What Is Radical Acceptance and How Can It Help?

In a nutshell radical acceptance is the acceptance of our reality and thereby a reduction in the amount of emotional suffering we are experiencing.

Inevitably, we all experience pain in life, whether it is physical or emotional. Pain is part and part of inhabiting a human body. It’s a natural body signal to alert us that something is wrong, however; how we choose to deal with pain has a significant impact on well-being.

Often, people choose to ignore or reject certain kinds of pain or use unhealthy coping habits to minimize the discomfort in the short term. By not accepting reality, pain can turn into suffering, which causes ongoing distress.

 Radical acceptance is a life changing skill to reduce our suffering.  

It requires the ability to stop fighting reality, to stop responding with impulsive or destructive behaviours when things aren’t going the way we hoped and planned, and are therefore keeping us trapped in a cycle of suffering.

To truly accept reality, we must firstly accept the facts about the past and present, even if they are uncomfortable or overwhelming.   By acknowledging reality rather than rejecting it, we are able to move towards change.

Radical acceptance of the reality of a situation does not mean approval or condoning a situation. It simply means accepting that it is a reality.

Pushing through tough times isn’t easy. But choosing to do nothing about our emotional suffering and pain is what makes many people feel stuck.

Once we know how to accept reality while recognising that this is NOT approving of it, is when we can begin the pathway of change and recovery.

To accept that “what is” means we can turn our mind to “that which we can do”, to ease our suffering.

Steps for Practicing Radical Acceptance Using DBT

  • If you hear yourself saying: “It shouldn’t be like this”, notice that you are fighting against reality.
  •  “It has happened”.   Remind yourself that the unpleasant reality cannot be changed.
  • “This is how it happened.” Acknowledge that something led to this moment and remember this is not the same as approving or condoning.
  •  Practice acceptance by being mindful of your breath and posture and of feelings such as disappointment, sadness, or grief.
  •  List what your behaviour would look like if you do accept the facts then act accordingly.
  •  Build an acceptance that life is worth living, even when there might be temporary pain. This too shall pass. All emotions pass over time. Surf the wave of emotion with support and skills.

At the Fitzrovia Psychology Clinic we teach this skill as part of our therapies and in our DBT programme.  For further information please contact us at hello@thefitzroviaclinic.com.