Practicing radical acceptance when we are faced with a challenging situation is a skill that requires practice and luckily, life gives us lots of opportunities to do just that. The goal is not to eliminate emotions you may experience in relation to what’s happening – it’s important to allow for feelings of anger, disappointment, sadness, or any of our other wide range of emotions.
The goal is to feel those feelings, while also accepting the situation as it is. Remember, we don’t have to like it or want it to be happening, but we choose to accept it instead of dwelling and resisting, which ultimately does not work and only succeeds in depleting our energy and making us more miserable than we were initially.
Let’s use as an example a pretty common one: you are unhappy in your current job, but are unable, for financial reasons, to leave that situation. You have a choice in how you navigate this experience. You can complain about it to anyone who will listen, telling them just how much you hate it, all the while constantly reminding yourself of the same thing, “I hate this, it’s not fair that other people like their job and I don’t!”
Can you feel your stress and anger building?! Alternatively, you can choose another response - you can choose to switch your thinking and decide to act as though this situation is something you’ve chosen. You can accept that this is your reality, not forever, but for now. And you can make the most of it!
Instead of focusing on aspects you don’t like, that bother you, you can choose to practice radical acceptance, which makes way for problem-solving. Instead of giving all that energy to the emotions associated with your resistance towards the situation, you can switch gears and put that energy into planning mode instead. It’s basically like saying, “okay, this is the situation. And this is how I feel about it. And now how do I want to handle it?”
Before switching to problem-solving, it’s important to honor your feelings and recognize what you can and cannot control. Remember, we are often not able to change a situation and at those times, the only control we have is in being able to choose how we will respond.
So, how do we do it?
I have used expressive journaling for many years and 2.5 years ago made it a regular and ongoing practice. It is so helpful in exploring such aspects of life as core beliefs, conditioned responses, and associated behaviors. I’ve been able to notice patterns and make more conscious choices based on them. It is a perfect way to reflect back on our reactions and learn what we could potentially do differently next time.
A helpful philosophy to keep in mind related to practicing radical acceptance is this: “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” Choosing to practice acceptance, in the moment, even in situations we do not like, essentially removes the suffering.
Resilience is strengthened when we’ve been able to triumph over a difficult experience. Each time, new insights are gained, and we develop healthier and more effective coping strategies. Keep in mind, changing our relationship to the challenging situations we encounter takes practice, so also practice self-compassion, knowing that we are all human, and by no means perfect. There are going to be times when we react in an unconscious, habitual manner, rather than responding from a tuned-in, conscious place. But the important thing in the end is this: did you take a bit of time to process and learn whatever lesson was attached to the experience in order to be able to learn and grow from it? Don’t worry, if you feel like you didn’t handle a challenging situation as well as you would have liked, there’s always next time 😊
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Bobbi Beuree, Certified CAN Coach + Facilitator is located in Halifax, NS, and provides virtual, 1:1 coaching services grounded in Mindset Coaching.