how radical acceptance changed my life
Back in 2014 when I went through my first ever struggles with mental health, I was doing intensive care at the priory as well as having one on one therapy. During this period of my life I was struggling with severe anxiety and depression, and I was doing all sorts of classes in hospital, a lot of the classes that I did were based around DBT. Depending on you as a person and of course your diagnosis, your recovery plan will be different, but for me I found that DBT was extremely helpful and was a key factor in my recovery.
What is DBT?
DBT stands for Dialectial Behaviour Therapy, it was developed by Marsha Lineman in the 1980’s. Its a type of therapy which was created to help those suffering from personality disorders, and has also been used to treat people who have mood disorders / who need to change patterns of their behaviours that aren’t helpful or healthy for example suicidal thoughts, substance abuse or self harm. DBT gives you the skills to manage painful emotions, it focuses on providing skills in 4 areas. 1. Mindfulness (focuses on acceptance and living in the present) 2. Distress Tolerance (increasing the persons ability to tolerate negative emotions and stressful events) 3. Emotional Regulation (offers strategies to manage and then change intense emotions) and finally 4. Interpersonal Effectiveness (techniques that help you communicate in a more assertive way.)
Radical Acceptance is one of the CORE skills in the second area I mentioned, distress tolerance. For me the idea of radical acceptance seemed kind of stupid, I just assumed it was common sense. I felt it was too much of an obvious thing and it couldn’t really help me, however it ended up being the turning point for me in my recovery and I could say that it was quite possibly the reason I recovered as and when I did. Radical acceptance is learning to have complete acceptance of reality as it is. It is learning to let go and stop fighting reality. It means letting go in ways that seem unbearable. and letting yourself suffer even if that suffering seems extremely painful, but its learning that this is part of life. Its understanding that acceptance is a choice that comes from within and it requires commitment. Radical Acceptance is learning to look at the world we live in, ourselves and other people in a new way. It is acknowledging that you are letting go of how you would like things to be or believing that things should be a certain way, and accepting all for what it is right now. When you are radically accepting you are allowing yourself to live your life to its fullest potential. Refusing to accept reality is something that I myself have suffered with before, there’s a lot of “I just can’t believe that this is true” or “this isn’t fair” or “I can’t deal with this” we often confuse the acceptance with agreement, just because we accept something doesn’t mean that we have to like it or agree with it, it simply means we are choosing to live in the present moment and stop fighting the reality of whatever the situation is. People often try to escape the reality when it is too painful, myself included but refusing to accept the situation for what it is will never change the situation, it will only cause you more stress and anger. It’s understandable why people choice to avoid painful feelings because no one wants to experience disappointment, loss, anger, upset, heartbreak, but these are all parts of life and when we resist the ability to actually FEEL these emotions, we suffer more and create more misery and pain for ourselves, the key to ending suffering is acceptance, avoiding the pain may dampen that sad feeling for a while but it also takes away your ability to feel joy, positivity and happiness. We are not able to control pain or the fact that we feel it, but we are able to control how much we choose to suffer with the way in which we react to the pain.This is where you need to focus on what it is exactly that you can change and what you cannot. You CAN always control, your actions and how you react to your emotions. You cannot control what other people are going to do or say and you cannot control your past.
Staying present. No matter how painful it may be, I cannot encourage you enough to stay present. Noticing your emotions is very important, be aware if you are experiencing an unpleasant emotion and stick with it. Even if it uncomfortable and painful, it allows you to understand and embrace your current feelings and can teach you lessons on how you can prevent yourself from unessescary suffering in the future. Pick up where you feel these emotions, what parts of your body are recieving sensations? can you feel tightness in certain areas or your body? your chest or jaw or maybe tension in your arms or legs, take a moment to pause and direct slow healing breaths towards that certain part of the body, you do have the physical ability to respond to uncomfortable feelings as well as responding to them mentally.
In the past few months I've needed this skill more than ever. I've constantly been having thoughts such as I wish this person would put in more effort, or I wish they'd change in this way, or I wish I was a bit further in my career and work life. However, in the past 2 weeks I truly have become so much happier just by adding this skill back in my life. Experiencing all that is this moment right now can be overwhelming and sometimes can take a lot of practice, but it is the key to happiness. I spent a long period of my life fighting to change other people or wishing that they would be different, instead of coming to terms with that is who they are and learning to accept it but giving myself the power to walk away from that person if who they are and what they are giving to me isn't what I want need / isn't right for me. Sometimes we forget how much control we have over our own lives, we have the ability to make any changes positive or negative in our lives at any moment. What I've learned to realise is you truly cannot change other people, they can only change for themselves, and sometimes they may not even want to. The only thing that you can do is work on yourself and accept that the way that this person is you cannot and will not ever be able to change, but you can change the way that you react to it. I honestly do believe that self love and acceptance is the key to a happy life, once you start putting yourself first everything falls into place. You won't stand for having toxic people in your life anymore, you realise your worth and stand up for what you believe in and these people will naturally remove themselves from your life. You will become so much happier when you stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and stressing about ways you wish that they could be different and start focusing on ways that YOU can be different, to be the best version of YOURSELF.
What I'm saying is Radical Acceptance isn't about having to approve or like whats happened, you can hate it as much as you bloody well want, it doesn't mean the situation is going to become softer or easier, you cannot change the situation that is what it is, Radical Acceptance is changing how you want to live your life. If you're suffering from a family loss, a breakup, maybe someones let you down or betrayed you, it's really really shit and I am so sorry you are suffering, but I promise you the problem is made so much harder when we refuse to accept, when we chose to deny or blame. When we are in pain, if we chose to not accept then we are choosing to suffer, and suffering leaves no room for confidence in oneself or feeling worthy of self-esteem.
Like I mentioned before Radical Acceptance is so important when you are learning to love yourself. Radical Self Acceptance is the belief that you are a good thing just as you are. Disregard your weight or height or whatever it is that you are constantly putting yourself down about, you and your features and infinitely beautiful and loving. If you take one thing from this let it be what I'm about to say now, strive to be your best and work towards what you want love and desire, give yourself the care love and respect that you need, and give up the fight against yourself, become more accepting that sometimes it just is what it is, and focus on the things you can change instead of the parts that you cannot, live in the moment, don't dwell on the past, focus on the future, use the mistakes you've made as lessons to be learned, let your mistakes inspire you to be better.
To finish off here are some of my favourite radical acceptance quotes:
"When I accept myself just as I am, I am free from the Burden of you needing to accept me" (quite possibly one of my favourite quotes in the world, you are the only person you needs to accept yourself just the way you are)
"When you cannot find a solution to a problem, it's probably because it is not a problem to be solved, but a truth to be accepted"
"When we put down ideas of what life should be like we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is"
"Today will be what it is, I will be what I am, and there will be beauty in both"
"What you ignore, you delay, what you accept and face, you conquer"
"On this sacred path of Radical Acceptance, rather than striving for perfection, we discover how to love ourselves into wholeness"
"Self love, self respect, self respect, they all start with 'self' you cannot find them in anyone else"
"The key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be"
Thank you for reading, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas <3