Radical Acceptance Part 1

Part One: Introduction to Radical Acceptance

Have you ever wondered why some people get destroyed by suffering, and other people, when they suffer, they don't get destroyed. In fact, some people not only don't get destroyed by suffering, but they...they seem to become even stronger just by going through suffering.  Have you ever thought about that? 

Well, I didn't think about for a long time because I was brought up believing that suffering is something everybody can go through. So I was just brought up thinking that. So I always thought it was true.  That if you wanted to go through it, you could.

Then when I started working with people who suffer a lot, both as a psychotherapist but also I've worked a lot with the poor and with the homeless, I started realizing, hey wait a minute, I'm not so sure this is true.  Everybody doesn't go through suffering.  Some people get destroyed by suffering. Despite their best efforts, some people simply get destroyed.

So I started asking myself what was the difference.  I mean, what was the difference between the person who gets destroyed and the person who doesn't.  Why is it that when some people get knocked down, they keep going. They get knocked down, they get up, and they go again. Other people, they get knocked down and they just stay down; they never get up. 

So I thought to myself, well, I need to find the answer to this question. Mainly 'cause I work with a lot of people who suffer, and I work with a lot of people who seem to be getting destroyed by it.  So I thought, well, if I can find the answer to that question, I could teach it and I could help the people that I work with.  So I started to try to figure it out. So I thought a lot about it.  I also did a lot of reading. I decided, alright, the thing to do is I'll try to read as much as I can about people who have lots of suffering in their lives, tragedies and traumas, and the people who somehow make it, and I'll try to figure out, what's the difference between the people who make it and people who don't make it.

The purpose of this program is for me to teach you what I've learned. In all the readings that I've done, all the thinking that I've done, and all the people I've talked to. What we're going to focus on in this program is how to make it; how to keep yourself from being destroyed.  Even how to grow or to build when a life that you're living feels like it's not worth living. 

We're going to talk about 3 sets of skills, or 3 sets of behaviours. Three things to practice.  These seem to be what the people who grow all have in common.

So, there's a lot of information that's going to be coming your way in this particular program.  You may want to take some notes.  Most people find that pretty useful.  So if you want to take some notes, I recommend that you do.  The thing to do right now is to get up and put this program on pause. Go get yourself some paper; get a pencil or a pen; come back; hit the start button; get yourself all comfy again and get ready to go.

Now while you're doing all of that, I'm going to get myself all organized. I'm going to get all organized and be ready to teach the skills when you get back. 

One more thing.  If you just so happen to have my skills training book, when you get up to go get paper, go get your skills training manual. If you don't have the manual but you've got the handouts, well go get your handouts.  Bring them back.  And when you come back and sit down, you're going to want to open your book up and you're going to find the following handouts.  You're going to find "Basic Principles of Accepting Reality."  And there are two pages. On the first page you're going to have Radical Acceptance, Turning the Mind.  We're going to be going over those skills. And on the second page you're going to have Willingness and Willfulness. We're going to go over those too. And when you get back, I'll be back. I'll be ready so I hope you are. Let's go.

There may be an infinite number of really painful things that can happen to you. But there are not an infinite number of responses you can make to pain.  In fact, if you sit back and think about it, there are only four. There are only four things you can do when painful problems come into your life. 

What do you think they are?  Think for a minute.  A problem is in your life, pain, suffering, something you don't want in it. How can you respond?

Well the first thing you could do is you could do is you could solve the problem. You can figure out a way to either end the painful event or you could figure out a way to leave the situation that's so painful. That's the first thing you could do.  Solve the problem.

What's the second thing you could do?  You could try to change how you feel about the problem; to figure out a way to take a negative in your life and make it into a positive. Alright, so that's the second thing you could do.

What's your other option?  You could accept it. So that's the third thing you can do.  You could just accept the problem.

Ok.  That's not everything you could do. There is a fourth alternative. What do you think it is? You could stay miserable.  That's the only other option you've got.

So you've got to either solve it, change how you feel about it, accept it, or stay miserable.

The skills I'm going to talking about, you could call them 'Reality Acceptance Skills'. And there are three: radical acceptance, turning the mind, and willingness. We're going start with the first one, radical acceptance.

Can you think of any really serious problems, really serious pain, serious traumas, things that make you really unhappy that you can't change? Maybe you've had a child who's died. People who have had a child who's died never get over it. Maybe you have a permanent disability.

 What are your options?  You can be miserable or you can accept the reality that you've got it.  Maybe you've had a really painful childhood.  You know, a lot of people have to live with that; you just have to live with the fact that those happy childhoods you see on tv aren't in your life and there's nothing you can do about it.  Maybe you didn't get a job that you really wanted - there's nothing you can do about it.

These are just not the kind of things you can start being happy about. So what are your options?  You can either be miserable or you can figure out a way to accept the reality of your own life.

So what's Radical Acceptance?  What do I mean by the word 'radical'?  Radical means complete and total.  It's when you accept something from the depths of your soul. When you accept it in your mind, in your heart, and even with your body.  It's total and complete. 

When you've radically accepted something, you're not fighting it. It's when you stop fighting reality.  That's what radical acceptance is. 

The problem is, telling you what it is and telling you how to do it are two different things.  Radical acceptance can't really be completely explained. Why not? Because it's something that is interior - it's something that goes on inside yourself.  But all of us have experienced radical acceptance so what I want you to do right now is to try to focus in on sometime in your life when you've actually accepted something, radically - completely and totally.

So let's think about it. When might that be?  Well, think back in your own life to either something you've lost, perhaps someone you've loved has died, or something that you really wanted that you didn't get - a job you really wanted and you didn't get it.

Think about something you wanted that you either didn't get or something that you had that you've lost.  Now, sit back, close your eyes and go back in time to right before you found out that you've lost what you had or right before you've found out that you weren't going to get what you wanted. Imagine that again.  Kind of go back there. And then go through that period were you weren't accepting it, and then move to imagining when you did accept it.  So kind of like, relive that.

Most people can find some place in their life where that's happened to them and where they've accepted it, and that's what I mean by radical acceptance.

I'm guessing some of you tried that exercise and you just couldn't think of any time when you've accepted something. So you couldn't imagine what it felt like cause you couldn't even remember a time when you have done it. Don't worry about it.  Just try it another time - maybe after the program, today, tomorrow, or some other day. Just see if you can go back to a time when you've accepted.

But for the moment, let me tell you what it might feel like.  Often when you've accepted you have this sense of letting go of the struggle.  It's just like you've been struggling and now you're not.  Sometimes, if you have accepted, you just have this sense of being centered, like you feel centered inside yourself somehow.

You may have a lot of sadness. Acceptance often goes with a lot of sadness actually, but even though you've got sadness, there's a feeling like a burden's lifted. Usually if you've accepted, you feel, well, ready to move on with your life. Sort of feel free, ready to move. So that's what it feels like. 
Let's keep going.  Pain is pain. Suffering, agony, are pain plus non-acceptance. So if you take pain, add non-acceptance you end up with suffering. Radical acceptance transforms suffering into ordinary pain.

There are three parts to radical acceptance.  The first part is accepting that reality is what it is.  The second part is accepting that the event or situation causing you pain has a cause.  The third part is accepting life can be worth living even with painful events in it. 

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