Radical Acceptance
by Brent Menninger
  ACCEPTANCE is acknowledging what is.
To ACCEPT something is not the same as judging it good.
  ACCEPTANCE ≠ approval.
  Pain creates suffering only when you refuse to ACCEPT the pain.
  ACCEPTANCE is the only way out of hell.
  Freedom from suffering requires going deep within to ACCEPT what "is."  Let yourself go completely with what "is."  Let go of fighting reality.
  Deciding to tolerate the moment is ACCEPTANCE.

Pain happens; it is a necessary part of living.  Pain is useful information when you touch a hot stove and move your hand to avoid a burn.  If you were without the sensations of pain you would be in deep trouble. But pain cannot always be avoided. The psychological pain of loss of a loved one (grief) is a particularly intense pain.

It is hard to accept many things that happen - the way a loved one died, the way your parents acted, or the way others have treated you.  The mind does not want to allow painful thoughts into consciousness, so it avoids these thoughts.  When avoidance of painful thoughts becomes habitual, this behavior turns into denial. Denial keeps from consciousness the awareness of pain in oneself or others.  The irony is that denial does not decrease pain, it actually perpetuates pain.  Until the pain is appropriately dealt with, it will turn into suffering.

Suffering can sneak up on you in many forms. One form is excuses, "it really doesn?t matter" when it really does matter.  Also taking the victim role, asking "why me?" And focusing on how badly you feel and not what needs to be done. Righteous anger, "that's not right" again focuses on how you feel not the reality.  Worry makes you passive, "what do I do, what do I do, what do I do" and changes the focus from here-and-now to there- and-then.

Pain can be almost impossible to bear, but suffering is even more difficult.  When you refuse to accept pain, you will suffer. When you cling to getting what you want and refuse to accept what you have, you will suffer.  Fighting reality, opposing the inevitable or struggling against what is - causes suffering.  SUFFERING = PAIN X NON-ACCEPTANCE OF THE PAIN (Suffering is when pain is denied, avoided, or renounced.)

The irony is that denial does not decrease pain, it actually perpetuates pain.

For example, the alcoholic is in denial of how his behavior hurts other people (the pain of abuse and neglect) and hurts himself (damaged relationships, losing jobs, getting DUI's, and physical problems). To break the vicious cycle of addiction and denial, the alcoholic needs to Radically Accept his addiction by taking the first step in A.A. "We are powerless over alcohol and our lives have become unmanageable." He must accept that he has a disease and accept that his life is out of control. Once he accepts these problems, he can start to take responsibility for what he is doing and how he is treating others. If, however, he remains in denial, everyone's suffering will continue.

DBT encourages acceptance rather than change, in the tradition of Zen Buddhism.  Zen emphasizes acceptance and awareness of the present moment, enhancing intuition, and experiencing emotions without inhibition.  Radical acceptance is the dialectical process of embracing AND releasing or connecting AND letting go.  Accepting the things you cannot change, awareness of how these things feel, activating wisdom, experiencing serenity.

Some myths about acceptance:

If you don't accept something, it will magically change and you won't have to deal with it. (Avoiding going to the Doctor's office about a changed mole will not magically prevent a diagnosis of skin cancer, it will make it worse).
If you accept your painful situation, you will give in to it or it will take over your life.  (How often have you avoided a 'confrontation' only to have it turn out to be much less difficult than you had feared?  If you had pursued the confrontation, you could have saved all the time you spent dreading it).
If you accept your painful situation, you are accepting a life of pain without end. (Actually, with acceptance, you can move on to problem solving).

Acknowledging the truth as it is not what you want it to be. Sometimes it is recognizing what is without judgment or opinion. Radical acceptance strives to be total and complete including mind, heart, body, and soul.  Acceptance is the first step toward making a change for the better.

         The Purple Problem: Imagine that you hate the color purple.  Then imagine that you move to a house where your room is purple. If you refuse to accept that the room is purple, you will never paint it a color that you want.  Fighting reality causes suffering (I hate this room).  Sometimes people get so caught up in hate that they don't change things.  First, accept the purple-ness of the room, and then paint it.

[DBT Self Help] [What is DBT?] [DBT Skills (defined)] [Connecting Skills] [DBT Lessons] [DBT Video Text] [Everyday DBT] [Instant Mindfulness] [Instant Access DBT] [Links] [About this Website]

© 2003 - 2012 by Lisa Dietz. Please read the Copyright Page to learn how you may or may not use these materials. This website is for informational purposes only and not for any other purpose. None of information referenced by or presented on this website is intended for counseling or treatment of a specific person -- you or anyone else. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this website. Using this site or communicating with DBT Self Help, LLC, through this site does not form a counseling or treatment relationship. Please review the full disclaimer for more information.