 minutes to spare, and I began to seethe.
They always do this, I say to myself.
We left 20 minutes later than we should have, and I felt angry and like my partner did not care about our plans.

Now, using Radical Acceptance, I will take a look at both of our behaviors.

My partner made an irresponsible decision with time management.
I failed to communicate with my partner that we were getting short on time.
I failed to communicate how I felt when they were late.

Now, let’s take a breath here. This is not to say that you are responsible for your partner’s behavior. You’re not. You are only responsible for your behavior. But, at the end of the day, there are things you could have done differently in order to avoid tardiness, or maybe to avoid bitter feelings between the two of you.

It takes two to have an argument. It also takes two to avoid one.

Radical Acceptance says not to dwell on the what-ifs, but lets just take a detour here…

What if you had told your partner they were running short on time?

Well, they may have thanked you for the reminder and started getting ready. You might have been on time…

Or they may have gotten annoyed at your “mothering” and you would have still been late.

Either way, you did your due diligence. You behaved the best you could.

Now let’s look at the other piece: you lack of communication about your feelings. It is your responsibility as a romantic partner to communicate your feelings. Whether you feel comfortable or not is another story, and one you should broach with your partner or with a trained counselor or therapist.

Your job as a partner is to communicate your feelings, because how else will your partner know when you’re upset?

They’re not psychic, no matter how much you wish them to be.

So, what if you had said, “Hey babe, when you are late, I tend to feel stressed, and sometimes I get angry with you because I feel like you don’t care about my feelings on timeliness.”

Maybe your partner would have heard you, and would have apologized about their tardiness, and for hurting your feelings. Maybe you would have been late, but walked into that event hand-in-hand.

Or maybe they would not have validated your feelings. Which would suck. But then you would use Radical Acceptance to think, yep they didn’t validate my feelings, and that makes me feel sad.

You can then use that knowledge to make informed decisions about the longevity of your relationship.

I suggest counseling if this is the norm. An outside perspective can really work wonders when you’re in the thick of it.

Love. Bonding. Getting along. Couple. Fighting. Coming together. Accepting responsibility. Letting go.
Photo by Jasmine Carter on Pexels.com

So now that you’ve learned to accept your responsibility in a situation, as well as your partners, you can accept reality for what it is.

You’re late. Nothing’s going to change that now.

Radical Acceptance allows you to separate your feelings from fact.

Feelings are real, and you should not ignore them. But sometimes they paint a different picture than reality.

Think back to the sweater example. Feelings spiraled out of control and you ended up having some serious hate for your body, when it all started out as not liking a sweater.

So I encourage you to weigh your feelings against fact. Is what you’re feeling really an accurate depiction of reality?

And when you’re in a situation, good or bad, just give it a nod.

Enjoy the feelings of happiness and satisfaction that come along with some situations.

Understand the feelings of sadness or frustration that come along with other situations.

Acknowledge them, and move on with your life.

Seek contentment within yourself, like I mention in this article.

I’d like to mention that part of Radical Acceptance and learning to let go of judgement also means not judging yourself.

You are going to fail sometimes, especially when you first start trying this technique. Judging yourself for making a judgement is the opposite of helpful.

So be kind to yourself.

Acknowledge when you’ve made a judgement, and move on.

If you feel frustrated with your progress or disappointed when you make a judgement of someone, give that feeling a nod, and let it go.

Dwelling on judgements of yourself is no more healthy than dwelling on your judgements of others (or situations). Actually, it kinda defeats the purpose of the whole exercise.

Whatever you do, try not to let your emotions consume you. Feelings come and go like a tide. Make sure that when the tide passes, you have behaved in a way you can feel proud of.

Do your best. That’s all anyone can do.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and learn about situations where you practiced Radical Acceptance in the comments below. Even situations where you totally failed! This is a learning process and we’re here to support each other.

Sending love,

MK

This good boi thinks you’re awesome and is proud of how far you’ve come. He also acknowledges that is technically a judgement, and lets the feeling go so he can go sniff things and lick his butt with inner peace.

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