Radical Acceptance


Pain differs from suffering. We all endure pain. Of course we don’t like it…it genuinely hurts! What often exacerbates pain, though, is the fight against it.  For example “I shouldn’t feel this way!” or “There’s something wrong with me for being anxious” or “Why am I like this?!” or the physical bracing oneself against the feelings. All of this contributes to suffering. It’s uncomfortable enough to contend with pain, now you have to contend with BOTH pain AND suffering!

Radical acceptance is an alternative response to pain. It’s intentionally acknowledging what is, rather than using that energy and attention to wish for what is not. Fighting agony doesn’t make it go away; it makes it worse. So try acceptance as a first step. Acceptance is not condoning a thing, or pretending you like it. It’s simply acknowledging what is. So instead of “I shouldn’t be anxious!” try on “This is anxiety. This is fast heart beat. This is fear in my body. This is adrenaline.” Simple, non objective awareness of what is, in that moment. Reality. Pause there. See if that changes the experience for you at all. Even just a smidge.

This often gives people a little space to move forward differently. With a different, more effective stance. To gently shift attention to something worth their attention (hey, there’s a tree there, or my breath, or my kids). To approach something daring even though anxiety might come along too. To make all sorts of intentional choices that aren’t getting lost in the paralysis that often results from judgment and suffering.  Try it.