“Radical Acceptance” is the new catch phrase for an ancient and world-wide technique of accepting our reality, trusting that this acceptance will relieve us from unneeded suffering. As I’ve talked about before in this blog, resisting emotion leads to excess pain—instead of simply feeling the difficult feelings, we fight them and spend so much extra energy doing so. If we accept what we are already experiencing, the feelings won’t hurt as much. They will start to flow and move through us, providing a deep and transformative liberation.
Radical Acceptance often scares us away because it means that we have to come to terms with our reality and reality is often very frightening. Especially in times of stress, we would rather be anywhere but in the moment facing what is happening in our lives. Yet, this running leads us to finding more pain, often hurting others or ourselves in the process. At the very least, this escapism causes us to bury the reality of our situation. Keeping something that is an active part of our lives and emotions buried is no easy task, either. It forces us to expend countless hours of energy and thought trying to keep the pain beneath the surface. It’s futile, though, because the pain already exists and the situation is already present in our lives, whether we want it to be or not. Radical Acceptance is so important because it helps us let go of the illusion that we can just think a problem away.
The Serenity Prayer is a fantastic way of summarizing the tenants of Radical Acceptance:
“God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.”
Although I don’t prescribe to a specific faith, the meaning of this prayer is universal and closely tied to the idea of Radical Acceptance—the word “accept” is even used in the first line. This prayer first asks for the strength, through the grace of our Higher Self or a Higher Power, to let go of the things that we cannot change. Then it asks for the courage to change what we can, what is in our power to change. Then the prayer requests the guidance and wisdom to be able to distinguish between what we can and cannot change. This, all together, is the same idea as Radical Acceptance.
When we face the reality of a situation, we can then, and only then, acknowledge what it is and isn’t possible to change. This wisdom is where we often run from Radical Acceptance—we are accountable for making changes once we know what they are, and we are also accountable for feeling the pains of the things we cannot control. Surrender, in any form, is a difficult task. Yet, it is ultimately liberating and rewarding, making Radical Acceptance one of the most powerful tools of mindfulness.
Radical Acceptance is also empowering. It not only frees the energy we would otherwise be spending on resistance, but it also gives us the chance to finally know what changes we can make. Even if we cannot change the situation in our life at all, we can change our own perspective of it and how we treat the emotions that the situation causes us to feel. This alone is freeing, since we no longer feel bound by the hopelessness of an unchangeable situation. Instead, we choose to recognize that we are helpless to some changes and, through the space created during this specific acceptance, we take that energy and make the changes that we can.
Of course, Radical Acceptance demands a lot of us. It’s a hard path to “perfectly” follow, since it is often the most crucial journey to embark on when things are completely overwhelming and we have no choice to surrender. In times like this, painful feelings can be intense, so accepting these feelings can bring us right to the emotions with no mental barrier keeping us from completely feeling them. Dropping our armor hurts because vulnerability hurts. With Radical Acceptance, we make a conscious choice to lower our walls and face what is already existing, knowing that we cannot run from reality forever or that, if we do keep running, it will only hurt us more.
To walk this path of Radical Acceptance, we need to commit ourselves to an honest examination, not letting any pattern or thought slide by remaining unexamined. We make no room for excuses and the small ways we side-step reality, learning day by day how to get closer and closer to the actual happenings and experiences of our life. It’s a process to be so involved in self-examination, as each day will have new pieces of resistance come up, but it is possible and it is certainly rewarding. Imagine being compassionately freed from the burdensome happenings in your life—able to be fully expressive, aware, and non-resistant.
Because of the commitment it takes, and my own need to follow a structured path, I’ve designed the Radical Acceptance Project, where each individual walks a 30 day journey of answering questions about a concern that they are struggling to accept. One concern at a time is addressed, eventually empowering the individual to adopt Radical Acceptance into every challenge life brings. The daily structure makes it possible to stick to this path and the questions are interrogative enough to foster pure self-examination. If you would like to join, all it simply requires is you journaling—publicly or privately—about your answer to each daily question and your desire to start accepting the things you have been running from for far too long. I’ll be here on the journey with you, learning just as you are. Here’s all the information on the project (it’s free by the way!).
If you want to support and share the project, so that others may know of it, please share this link and/or include the hashtags #ICanAccept and/or #AcceptanceIsFreedom. If you’d like to donate to support this blog and the project, the link is here. Best wishes on this journey—I look forwards to the time when we will all walk through life without resistance.