The Path to Radical Acceptance

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I love Grumpy Cat.  He so clearly  illustrates what happens when you refuse to accept things and continue to resist.

I was about three sessions into therapy with a new counselor having finished the PHP program and feeling pretty good about the future.  But that future was something I really could not depend on and that creates a lot of anxiety.  You know, when we hope, we are looking at a possible future that contains an outcome that we wish to be or want.

Doesn’t everyone know that the future may not bring what you hoped?

That’s the interesting thing about the future – you cannot predict it.  And prediction, or the ‘crystal ball effect’, is a hallmark of distorted bipolar thinking; you know how everything will turn out, even if you don’t have proof, facts or legitimate observations – because it simply hasn’t happened yet but you insist that you KNOW for certain what the outcome will be.

So I unfortunately suffer.  I suffer, and suffer some more, then have suffering for dessert.

Martyr?  No.  Optimism crashing to the ground?  Sometimes.  Using up too many ’emotional dollars’ betting on the positive or negative outcome of a possibility?

Bingo.

That outcome just has to be positive and if it isn’t, then something must be wrong with everyone because I predicted what was supposed to happen.  And it didn’t.

The suffering banquet comes in when, after all the emotional expenditure, zeroing all that concentration onto one outcome brings about – failure.  I hate to fail because I consider myself to be an intelligent, decent human being whose life should be exactly as he wishes it to be.

Sorry, wrong answer.  Thanks for playing!

I was suffering because I could not ACCEPT the truth of my situation.  For example, the job hunt;  I spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for that interview, doing all my homework, learning as much as I can about a potential employer, winding myself into a frenzy of activity.  So, if I’m rejected, why?  Why in the world would I be rejected and not hired?  I don’t understand.  What the hell do I have to do to get a job – pole dance for the manager?  Bake office calling card cookies with personalized messages to every interviewer?  WHAT DOES IT TAKE?  HOW LONG MUST I WAIT?

See where this is headed?  By not accepting the facts that there are millions of versions of me looking for employment, hundreds of me with the perfect skill set for the job, and tens of me with personalities that better fit the management style, what do you get?

The inability to ACCEPT that rejection.  The REFUSAL to understand that rejection. And for me, that means internalizing the failure and viola! Suffering in abundance.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Every one of the ‘normal’ people around me — those that do not quite understand the sabotaged mechanism that is distorted thinking — say things like, “Just shake it off and move on.  Don’t dwell on it.”

If only I could!  How can I make that reality happen?  How can I change my thinking so that I don’t create suffering at every turn?

The answer was handed to me by my counselor in the form of a single page of paper with the heading RADICAL ACCEPTANCE.

My initial reaction was, ‘Oh, yeah, right, whatever, it’s more psychobabble’.  I was wound up, having just come through yet another self-induced failure of yet another job rejection and not least, the death of a beloved aunt —  and believe me, I was in no mood to grasp this particular concept.  I couldn’t grasp anything that day.  And it looked so simple; I routinely reject things that are not complex.  If it’s complex, I think, it must be valid.  If it’s complex, I’m somehow able to get the theory or postulation much more easily than if it’s simple; why, I’m not entirely sure.  In truth, it’s just another form of rejection to have that attitude.

I took the paper home and spent the next four days reading, rereading and re-reviewing that single sheet of paper.  And this is what it said:

RADICAL ACCEPTANCE

Freedom from suffering requires ACCEPTANCE from deep within of what is.  Let yourself go completely with what is.  Let go of fighting reality.

ACCEPTANCE is the only way out of hell.  Pain creates suffering only when you refuse to accept the pain.  Deciding to tolerate the moment is ACCEPTANCE.

To ACCEPT something is not the same as judging it good.

Acceptance of reality as it is requires an act of CHOICE.  You have to make an inner COMMITMENT to accept.  The COMMITMENT to accept does not itself equal acceptance; it just turns you toward the path and is but the first step.

You have to turn your mind and commit to acceptance OVER AND OVER AND OVER again.  Sometimes you have to make the commitment many times in the space of a few minutes.

Now, doesn’t that seem very, very simple?  It was confounding.  Too simple to work, too fantastic.

Well, you try applying those directions and find out just how incredibly hard it is — especially if your thinking is distorted, you’re in pain and if you can’t make head nor tails out of your reasons for rejecting it.  You have to learn how to let go, how to accept, because it’s not something you get on the first try.  Or the second, third or fourth.  Or the millionth.

So I framed that single piece of paper and it sits front and center, directly in my line of sight on the wall in front of my desk, so that I can refer to it constantly.

You see, rejection, refusal — these are the attitudes that prevent you from Radical Acceptance.  Rejection and refusal feed suffering.

Please go to the link and learn about Dr. Marsha Lineham and DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy).  After reading her material, I think you might come away with the fundamental idea that it offers:

Acceptance is the only way out of hell.

This simple yet profound idea of Radical Acceptance has placed me on a path I never expected; that I was responsible for a lifetime commitment of the highest order to turn toward the path of acceptance and let go of fighting a reality that I constructed that was harming me.  And the proof of that harm was the damage and pain I was experiencing, a very direct and clear result, indeed.

Failure?  Sure, it’s still tough.  Internalizing rejection?  Yes, it still happens.  But with Radical Acceptance as a basic guide, it’s in all honesty just that much tougher — and I’m committing to a path that brings me to a centered perspective that doesn’t tear my insides up, cause me incredible stress and make me my own bad guy.  But seriously, did you think something so simple would be easy?  Of course it isn’t, and if you’re a quick-fix kind of person, then seek on.  But if you want to learn something that can bring tangible results, check it out.

This isn’t mumbo-jumbo, folks.  This concept deserves investigation and I would like to hear from anyone that is using Radical Acceptance as a tool to move forward with a better attitude and a more realistic reality.  It could just be the hardest and most rewarding psychological tool in your mental health tool kit.

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