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Practice Radical Acceptance


Clients often balk at the idea of accepting their bodies or behaviors because they think that acceptance means being okay with things as they are. I’ve blogged about how we can embrace both acceptance and accountability. A movement called Radical Acceptance takes the concept a step further and is worth learning about.

“Radical acceptance means recognizing your emotional or physical distress . . . and wholeheartedly practicing acceptance.” (“5 ways to become more accepting,” Sarasota Herald Tribune, 5/18/21, 6E) Why throw yourself all in? Because radical acceptance actually makes you feel better. It helps you recognize that humans are complicated, fragile creatures who have complex feelings and thoughts. When you’re 100% with and for yourself, you’re being your most human no matter what’s going on with you.

When you radically accept your thoughts and feelings, you don’t deny or minimize them. They may make you uncomfortable and you may not like them, but they’re yours. And if it’s not useful to have them, you can then decide what to do with them—but not before recognizing their depth and breadth.

Here are the five ways you can become more accepting:

  1. Scan your mind for judgmental thoughts. Rather than make thoughts or feelings right or wrong and good or bad, acknowledge their presence. Simply experience them. 
  2. Honor your emotions. They may be telling you something because that is their purpose. After you allow yourself to feel an emotion, then—and only then—can you decide what to do with it.
  3. Release the tension in your face. Notice your facial expression and any tension that comes with it. Are your frowning or grimacing? It’s a reflection of your feelings.
  4. Act willingly. Be there for yourself in the moment and do what’s best for you. Don’t slip into default mode or slide away from discomfort (or joy). Dare to act differently.
  5. Work on your U-turns. Be patient and recognize that an emotional about face won’t happen instantly. Radical Acceptance takes practice—and practice leads to progress.

Consider what you’re feeling right now. Are you intrigued or put off by Radical Acceptance? Do feel anxious to move on to other things? Are you scared that you’d like to try this approach but fear you’ll fail? Embrace all the feelings and simply let them co-exist together. Experience what’s there right now. This is the best way to get to know yourself inside and out and it may take some time and practice. But it’s well worth it.