Utilizing Radical Acceptance to Reduce Struggling

Using Radical Acceptance to Minimize Suffering

As a psychologist, I often teach clients about the difference between pain and suffering in my clinical practice. Pain alone can be difficult. But only if you don't accept it does it become suffering.

Of course, more than a year after the Covid-19 pandemic began, pain and suffering are understandable emotions. But as a compassionate gesture for yourself, it can be liberating to think about how you are approaching your own agony and whether there are ways to alleviate it a little.

After acknowledging my clients' legitimate needs, I encourage them to rise to the challenge by embracing what has been termed radical acceptance. It's part of the type of treatment I practice, dialectical behavior therapy, developed by psychologist Marsha Linehan. Many people know the term from the popular book "Radical Acceptance" by meditation teacher, psychologist and podcast host Tara Brach.

Radical acceptance means realizing your emotional or physical distress – be it related to minor problems like traffic or major challenges like navigating a chronic illness – and practicing acceptance wholeheartedly.

While it doesn't sound intuitive, accepting negative circumstances can help you feel better. "Life regularly and inevitably involves emotional stress, anger, health fears, shame about failed relationships," said Dr. Broke in an interview, "but anything that doesn't fully accept our human experience will keep us trapped in those emotions."

One reason for this is that the habitual way we deal with difficult situations, such as pretending that everything is fine, makes us comfortable when we feel angry or even try to submit to avoid, that we really feel our feelings, is ultimately exhausting and not restorative. This is where the radical piece of radical acceptance comes into play. In this case, instead of being halfway through what feels wrong to you and those around you, the word means to do whatever it takes. It is the difference between assuming that you are anxious and avoiding and willing to feel anxious as you approach significant opportunities.

Many of my clients initially mistake accepting for resigning themselves to feeling bad, but that couldn't be further from what this practice intends. Psychologically, acceptance is an active attitude that encourages change by helping us manage our emotions so we can solve problems. For example, emotional eating can be a response to feeling bad about being overweight, but in fact choosing healthy foods can be easier once you let go of compassionately berating yourself.

One trick to approach radical acceptance, according to Dr. Broke keeping an eye on the acronym RAIN. RAIN stands for: recognize and pause to notice; Allow or accept your current experience; Investigate by pinpointing what is happening in your mind and body. then nurture by bringing compassion to yourself.

If you choose to accept acceptance in tense situations, you will make a habit of highlighting moments in your life when you need them most. As a bonus, studies have also shown that therapies that involve acceptance reduce suicide, substance use, anxiety, chronic pain, and improve relationships and subjective well-being.

If it feels like an extreme overhaul of your personality becoming a more acceptable person, research suggests that with little effort, self-help exercises similar to those suggested below can help you improve peace of mind and quality of life.


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