“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.” ― Cheryl Strayed
I use the term radical acceptance all the time. I use it with my friends. I use it with my clients. I use it as a way of encouraging compassion in people who are finding it hard to be compassionate, compassionate for each other and compassionate for oneself.
But more than using this term for other people, I use it for myself. There is a little mantra that goes on in my head that reminds me to accept, radically, that what is is what will be… I use it to remind myself that people are flawed and still beautiful, that situations can be both difficult and wonderful, that past trauma can be lived and learned from, I use it to remind myself to be compassionate to myself and to be open to positive beautiful things happening in my life. I use it to slow down my mind when it’s moving at a hundred miles an hour trying to guess how things are going to turn out and when I begin to feel anxious and out of control.
But what is it?
What Radical Acceptance Is:
Radical acceptance is quite simply the ability to sit within our lives, within ourselves, in truth and experience what is happening for exactly what it is.
It’s to take a good hard look at our lives, at the shitty things and the wonderful things that have happened to us and to understand fully that some things happen that are desperately painful. Some things happen that are traumatic. Some things happen that change us irreversibly. It’s to understand that sometimes we will be the one who is doing these terrible things and some times there are terrible things being done to us because we are all flawed, we are all imperfect, we are all rough around the edges and we all make mistakes.
Radical acceptance is a way of letting go of blame and pain and anger. It is a way to stop fighting with the stories that we tell ourselves, and accepting what is the reality of our lives. It’s a place from which we can grow and change and live in peace both in our relationships and within the landscape of our own mind.
It’s also to understand that we as humans, we are all in this together and dwelling on the negative stories we tell ourselves about people or experiences, doesn’t leave us open to the beautiful, spectacular, amazing things that life has to offer.
Radical acceptance is to understand that despite the heartache that life brings, it is still beautiful and everything is going to be ok.
What Radical Acceptance Is NOT:
Radical acceptance is not an excuse to act like an asshole and just do whatever you want because you are accepting yourself the way you are. Radical acceptance is not an excuse to not work on yourself and to try to be a better person. Radical acceptance is not an excuse to stay stuck in your own ways, repeating damaging cycles of trauma or emotional pain, over and over again.
Radical acceptance is not a reason to stay in a damaging or manipulative relationship of any kind. You can accept a person for who they are but you can also step away from that person if the relationship is hurting you. You are the only one that can bring true and lasting change into your own life.
Radical acceptance isn’t always easy, in fact it’s probably one of the hardest things that I’ve been able to master and even with mastery there are still moments that are difficult and that bring up a lot of emotions and pull at the negative stories within. It is in these most difficult moments where I have to breathe very deeply to find that place where acceptance is possible. But when we find that place the end to suffering and the peace that follows and the healing that it allows is a gift that is worth the work.
Give peace a chance.