Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Radical Acceptance

In everyone’s life, there is at least one time when things don’t go as planned. But for most of us, a lot of things in life do not go as planned. 

Sometimes unpleasant circumstances in our life are quick and sudden, like the loss of a loved one or the end of a serious relationship. Other times, prolonged situations – like a dissatisfying job – can be the source of much stress. 

While these circumstances may seem impossible to overcome despite all of your efforts to do so, you might actually find relief through completely and totally accepting them – a technique known as radical acceptance. 

Typical Reactions 

Marsha Linehan, the psychologist who created Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), noted in her practice that there are two kinds of people: those who are beaten down by suffering and those who are not. 

She began to look at the four types of reactions people have to misfortune and broke them down. When something bad happens to us or when something does not go our way, Linehan observed the following responses: 

  1. The person tries to change the circumstances.
  2. The person tries to change his or her emotions toward the circumstances.
  3. The person continues to be miserable.
  4. The person accepts the circumstances. 

Learning Radical Acceptance  

To accept your circumstances radically simply means that you do it from the depths of your soul and in every bone in your body. It does not mean that things will never change or that you are not affected by the realities of your life. Radical acceptance just means that you acknowledge reality for what it is. 

Too often, we fill our self-talk with should-haves and shouldn’t-haves, but what is done is done. If you accept the reality of the situation, you can stop dwelling on situations you have no control over (and even those you do) and move on with your life. 

For instance, perhaps you have not paid several bills or cleaned your house. Rather than making excuses for why these things happened, simply accept that they did. The magic of radical acceptance is that, as contrary to logic as it seems, you will begin to feel more centered and at peace, ready for change in a positive direction. You might even begin to solve the problems that result in unpleasant circumstances without the weight of judgment that you once had.

Tags: Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Marsha Linehan, radical acceptance


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