One of the many options a person has to deal with a problem is to practice something known as “radical acceptance.” Radical acceptance, an important aspect of behavioral therapy, requires a person to accept the terms of life and not resist the things that one cannot (or one will not) change. Regarding addiction, this includes accepting the fact that one is an addict, not in control, and all that this entails.
As an analogy, we may compare this concept to not continuing to fruitlessly swim against the current and instead, choosing to move along with the natural flow. It is consciously deciding to accept reality rather than struggle against it. Although it may seem daunting, the practice of radical acceptance allows us to own and accept the circumstances of our lives, even when they aren’t always desirable.
What makes this acceptance “radical”? On a daily basis, we must practice “normal” acceptance, such as being stuck in a traffic jam or having to go to work on a Saturday. These moments, although potentially frustrating, will pass. But there are things about our lives that do not pass or at least do not pass easily. Sometimes these things require us to take a leap of faith and come to an extraordinary acceptance.
Moreover, radical acceptance is diving in headfirst, with one’s mind, body, and spirit, into uncharted territory. It’s a process that can help us come to terms with many events we have experienced, such as trauma or abuse, and also our own character flaws, addictions, and any number of things that we cannot or choose not to change.
In life, we all try to do our best to shift directions in ways we deem beneficial, positive, or desirable. But this doesn’t always work out. Because there is no way to control many aspects of our lives entirely, we must search for ways to embrace it. This can be accomplished by developing a new mindset that includes making acceptance the default response and acknowledging that, although the result may not be what we wanted, we accept it nonetheless.
Benefits of Radical Acceptance
Radical Acceptance Helps Us Let Go and Move On
It’s normal to struggle against unwanted circumstances, but those that cannot be defeated must be let go. Sometimes the fight is too tiring and can negatively affect a person’s life. Sometimes we have just tried everything we can think of to change the situation, and it hasn’t worked. Eventually, it may be in our best interests to admit that external factors heavily influence outcomes that our out of our control and that it’s time to hang up the hat, so to speak.
Radical Acceptance Is a Way to Adapt
Many people have witnessed or survived traumatic events, have experienced abuse, or suffer from physical or mental health disorders, including addiction. The practice of radical acceptance can help us to move on from the past, and the negative self-talk associated with it. We have to forgive ourselves and others, even if they do not forgive us. By letting go of thoughts and emotions that hurt us, we allow ourselves to transform our lives and move forward deliberately and thoughtfully.
Radical Acceptance Lets Us Cope With Loss and Grief
Loss and grief have many forms. We may grieve the death of a loved one or a broken relationship, or we may feel a general loss of what life would be if some circumstance had been different. Dealing with loss or grief doesn’t mean we escape pain, and acceptance is necessary because when we resist reality, we prolong this pain. Accepting reality provides us with space to mourn our losses and process our feelings accordingly.
Radical Acceptance Reduces Drama and Improves Relationships
Radical acceptance allows us to move past stressful or hurtful experiences without dwelling on them for too long. We can consciously choose not to wallow in emotional turmoil or act out in a way that will be met with more stress, drama, or pain. It can act as a sort of intervention to prevent further dysfunction in our lives and the lives of those closest to us.
In doing so, we can also improve our interpersonal relationships by accepting others for who they are and their own faults or harmful behaviors. This means accepting our parents, siblings, friends, and loved ones in general and coming to terms with our childhood and abuse we have suffered or any dysfunction we have witnessed. This also means not dwelling on what should have happened, and instead, accepting what did happen and dealing with it.
Radical Acceptance As a New Paradigm
Radical acceptance helps to shape a new reality for ourselves. If we are to change anything, we have to accept it first. For example, if a person refuses to accept that he has cancer, he won’t seek treatment. The cancer won’t go away, and the only changes that will occur are the ones that are totally out of his control. Accepting a situation frees up emotional energy and allows us to identify the things we can change, our feelings associated with them, and what actions we need to take.
Ultimately, in doing this, we may indeed find a solution and change the situation for the better in some way. If the man mentioned above accepts he has cancer, he can then move forward to do something about it. It may not be the ideal scenario, but he can receive treatment that may send his cancer into remission and prolong his life.
Radical acceptance also allows us to readjust our expectations, and this may be vital for a person who has just been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease. Moreover, radical acceptance leads to new choices and can allow us to move forward in all areas of life.
What Radical Acceptance Is Not
There are many misconceptions about what radical acceptance actually is. One of the biggest myths is that radical acceptance means approving of the behaviors and events that led up to it. But radical acceptance doesn’t mean you have to be “OK” with the circumstances. A child who was abused doesn’t have to agree that the abuse had some useful purpose, or that it deserves to be excused.
Fortunately, radical acceptance doesn’t necessarily entail approval. It is about the fact that, sometimes, struggling against reality serves little purpose but to intensify our emotional reactions, and we suffer more in the process.
Also, radical acceptance is not denial—it’s the opposite. It is not ignoring emotions or dissociating from problems in any way. It’s never based on the idea that denying the presence of circumstances will make everything all better.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
Accepting the events and results in one’s life is the key to breaking free from addiction. We must come to terms with our past and present, and admit that we are flawed, just as our loved ones are. By accepting that we have an addiction, we can begin to move forward, seek treatment, and eventually enter a state of recovery. On the other hand, denial of an active addiction will never lead to change.
Recovery in Tune offers comprehensive, personalized treatment programs that include partial hospitalization and outpatient formats. Our programs feature evidence-based services, such as behavioral therapy and counseling, that are essential for the recovery process.
If you are ready to seek treatment for addiction, contact us today and find out how we can help you get started on your journey to a healthier, happier life!