What is Radical Acceptance?
adical acceptance sounds like the kind of new-age bull you might want to steer clear of, along with juice cleanses and ‘think yourself better’, but it's not what you think. Before we talk about what radical acceptance really is, we need to highlight what it definitely isn't! Radical acceptance is not approval of a situation. Just because you are accepting a situation for what it is, it does not mean that you think it's good or right. It just means you are aware you can't change it.
Radical acceptance, at its core, is about recognising what we can and can’t control in our lives. There are some things, like whether or not you become sick, you don’t get a say in. It’s about finding a way to live with that situation as peacefully as possible.
For many chronically ill people it can be hard, particularly when first diagnosed, to accept the challenges and limitations a chronic diagnosis can bring. Sometimes, it can feel that the negatives outweigh all the positives in our daily lives. Radical acceptance is one way to help balance the complexity of feelings chronic illnesses and disability can bring.
So, how do we use radical acceptance?
First and foremost, you want to go ahead and feel all those feelings. Squishing feelings down isn’t accepting a situation for what it is. Allowing ourselves to be hurt/angry/sad about something is completely OK and part of the process.
Next step, you want to ask yourself, ‘is this a situation I can change?’ If the answer is no, that’s when you might want to start considering radical acceptance. But, if you aren’t ready for that yet, that’s OK too. It’s important to monitor your feelings and take each step as, when and if it suits you.
Acceptance looks a little different for everyone and there is no set ‘path’ for it, just what feels right for you. However, here are some tools you could use to help practise radical acceptance:
⭐ Using affirming language like ‘I’m chronically ill and that’s OK.’
⭐ Writing everything out in a journal and then writing out why you are still OK, even if this thing keeps happening to you.
⭐ Just because a bad thing happened to you, and you can’t change it, it doesn’t mean that there can’t also be good things in your life too.
⭐ Reminding yourself of the good things can be a really good way for you to start accepting the not so good as well. Life isn’t good or bad, it’s a mix, and that’s OK.
Repeat these steps as necessary.
Learning to accept what we can’t change can free time and energy to focus on parts of our lives we can influence: an invaluable conservation of energy for a chronically ill person.
Radical acceptance is a practice. You don’t just accept it once and never think of it again. It’s a conscious decision every day and some days will be easier than others but that’s all part of the process.