DBT Skills: Radical Acceptance

by Michael leader of DBT Skills and Strategies
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Thursdays, 6PM EST
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Recently, in DBT Skills and Strategies, we have been talking about acceptance, specifically, Radical Acceptance, in which we control our willfulness and allow ourselves to stop fighting reality. This is a difficult topic because often, when we think of acceptance, we think of agreeing to a situation or submitting to it. When we say we must accept that we have experienced trauma, that can bring up feelings of invalidation, like we should be okay with the trauma that we have experienced that has impacted our lives so deeply.

Radical Acceptance is not approval. Radical Acceptance is not appreciation. Radical Acceptance is not passivity nor submission -uite the opposite in fact! Radical Acceptance comes when we stop fighting reality. Radical Acceptance comes when we allow ourselves to step back from shame and bitterness that clouds our judgement from creating effective action. It is admitting what is outside of our control, and, by extension, allowing ourselves to see more clearly what is. Radically Accepting doesn’t mean you don’t feel your emotions, but it does mean you watch them, acknowledge them, and learn what they are trying to say… without letting them into the driver’s seat.

For years, I fought the fact that I had suffered adverse childhood experiences (ACES) that created trauma which stood in the way of me existing as fully as I wanted to be. At times, it was easier to not confront it. For years, I obsessed over things outside of my control and the unfairness of the situation, and because the world was unfair I didn’t hold myself accountable to taking the steps needed to move forward in recovery. I had to accept that though the trauma I experienced wasn’t my fault, only I can take the steps to heal. Furthermore, healing wasn’t going to happen like the flip of a switch, it would be a process I would have to commit to. Through that acceptance it became clearer that life can be worth living even when it’s painful. Through the belief that beauty and life can exist alongside pain a path was formed. When you don’t believe things can get better, it is easy to just do the things that give immediate satisfaction rather than walk the road to a life of wellness. 

If you refuse to believe a door is a door, you will have a hard time leaving the room.

When I understand the facts of the situation I can better step into my power. I can better acknowledge when an intense emotion is being fueled by a past experience rather than the moment at hand. I can better understand what skills I need to employ to communicate the way I want to, and navigate myself towards effective action. 

This work isn’t easy, and we have to have grace with ourselves when we struggle. When we fall, rather than focusing on the failure and building self-judgement, we engage it with curiosity as a way to better point us in the right direction. That is Radical Acceptance. Most importantly, we don’t have to do it alone. We have a community of people working together to walk the path towards recovery, and that makes each of us a little more sure footed on that walk.

Join me every Thursday at 6 PM for more DBT Skills and Strategies! – Michael

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