I’ve found myself writing about radical acceptance a lot lately. It’s always on my mind, one of the most fundamental beliefs I have, a huge component of my mood skills and my parenting philosophy — but I haven’t written much about it, because I find it hard. A poor explanation makes it sound like optimism on speed, or hippie passivity, or dressed up defeatism, when it is absolutely none of those things. I think, and hope, that between these two takes I give a decent introduction to this simple and profound concept.
Explaining Radical Acceptance, Take One:
I find radical acceptance to be one of the hardest things to explain to anyone else, but also one of the most profound tools of my own wellbeing.
It’s NOT about “looking on the bright side” or “staying positive” — it’s seeing exactly what is, even all the shit, and just… accepting the fact of its existence, and, yes, sometimes, seeing the beauty in the ugliness, and the teeny tiny sparks of light in the dark.
It’s not about defeat or avoiding change, either, but rather makes the changes we’re trying to implement SO much more effective, because we’re not wasting energy denying what is, or making it out to be something it’s not (like completely horrible, or so perfect it’s unimprovable).
It’s nothing more or less than observation without judgment, allowing for a deeper and truer and more awe-some observation than would otherwise be possible. Which is one of the most radical acts imaginable.
Explaining Radical Acceptance, Take Two:
Here is a universal truth you may or may not have heard yet: you have the right to feel however you feel.
However you feel right now is OK. Depressed and hopeless and like this is pointless? That’s OK. Pissed off and afraid and hating the way you feel all the time? That’s OK too. No, it’s not fun (it’s OK to not enjoy it), and you don’t have to stay this way (it’s OK to desire to change it), but you still have permission, still have the right, to feel it.
And — here’s where it can get scary, and I started crying the first time I sat through this lesson — you have the right to feel all the ways you don’t feel, too. You have the right to feel joy. You have the right to feel anger. You have the right to feel safe. You have the right to love yourself, college drop out, struggling student, just as you are.
You don’t have to. But you have permission to. People can try to take away your ability to, and undoubtedly at times they’ve succeeded, but no one can take away your inalienable right to feel whatever and however you do and might feel, even all the ugly scary dark things, even all the beautiful scary joyful things.
That’s Radical Acceptance 101. Here’s RA 102: Some of those things you feel aren’t the truth, especially the ones that whisper oh-so-loudly about yourself when your moods are disordered. It’s OK to feel them — but don’t confuse that with believing them. You are neither the greatest thinker since da Vinci nor a useless collection of carbon good only for compost, though (if you’re like me), you’ve found yourself convinced of each in turn, sometimes in the span of minutes. Yes, dissociation is generally best avoided, but a certain moderate distance between the things our crazy tries to convince us of and the core of our self can be quite beneficial. Be fully present in this moment, but allow a certain detachment between your feelings and your knowledge.
Accept everything. Believe less.
What are your thoughts on radical acceptance?