Distress Tolerance- Radical Acceptance

Sometimes you may run into an issue that is simply out of your control. It can be easy to think “This isn’t fair” or ” I shouldn’t have this problem”, even though those ways of thinking only make the matter worse.

Radical acceptance refers to a healthier way of thinking during these situations. Instead of focusing on how you would like something to be different, you will recognize and accept the problem or situation as it is. Remember, accepting is not the same thing as condoning something.

Learning to accept the problems that are out of your control will lead to less anxiety, anger, and sadness when dealing with them. It is about saying Yes to life as it is. Let’s say that you find out you were not selected for a job where you felt that you were the best candidate. Typical thinking would be ” This isn’t fair-I did everything right! I was the best one for the position. They can’t do this to me”. When you start to use radical acceptance your response would be similar to “It’s frustrating that I didn’t get the job, but I accept that they felt someone else would be a better fit.” This is not to say that choosing this method makes it any easier but it will save you the added emotional stress in the long run.

It’s difficult to accept what you don’t want to be true, but it is more difficult to not accept. Not accepting things as they are brings on more suffering. Accepting doesn’t mean agreeing. No one wants to experience pain, sadness, disappointment or loss. These experiences are almost always a part of life. Replacing “why is this happening to me?” with “what is this trying to teach me?” is a game changer. You may build upon the emotion with your thoughts and create more drama by attempting to avoid how things truly are. The great thing about this is you can immediately stop by choosing to practice acceptance. So many people may choose to avoid and we all know how this can turn out: gambling, drinking, drugs, overworking, overeating or not eating at all and the list goes on. Either one of us has been there or knows someone who struggles with any of these destructive behaviors. It is important to point out that while it may be some short term relief , usually it will diminish your ability to feel joy in the long-term.

Radical acceptance is a skill that requires practice and life gives us so many opportunities where we can choose to accept certain circumstances. If you’re running late to pick up your child from school , it can be easy to get upset with the ongoing traffic and feel like nothing ever goes right. The reality is that with a phone call to the administration, you can feel secure in knowing that your child will be supervised and you are on your way. From problems that can be solved to more intense ones like death of a loved one, there are ways to cope and change your perception of how you choose to deal with it. A place to begin is by centering your thoughts and your breathing. Give yourself the room to feel these emotions, let them come up and allow them to pass. Accept all that you are feeling while telling yourself you can get through this. I find that the phrase ” It is what it is” has always helped me to realize a better way of thinking about change, pain, loss etc. The next step is an option or solution for the matter if possible. I admit, it takes lots of practice but it is about accepting reality, and then you can start to change and/or heal. It’s about using your energy to accept and be able to move on.

Linehan, M.M. (2014). DBT Skills Training Manual, Second Edition. New York: Guilford Press

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Be yourself. There is no one better.

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