In this third installment of Hygienic Practices for Your Mental Health, we’re going discuss the concept of radical acceptance. We know what acceptance means, but why the word radical?
The term “radical” denotes completeness and thoroughness. It is used to emphasize the need for a shift in mindset to go beyond surface level acceptance and truly embrace the reality of our experiences. even those which are painful. In other words, “this ain’t play, play!” as my coach often says. It’s not easy…but if we surrender to this kind of acceptance, it can be healing and liberating!
Radical acceptance involves accepting the things we cannot change, such as past events or other people's actions. If we continuously say things like “it’s not fair; why did this have to happen,” “they should’ve done that,” or “I wish I would have done this,” we keep ourselves looped in the past and fantasizing about a story that cannot be re-written. Yes, we have the power to reframe and change the narrative of our life circumstances, but we can’t change the past!
This deep embrace of reality provides the clarity we need to focus our energy on what we can control like the present moment and our own responses. When we do this, we free ourselves from the emotional burden of constantly fighting against what is!
One of the hardest things I had to do at one point in my life was to ask my oldest daughter to leave our home. Even though I knew she would likely be living in her car with all associated risks, I had to accept that she was living contrary to the health and wellbeing of everyone else in our home. Even though I knew at her core she was loving, caring, and respectful, I had to accept she was not showing up as her beautiful self. Even though I had faith that there could be change and reconciliation, I had to accept that wasn’t going to happen at that point and time. There was a God ordained process she needed to go through. Fortunately, there is a wonderful ending to the story, but at the time there was no way to know it would be so. By practicing radical acceptance, I was able to make the difficult decision and move forward in peace.
As I write this blog, I am currently practicing radical acceptance as it pertains to funding for my grandson’s childcare. I’ve struggled with many frustrating, resisting, and might I say “ungodly” thoughts. Yet all those negative thoughts and emotions did nothing to make those funds magically appear. They only added to my stress and frustration. I had to accept I have no control over those funds being released. It is totally in the hands of God and those with the funding. Once I thoroughly and completely accepted that fact, I could focus on what needed to be done in the meantime. I’m human and I still go there from time to time, but not for long! I take a few deep cleansing breaths and accept what is!
Where can you apply the concept of radical acceptance? Perhaps it’s dealing with the unexpected death of a loved one. Radical acceptance can help you acknowledge the reality of the loss, express all the emotion, and release any lingering anger and blame…or it may help you acknowledge the possible need for a therapist or counselor to help you move through the grieving process.
Radical acceptance is not just for the big and heavy stuff! It is beneficial in our daily lives for minor annoyances like being stuck in traffic or dealing with unpredictable weather. There is nothing we can do with either, but we can accept our lack of control in these circumstances, cease our resistance, and release ourselves from the grip of worry. rumination and frustration. It is in these daily occurrences that we can build our radical acceptance muscles.
I encourage you to practice often! It’s another powerful practice to help you maintain your mental health!