I’ve always had an incorrect understanding of acceptance. My biggest lesson on acceptance came after a major breakup last year. I was heartbroken, I was mostly hurt because things did not go as I envisioned them. I saw myself growing old and forming a family with this person, and then I was left to deal with my emotions and unmet expectations. To say it was gut wrenching its an understatement. It wasn’t until the end of last year that I came to terms with reality, not what I wanted but what was.
Radical acceptance is a skill taught in dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and it is taught as a way to tolerate distress. Marsha Linehan, DBT founder, defines it as “radical acceptance rests on letting go of the illusion of control and willingness to notice and accept things as they are right now, without judging.” In other words, acknowledging reality as it is without labeling it as “good” or “bad.” This is a difficult concept to apply especially when we are experiencing suffering and feel life isn’t fair. I have utilized acceptance in my therapy sessions and it has created great processing and profound insight.
Radical acceptance is the first step to handle any situation that brings uncertainty such as a grief/loss (breakup, losing a job, retirement, etc); COVID19 and anything outside of our control. Acceptance has been a great tool for me this year and especially while dealing with COVID19. COVID19 turned our lives upside down, it has cancelled our plans, limited social interactions and we now have a new accessory on our face. The sooner we accept what is going on, the sooner we can learn to adapt. By acceptance I do not mean we have to be okay and condoning the changes, it simply means that we can recognize that life has changed and it has posed new challenges.
Additionally, as Marsha Linehan stated in her DBT Skills training manual, rejecting reality does not change reality. It does however, bring more suffering and complication to our lives. Once we accept and acknowledge reality as it is then we have a choice to figure out how to handle it. But if we are still in denial, change and adaptation won’t be possible.
When facing a particular situation, we are left with four choices: leave it, change it, accept it or stay miserable in it. We can leave the situation because we don’t like it, we can change it if we have the power to, we can accept that things are the way they are and move forward (whatever that may be in each particular situation); or lastly we can stay miserable in a situation wishing it was different.
At the end of the day, I hope that whatever choice you make it’s one that gets you closer to where and who you want to be.
Maria Garcia, LMHC
My name is Maria Paz Garcia, and I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor serving people in Broward County. I was born in Peru and moved to the U.S when I was 17 years old. I’m a bilingual therapist who understands the struggles and changes that we have to overcome to adapt in a new culture and country. I’m passionate, down-to-earth, approachable, straight forward but most importantly understanding and caring.
I specialize in working with individuals struggling with substance abuse issues; difficulty establishing healthy relationships; identifying and placing boundaries; communication skills issues, assimilation and acculturation concerns; life transitions such as retirement, breakups; low-self-esteem and trauma.
DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition by Marsha Linehan (2014).