Yesterday, Radical Acceptance was my personal theme from the Universe. I started my work day by reviewing this skill with one of my individual DBT clients. During our discussion of her homework practice, she shared an Ah ha! moment she experienced over the weekend:
This skill that isn’t only for the big stuff! It can be very helpful in the smaller situations of day to day life as well!!
I was impressed how quickly this had clicked for her!! Since we teach RA as part of the distress tolerance module, we tend to focus instruction on applying it to situations where there’s big emotional investment.
Radical acceptance is a skill we use when :
there is little hope for change
non-acceptance of the facts causes further distress
(on top of the original situation)
For many of my clients radical acceptance centers around accepting their family members as they are & letting go of fantasies that one day this important person will change.
For clients who struggle with substance abuse, radical acceptance is an integral part of their step work. Acknowledging the relationship they have with substances and the lack of control of their use is the necessary first step to breaking the habit.
But what about the little things? How can we apply radical acceptance in the small moments day to day to reduce suffering?
Here’s my perfect example! When I woke up yesterday morning, I had a pretty specific idea of what I wanted to accomplish. I had clients in the am & pm with a 4 hour block of downtime during the afternoon. I had a manageable amount of tasks on my to-do list and was feeling a good bit of momentum from a productive day on Monday.
The morning did not get off to a great start. I had email issues first thing. I noticed something I thought I had sent to a client the night before, had hung up in my outbox.
After a quick reboot, I believed I had addressed the issue and moved on with my morning. Low and behold – come time for my session and my client says they don’t have their Zoom invite (which I double checked had cleared the outbox before I closed my laptop this morning!! Uugghh!).
Ok so after session, back to problem solving. Which turned out to be a much bigger problem than initially recognized. All afternoon I spent problem solving. Attempting fix after fix: clearing cookies & caches, downloading the operating system update, virus scans, you name it!
As the hours passed, I observed I was getting more and more frustrated🤬!!
I wanted to day to go differently than it had. Hello NON-ACCEPTANCE 👋🏼 The roadblocks I had faced and the unaccomplished tasks definitely gave me the formula for justified anger and sadness.
It made sense to feel both of these emotions AND they weren’t going to help me solve the problem.
In fact my anger urges of throwing my hands in the air and giving up would have only gotten me further from my goal point. So I applied radical acceptance:
This is not the day I wanted/had planned for AND right now finishing this unplanned task is the most important focus of my energy.
Instead of fueling my negative emotions, I accepted the facts of the situation at hand. I validated the situation and that I had every right to feel frustrated and disssapointed in how the day had turned. And then I moved on to actionable problem solving.
By the end of the day I was able to remedy the problem on my own. All in all it took about 5 hours of my full attention and time investment. Plus I endured those few tech oops!! moments with my clients. Embarrassing moments I don’t love to have, but I remind myself they are teachable in too. We show up the best we can and sometime we have to problem solve on the fly.
Those are life necessary life skills which have been exceptionally necessary in 2020 – when adaptability & radical acceptance hav been key!
How do you use Radical Acceptance in your life? Do you find it more helpful for big situations or do you use it in the moments of day to day life? How has it helped yo reduce emotional suffering? I’d love to hear your skills tips in the comments below!
Radical Acceptance is just one of the DBT Skills that together provide a framework for understanding and controlling your emotions in any situation. If you are looking for DBT Skills Instruction or DBT Transformation Coaching head over to ⬇️ for more info about my coaching practice.
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