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Radical Acceptance: It Is What It Is

Radical Acceptance: It Is What It Is

On 3 May 2017, in stress, mental health, self-improvement

By Karen Vaughn, MEd, LPC, CEAP, SAP

It is what it is. This is a commonly accepted phrase nowadays, but it has a deeper meaning than what it may imply. “It is what it is” is not to say that you agree with “what it is,” or that “what it is” does not have an impact on your life. It simply means you have accepted what it is and moved past it.

What do you do when things don't go your way? You can feel mistreated and be sad and angry. You can start to feel hopeless and sorry for yourself to the point you make yourself miserable. Or, you can figure out a way to accept what’s happened and move on. It’s challenging to accept what you don’t want to, but it can be even more challenging to not accept it. When you don’t accept, you begin to fight against reality. In fighting against reality, we tend to avoid our true feelings about the situation, which in turn can result in self-destructive behaviors or depression and anxiety.

Psychologist Marsha Linehan, PhD, ABPP, offers us four choices for dealing with painful issues:

  1. Solve the problem.
  2. Change how you feel about the problem.
  3. Radically accept it.
  4. Stay miserable.

Sometimes solving the problem is not so simple, especially if you don’t have control over the thing that needs to be solved. You can definitely change how you feel about the problem by changing how you think about it, but this can be a process because old patterns are definitely hard to break.  And who wants to stay miserable?

Radical acceptance means accepting life as it is at this moment, not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change, acknowledging that it happened and admitting the impact that it had on your life.

As author Tara Brach stated in her book Radical Acceptance, “The boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom.” Expanding our horizons on what we can accept opens up a world of freedom and not feeling trapped.

Radical acceptance requires practice. Turn your resistance into accepting thoughts like, “I wished it hadn’t happened but it did” and “I can’t change what has happened” versus ruminating on thoughts of resistance like, “this isn’t fair,” “I can’t believe this happened” or “things should have been different!

Opportunities to practice are plentiful. Not accepting something will not make it disappear and accepting something does not mean we have to suffer with it. If you need help working on accepting difficult situations in your life, you can always contact BJC EAP.

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