Sometimes problems can’t be solved. And when you are confronted with a problem, you only have four options: solve the problem, change your perception to the problem, radically accept the situation or stay miserable.
As we are faced with the new reality resulting from COVID-19, we are pushed into a corner of how to react, and by far the best option for our well-being is radical acceptance.
Radical acceptance involves wholeheartedly accepting the present without an intense desire to change it. It is when you stop fighting reality, you stop wishing that the situation were different and start letting go of bitterness. Radical acceptance is saying “it is what it is” and moving forward in this new situation with the released emotional energy to do so.
Radical acceptance is saying YES to life, just as it is.
Refusing to accept leaves us stuck, often saying things like “This isn’t fair,” “It shouldn’t be this way,” and “I can’t stand this.” We often misconstrue accepting with agreeing; however, accepting does not mean agreeing. We can strongly dislike something but choose to accept it.
Accepting reality is difficult when life has forced so many unwanted changes upon us. It is understandable to feel sadness, disappointment, anger and loss. When you attempt to avoid or resist those emotions, or give in to them fully, you add suffering to your pain.
You can stop suffering by practicing acceptance. Radical acceptance is a skill and it will only improve with practice.
How to Practice Radical Acceptance
Notice that you are fighting reality
Clues that you might be fighting reality:
• Feeling bitter or resentful
• Thinking your life shouldn’t be this way
• Thinking that if X changed, then you would be happy
• Regularly feeling unhappy or frustrated with life
Turn your mind towards acceptance
You don’t have to go from resistance to acceptance in one big leap – that would be too much. But you can make an internal commitment to stop fighting what is. Turning the mind towards acceptance is a step by step process that helps you to become willing to accept.
Use your body to help you
When you are fighting reality, your body will often be tense. It is not uncommon to tense the muscles of your shoulders, face or stomach when you are resisting something. Tight muscles work against relaxing into accepting. Focus on letting your muscles go. Take deep breathes in and as you release a slow breath out think about letting tension go from tight muscles. Repeat that process for several minutes and notice the difference in your muscles letting go.
Act as if
Even if you are not able to radically accept, try acting as if you can. If you did radically accept, what would you do differently? How might you feel?
Consider radical acceptance as a gift you can give to yourself that will help you cope and feel more at peace.
by: Mary Joan Brinson MSW, RSW