Help me understand Radical Acceptance

Trying out the "Question" function instead of the usual "Discussion."

Radical Acceptance just seems like a bunch of bullshit to me, but apparently it really helps some people. The way I understand it, it's just taking something unchangeable in your life and saying It Is What It Is and then magically feeling zero emotions about it from them on.

The typical example is being caught in traffic. You can rage against the traffic, which won't make the traffic move any faster and will just rile you up for no reason. Just turn on the radio and sing along instead. If you're late for that important interview, you're just gonna be late. T.S. Got it. I can do that.

What I cannot do is Radically Accept events in my life that actually mean something to me. I'm supposed to approach these events that royally f*cked me up until I die without emotion. Somehow, magically, immediately and always.

I understand it's related to the Buddhist concept of equanimity. But the Buddha acknowledged equanimity was horribly difficult to achieve. Marsha Linehan appears to think that we should all do this magically, automatically about whatever bothers us. No one talking about Radical Acceptance seems to say that it's difficult in any way.

Also, from what I understand, Radical Acceptance means cutting off our emotions about the worst things that have happened to us. But I thought we were supposed to try to feel our emotions? I certainly seem to have accidentally practiced Radical Acceptance during the 15 years I stuffed down all of the things I felt about being abused. Radical Acceptance tells me I should stuff my feelings back down again?

Supposedly there's a difference between resignation and acceptance. Seems like a lot of bullshit. If you can't change something, you're resigned to the fact that it happened. Radical Acceptance tells me, no, that's the wrong way to feel about it. I should Accept, not Be Resigned. If there's a difference, I'm not understanding it.

Explain to me how Radical Acceptance isn't bullshit, please. Explain to me how it's even possible.
 

Teamwork

MyPTSD Pro
Well if I’m going to spend years in therapy getting in touch with the emotions that never got to express themselves, I’m going to get in touch. What I won’t do is linger in the emotional mess, but acknowledge and move to whatever is next. I don’t buy in to everything out there. The word radical speaks for itself, as in to me means pretty hard to do and against the grain of commoner living. I seek restorative balance, which is a long process too.
 

Chris-duck

Not Active
I'm not saying I'm totally capable of it. But to me radical acceptance has literally just meant "okay. That happened. What can I do to move on from that?" Not that what happened was right or okay, just that it already happened. So it's unchangeable. So where do we go from there?

Like an "okay. This is what's happened. This is where I am now. Both are just factual and okay. So what now?"
 

Survivor3

MyPTSD Pro
Maybe resentment gets in the way of moving on? I feel like someone would need therapy to help with radical acceptance. I mean you can say 'something ' really bad happened and it's affected me really badly. So this is how I feel about it and what I've learned about it. It's done - now move on to the present and future. That's a positive perspective but if the thoughts keep coming back then what do you do? Maybe you'd need some kind of 'mantra' to say to yourself to keep it at bay.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
There is totally a difference between resignation and acceptance, in my mind at least. I often, during my trauma or me re-enacting my trauma, felt resigned to what was happening at the time.

Being resigned, for me at least, has very very negative connotations as a result.
Accepting has positive ones. It's making a choice to accept that something happened. In my mind it has more agency. For me, being resigned to something means giving up autonomy.

I was resigned to the fact trauma was happening. I have accepted it has now happened. I didn't accept it for many years. I blocked it out. But I made a choice to work on accepting it. Doesn't make it ok or go away, but I can now say "it happened and it wasn't my fault". Which is how I see acceptance.

How that feeds into radical acceptance I have no idea, as I struggle with 'getting' it too (I also struggle with the thought perpetrators need forgiveness.)
But maybe that helps in re-examining acceptance and resignation?
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
I guess it’s more for moments where you aren’t willing to see a situation for what it is as a situation. Ex: my current relationship with my partner is damaging and dangerous. There is nothing I can do about it, because I already tried. Once you accept that situation as damaging and dangerous, instead of trying to endlessely correct it by doings things or in your head in the case it was in the past, it gives you a better grip on how to do something, and adopt the best solution. That situation doesn’t depend on you, an there is nothing you can do about it.

If you’ve been abused, that happened to you and that’s all. There is nothing you can do to correct the situation in itself. But you can do things to mitigate or get past of it. It is different from resignation because resignation works with subsequent statements such "I am broken by, this, there is nothing I can do about this neither", which is a distortion that removes your sense of agency. Resignation has a sense of capitulation that Acceptation hasn’t.

There is a video of Daniel Fox that I find quite clear about the DBT technique in itself. Not all items can be done, but it helped me a lot to get out of the ditch I was and take power back in a critical moment. Radical acceptance moment: my partner WAS abusive and WAS violent, and that is NOT okay. Nothing to do with resignation here. But as long I wasn’t accepting these facts and finding excuses, I couldn’t act on the immobile fact of the reality.

 

Rani G2

MyPTSD Pro
Explain to me how Radical Acceptance isn't bullshit, please. Explain to me how it's even possible.
Im joining the club of the clueless or the I-suspect-that-I-misinterprete
Radical Acceptance just seems like a bunch of bullshit to me
Yes, and you won’t find me in any room where someone is watching videos about radical acceptance/selflove or any other pimped up versions where I usually cringe and believe that behind all these definitions there is a ideaI state of mind which is being sold and I just don’t want to buy it. But, I usually don’t underestimate the Aha effects, so while reading all the answers, maybe one or two bulbs will light up.

So, looking forward to read all the perspectives and sort out the Think tank again.

Because you mentioned Buddhism, and because I grew up in a so called Buddhist Society (Having conflicting feelings when it comes to Buddhism due to personal history, but I Must remind myself that I should make a clear distinction between the teachings and the choices of the individual)


Don’t know if it’s helpful? I’m still trying.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
@somerandomguy
What an amazing post! I "try" my best to stay in the framework of "radical acceptance" during my therapy journey and believe very strongly it is not only helping me but actually shedding light on my life choices in work, what I spent time on (one of them hanging out myptsd site) and what I believe and love - human relationships and psychology.

What does Radical Acceptance mean? There is a post here- Found it: Inner child
where when I read, I had a strong reaction because in my therapy, I did regress to states of self where I did not exist - and felt frightening experiences of self -abandoment...it is my humble experience I was experiencing borderline states of development --human body memory - implicit since I cannot elaborate other than it felt black hole and crying, wailing for my therapist to stay one...as if I lost a rope to life....The day after that session, I oscillated to extreme all about me and disregard for the therapist and felt I made it here my own !!!

Now this all blahahahah as they are very personalized therapy experience story but the feeling I had was that I did not exist, death, emptiness, self abandonment and on the other hand, extreme loneliness, unemphatic, and extremely self protection and self preservation so strong that I would sacrifice all I have with others, to stay in my body and mind. All these are quite deep depression, dissociation so bad, I had to call in sick, made egregious mistakes at work and felt so ashamed like wtf, am i crazy, stupid, so traumatic and useless, unstable or what?

But what happened is rather than pathologizing, diagnosing, accepting I am borderline or narcist or bipolar or beyond medical world, or so traumatized by my parent, I accepted all these to be true and yet I am still here and I am a human and even after all that, I am still here and accepted this being here with all that RADICALLY!

Rather than just taking all I posted above, I saw the other side (splitting less) of how I become courageous (with a dead inner child I have nothing to lose - death is meaningless). By oscillating so low at borderline and so low at narcissitsic, I am able to see them as they are developmental phases that I did not have the safety, the nurturing, the love I needed to go through them slowly and learn ...but now feeling them today, I am in a better place and less judging, feeling shame but also feeling the humility of wow! am I lucky to have experience this so vividly.

And this brings me to probably what Linehan may experience, how do take these experiences and make them meaningful and beneficial to me and others? and maybe I could be wrong but you were also thinking of becoming a counsellor/therapist which I am also pursuing.

So radical acceptance to me is hitting rock bottom and seeing for what it is, another experience that I need it for me to learn something from it. It is bad, painful, f*cked up, costing me 10k a year for school, therapy, and others but worth every penny cause it is my journey...no one else. I am not fighting against my experience, my past my trauma, I am holding it and soothing it and seeing it from MY POV NOT from those who hurt me and shame me cause if I do that, then I will think like them and just f*ck me more. I took the mantle, the direction, the view, I am looking at me and it is radical way of accepting who I am even after I have been through, I made it! cause I think and feel and believe I did and reality says, I am not like my tormentors (my mother).

I want to add this is my radical acceptance as if I need to learn something from it - it is educational, curiosity and exploration now rather than as pain reliever or bandaid or wounding and looking for relief...I go through that with new experience but my past as I have experience so far has been radically accepted that I no longer feel it is bad thing i need to hide. It is only a bad thing that happened to me but like a divorce, life that came after is so much better...but also I want to add - my present life does not mirror the past and this helps me to differentiate and make the break of the cycle. This last comment is probably most important for me.
 
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Friday

Moderator
What I cannot do is Radically Accept events in my life that actually mean something to me.

You have kids. So you have undoubtedly seen them...

- hurl themselves to the floor in a screaming, kicking, face screwed up, flailing full body inconsolable tantrum
- slump off stomping and heaving sighs and being very loudly NOT happy
- blink at you, nod, and scamper off to get to it
- flash delighted grins and run off babbling a mile a minute so excited they’re almost wiggling like puppies as energy just rolls off of them

...all in response to the exact. same. thing.

Hurling yourself to the floor in a tantrum? Isn’t what says the “thing” is important. At all.

All it does is predict your absolute inability to do anything about the “thing”, whether vitally important or totally meaningless. It’s an out of control emotional response that both leaves someone helpless and at the mercy of anyone and everything around them. I could kick a kid having a tantrum into a wall and they’d not even see my foot coming at them, even if ordinarily they’re so quick and agile they’d be running circles around me. And countless other examples where, even in great distress, they’d be more than capable of meeting the situation? They’re just squalling oblivious lumps, completely dependent on others to keep them safe, as they’re blind to everything but their own flailing emotions. As are adults in the throws of great emotions.
Supposedly there's a difference between resignation and acceptance. Seems like a lot of bullshit.
Again, you have kids. You know the difference between a kid doing something out of resignation & simply doing it.

I’m using kids as examples because they are in the process of learning how to school their affect... meaning they LOOK wildly different, depending on how they feel. A resigned kid, a determined kid, a resolute kid, a serious kid, a kid simply shrugging and doing it, a kid who narrows their eyes in mischief as they consider a way to make something fun... and a thousand other mental/emotional states? If your own emotions are so muddied that you can’t tell one from the other... look at theirs.


The way I understand it, it's just taking something unchangeable in your life and saying It Is What It Is and then magically feeling zero emotions about it from them on.
As it’s easier to see things in the extremes?

An apartment building is on fire. Some people will accept that, and grab their loved ones and get the f*ck out of the burning building. It doesn’t mean they don’t feel anything about it. Some will be grateful they got their kids and spouse and dog and are all safe. Nothing else matters. Other people? Will be furious, sad, relieved, and every other emotion in varying degrees and combos. But? They all accepted that the building was on fire and hauled ass out of there. Not everyone will be out of the building. Some will be so scared they don’t know what to do and just stand there, not able to wrap their minds around the building burning. 😱 Others so angry that they rage around, and outright refuse to leave -even though they can, and even though it risks the lives of others- because Dammit! This is THEIR home!!! They’re not leaving their own home! 😤 Others will be so desperate to “save everything” that they’re willing to sacrifice the lives of the people they love to get their stuff packed and brought with them. 🧳 Others will be found weeping and wailing on the floor consumed by grief at what & who they’re losing as the fires burn around them 😭 Whilst another is so apathetic they just sit and watch and do nothing😐

So first? You have the fire, and the people who accept that the building is on fire, and the people who don’t. Once safely out? The first group of people will split again. Some? Will angrily attack the firefighters, the paramedics, the cops, their neighbors, or their own families. Others will collapse in shock and have to be taken to the hospital, whilst others collapse in grief, others be in total denial &/or priorities so the f*ck out of whack you wonder if they hit their head, et cetera. The exact same series of groups the people who refused to accept the building was on fire split into.

The people who are NOT slapping their 5yo across the face & screaming at their spouse in the parking lot? Or who didn’t throw themselves on their couch in tears because they were about to lose everything? Aren’t feeling “nothing”. Or at least, most of them aren’t. They’re just as likely to be mad/sad/scared/etc. The difference is? They’re not “stopping the world” (trying to, rather) for their feeeeeeeeelings... nor are they making themselves feel better by shoving their feeeeeeeelings down someone else’s throat. ;)

It’s not magic. And it’s not feeling nothing. It’s a skill. One that some people never learn, and others only practice in limited ways or in certain situations, or thinking themselves well versed find themselves in a situation wildly outside their ken & have to relearn.
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
Totally agree with @Friday 's entire post, really well articulated.

..The people who are NOT slapping their 5yo across the face & screaming at their spouse in the parking lot? Or who didn’t throw themselves on their couch in tears because they were about to lose everything? Aren’t feeling “nothing”. Or at least, most of them aren’t. They’re just as likely to be mad/sad/scared/etc. The difference is? They’re not “stopping the world” (trying to, rather) for their feeeeeeeeelings... nor are they making themselves feel better by shoving their feeeeeeeelings down someone else’s throat. ;)

To me (though I'm not good at words, hope it makes sense), as said above ^^ it is the acceptance amidst the great difficulty and unknown, while still feeling all of what you're feeling (even if you most definitely would rather not be feeling it, living it, or living with the realities of it), without trying to act out and make others pay for what you feel, or thinking that by simply acting out the realities will somehow change. Naming it, but similar to the words of the serenity prayer, to accept what things cannot be changed, change what can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. So I suppose partly learning to live with/ within/ despite all of what is otherwise wrong, unbearable, unknown, or at least for the time not reconcilable or amendable. It is a state within the heart, as well as head, and an active choice, not a reflection or minimization of what is felt nor the importance of what is felt or the gravity of the situation. If anything, it's required more the more dire and inescapable or impactful the situation is. (JMHO).

**I was thinking more about this but missed the edit. Maybe better described as putting one foot in front of the other with composure, despite unbearable odds, loss, sorrow, danger +/or adversity.
 
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Sideways

Sponsor
I use acceptance for particular things in life that are out of my control (like most of the tools in my toolbox, there's times it's helpful, and times I use a different tool).

The big one is relationships. I can't control other people, how they are, the choices they make for themselves. I can sometimes share an opinion, but for the most part who they are? Is completely out of my hands. That's helpful. Like with my sister - she has BPD. She's chosen a path for treatment that I think is pretty useless. But at 40? She's made her choices. I've expressed my opinions. And when her BPD rears up? It's shit, and it hurts.

But I don't struggle with it, or with her, nearly as much as I used to. And it's a helluva lot easier not struggling with it - because that was just causing us both heartache. She is who she is, she has BPD. It sucks for her. It sucks for me. And sometimes it really, really sucks for me.

But I've accepted that's who she is. It may change, it may not. I'd like it to, but I don't control it. So I accept it, and her, for who she is. Without the struggle.

I think radical acceptance is one of those tools, like thought diffusion for my SI, and CBT for my cognitive distortions, and TIPP skills when I suddenly, desperately need to SH, breathing for panic attacks. I practiced it, and stuck it in my toolbox. Sometimes it's just not helpful. But sometimes it reduces the emotional turmoil in situations that I just plain old can't control. Like @Friday 's building that's on fire.

If it's a small fire in a frypan on your stove? Different tool from the toolbox - use a wet towel instead of radical acceptance. But when you're in a situation that's causing a lot of inner turmoil, but you can't control it? That's often when I find acceptance is helpful. Not necessarily on its own. And definitely not in all situations.
 
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