What is Radical Acceptance?
Radical acceptance is the act of deciding that the thoughts, feelings, fears, and self-judgement we feel do not go away by engaging in negative self-talk and avoidance. It is the practice of learning to take a pause and break the old, unhelpful cycles. While it will start off as a mechanical reminder of how to change, it will develop into a way of being, a natural response to unhealthy, maladaptive thinking. It is also a way of learning how to be yourself, and be okay with who that person is.
How do I practice Radical Acceptance?
Radical Acceptance has many books and articles written on it, so I will introduce it with 3 main exercises, so you can get started right now: Pausing, Accepting and Being with Breath.
Pausing: The cycles we get into can drive us insane. Pausing is a way to interrupt these cycles. The next time you are in a situation where you feel totally out of control, angry or impulsive, work on pausing. Take a moment, breathe deeply and answer these question: Why am I feeling this way? Is what I am about to do really going to help me? You may be surprised by the answer. If you are caught in a loop of self-destructive or self-loathing behaviour, try putting on the brakes and asking, is this where I really want to go?
Accepting: It is bad enough that we find ourselves in uncomfortable emotional states. We also have a tendency to feel bad about feeling bad. Inside we say might be something like I shouldn’t be feeling so bad about feeling bad right now, jeez, I’m an idiot. So now, you are feeling bad and feel bad about feeling bad. See how this could go on forever? Accepting is the act of noticing your thoughts and mood, and giving yourself the space to feel that way, without judgement. It is the freedom to feel and then move on. It may not make uncomfortable feelings any easier, but when they are done, it can stop there. It is the first major step in accepting who you are.
Being with Breath: Remember to breathe. It is the first thing that starts to get fast and short when we feel threatened, shameful, anxious and scared. This is a gentle reminder to break up those uncomfortable moments with a deep, belly-out, puffed-chest breathe. Take it all in (count to 4), pause for a moment, and slowly exhale (count to 4). This exercise refocuses the mind on the present moment, and tells the body that everything is going to be alright. The term “breathe easy” came from somewhere right? Well, make it your personal mission, and you’ll be calmer in no time. Breathe in what you want, and exhale everything that needs to go.