By; Shira Keller-Ohana, MHC-LP
I used to wonder what makes one individual more resilient than another when faced with a painful situation or struggle. Linehan M. speaks on the concept of radical acceptance and its usefulness in painful situations. When one is faced with a painful or challenging situation, there are several ways in which he or she can perform: they can solve the problem, change how they feel about it, accept it, or stay miserable. However, Linehan talks about total and complete acceptance – radical acceptance – as a way to manage life’s challenges. When one accepts his or her situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean the person is glad about it. In actuality, radical acceptance may bring about sadness; but this is accompanied by an added feeling of centeredness. On the other hand, when we don’t radically accept our situation, the sadness may not be present. Instead, a deep sense of unbearable pain may take its place.
There are times when reality is painful and, as a result, we try to push away the associated emotions and or fight against it through unhealthy coping mechanisms. Although this form of coping tends to bring about a temporary relief, in the long run, it intensifies the unwanted feelings. This happens when we bury the underlining emotions or situations and instead resort to obtaining temporary relief through unhealthy coping mechanisms. When one incorporates radical acceptance into their daily life, they are committing to accepting their reality as it is, and understanding what they can and cannot control. Furthermore, part of radical acceptance is being nonjudgmental and looking at just the facts of the situation, in addition to letting go and not fighting against the reality of the situation. While Many of us find it difficult to be present when dealing with uncomfortable and painful moments or emotions, that is all part of radical acceptance through which we can achieve a meaningful life.
Taking a step towards self-betterment, and achieving a sense of centeredness happens when one completely and totally accept their reality, even if they think the reality is unbearable. Through psychotherapy, therapists and clients work together to bring about a radical acceptance of the past and present, in order to accomplish a more centered sense of self in any given situation.
Linehan, M. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: The Guilford Press, 1993.
Shira Keller-Ohana, MHC-LP is a psychotherapist in New York City where she provides individual, couple, and family counseling. You can contact Shira at firstname.lastname@example.org read more of her blog posts at www.mwr.nyc/blog
Sara Schapiro-Halberstam, LMHC