Recently I learned about Radical Acceptance, the process of fully accepting a situation just as it is, without judgement and without trying to change it. For me, this idea changes EVERYTHING.
Let me give you an example.
Say I am outside with my dogs (this is a real-life example for me) and it is cold outside. I don’t like the cold, but really, that doesn’t matter. Radical acceptance means I accept that it is cold outside. It isn’t good or bad, it just is. I don’t try to change the cold, because no matter how hard I try, I can’t change it. No matter how much I hope for warmer temperatures, I don’t have that kind of power and the cold is going to be exactly what it is. So instead, I just accept that it is cold. It just is.
I don’t have to like it. I don’t have to be okay with standing out in the cold. I just have to accept that this particular day is cold.
That may sound like just giving in to the thing you don’t like. But hear me out. Once I accept that it just is cold, without trying to change the cold or judging it for being what it is, I am free to make a choice about what I do next. I can get a coat so I am protected from the cold. I can leave the cold and go somewhere warmer. Whatever choice I make is made with a clear mind and is what I know is best for me. Someone else may love the cold, and that is okay. I am happy for them because today is the kind of day that makes them happy. For both of us, the day is cold. For me, I can now make a choice to do something that will make me happier.
Radical acceptance is a game changer in relationships. It allows us to accept that the person we are in relationship with just as they are, with their habits and traits, their ideas and faults. We don’t have to judge them or try to change them. They just are who they are. But once we do accept them exactly as they are, not as we wish them to be or hope them to be, we can decide what we want to do. Do we want to remain in relationship with them and learn to live with the traits we are not okay with? Do we want to walk away from the relationship knowing that somewhere in the world is someone who will love those traits? We are free to make a choice when we radically accept others as they are.
This is not to say we have to be okay with people treating us badly or with abuse. Quite the opposite. In fact, we often are reluctant to see abusive behaviour for what it is. When we can accept that we are not being treated right (and by accept, I do not mean we allow or are okay with it), and can see it for what it is, we can make decisions for ourselves and our children to keep us safe and provide protection. When we don’t accept what is truly happening, we make excuses and keep hoping things will be different next time.
But they aren’t.
Once we are able to practice radical acceptance (I am learning and practicing while getting a lot wrong in the process), we can show up with authenticity, speaking our truth, engaging with people in a way that enhances relationships and doesn’t hide or pretend the negative doesn’t exist. We are able to walk away from those situations that feel toxic or that force us to pretend and we can walk into those situations which liberate us, freeing us to show up exactly as we are and running toward our goals. Practicing radical acceptance, for me, will mean that no one ever has to wonder where they stand with me because I will never again pretend to be okay with things I am not, and I will feel free to express my feelings for another.
Today, as I move through the world, I am going to practice noticing the way things are, without story, without excuse, without pretending things are different. I will practice accepting how they are without any judgement and without trying to change them. And whether I am okay with it or not, whether I like it or not, I will find the freedom to decide what I will do about it. I will decided what is best for me, without changing the situation or the other person. I will embrace or let go.
I think there is a lot of freedom in doing so.
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