Acceptance is NOT Approval

Amy Eisenman's picture

Radical acceptance - the two words which make my skin crawl. Radically accept your mental illness. Radically accept your need to take medication every day. Radically accept your health condition. In all honesty, I must radically accept my disdain for radical acceptance.

As we go into our seventh week of Distress Tolerance I can't help but see the Radical Acceptance lesson approaching and my anxiety rising quickly. It is a lesson which is difficult for me to teach as a skills trainer because there are things every day in my life which I must remind myself to radically accept. We spend an entire class (90 minutes) discussing radical acceptance and why it is a skill we all must learn. Radical Acceptance is accepting, with every bone in your body, that something has occurred and there is absolutely, positively, NOTHING we can do about it. What?!? My therapist is telling me to accept something I can't do anything about? How is this even possible? How I can just accept things? Unfortuantely, this is one of those skills which takes a lot of time. I can promise, however, when we get to the point of radical acceptance, its as if a weight has been lifted.

Radical acceptance does not indicate approval. I can radically accept my own mental health diagnosis but in no way does that mean I approve of having it or being labeled by it. I can radically accept my heart condition but I certainly don't approve of it and there is no part of going to the cardiologist I approve of. They are things I must radically accept and come to terms with their place in my life. I will always tell anyone, however, how much I dislike all of them. I am accepting but I am not approving.

Through DBT and Distress Tolerance we teach the skill of radical acceptance because it allows us to move on and not get stuck on things. It allows us to continue to have a "teflon mind", not allowing things to stick, and be present in this moment, something we all struggle with daily (Yes, even your DBT therapist). 

In my preparations for teaching radial acceptance I searched on one of my new favorite websites, HealingFromBPD.org. The creator/author, Debbie, of the site has a diagnosis of BPD and not only enjoys her DBT skills but totally rocks them! She wrote a beautiful blog about Radical Acceptance and taking some "baby steps" to get you to the point of radical acceptance. It is definitely a must read!

Through it all, radical acceptance is a challenge...a challenge which I have radically accepted. Now, it's your turn!

 

Comments

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Comment: 
Hello Amy, Excellent, honest post on the DBT skill of Radical Acceptance. I'm so happy that you've found my site and that you're finding it helpful in prepping for teaching this important skill! I am happy to let you know that I no longer meet the criteria for BPD. While I still have symptoms and am prone to emotion dysregulation, a commitment to DBT over the past couple of years has been hugely instrumental in my recovery. Those who are learning the skills from you are very fortunate. I encourage them to trust the process, as we can get well! In kindness, Debbie

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