Breaking Habits Part Eight - Radical Acceptance

Image result for radical acceptance quotesWelcome to part eight of our series on breaking habits. If you've missed the previous parts of this series, or need a refresher, it'll be a good idea to review what we've talked about in terms of how to get started in making changes in your life, how to persevere through challenging moments, and tolerating distress associated with these situations. The first post can be found here, and you can continue to read the following posts.

Today, we are going to discuss the concept of 'radical acceptance'. What does acceptance mean? To accept something means to 'take it as it is', and to realize that you might not be able to change things. For example, when we accept our loved ones as they are, we recognize that although we might not like everything about them, although there are things we wish we could change about them, we love them regardless.

What role does acceptance play in our lives when trying to break habits, or make changes in our ways of acting and thinking? Think of a challenging time in your life where you were forced to deal with something distressing or frustrating. For example, let's imagine that your boss has given you a tight deadline for a work project, and you don't think you can get it done on time. You spend hours crying and over-thinking: 'how can I get this done? This is impossible. I will get intro trouble. I won't succeed. I'll be a failure. I won't get the promotion...' and so forth.

Image result for radical acceptance quotesLook back at that last paragraph and notice how feeling frustrated about the situation led to a spiral of thoughts. Not only are you sad and worried about not making the deadline, but now you are also doubting your abilities, and feeling low about your self-worth and value. This is common - in times of distress, our thoughts often spiral from one negative thought to another. 

Rather than this, let's consider what would happen if we ACCEPTED the situation. You have a tight deadline - AND IT IS WHAT IT IS. You feel frustrated, scared, and angry because you don't think you can get it done. But, rather than going down the road of self-doubt and anger, you think 'well, this is unfortunate. I feel scared that I cannot get this project done on time, and really, it is a short time period. It feels impossible. And I don't like the way I am feeling now. But all I can do is accept this situation right now, and do the next right thing. That means getting started on the project, and hoping that I finish it on time. I can only do my best, because I cannot change the situation. Rather than doubting my abilities and calling myself negative names, I will get to work. This feeling and time will pass, so I might as well make the most of it'.

Of course, like any skill, this sounds a lot easier (and pleasant!) than it really is. Practicing acceptance is extremely hard. You have to identify the situation, realize that it is out of your control, feel the challenging and distressing feelings you may have, and continue to practice self-compassion. Acceptance, however, is very freeing. Once you realize that you cannot control the situation, and you refuse to enter into the battle of self-destructive thoughts and behaviours, you can use your wise-mind to do the next right thing. Life will pass by anyways - so you may as well allow it to pass with acceptance and joy, rather than distress and agony.

Image result for radical acceptance quotesThe beauty of acceptance is that once you tell yourself 'it is what it is', you can truly free yourself of shame, guilt, and anger. You can acknowledge your feelings, and move on with what you need to do next. Personally, when I encounter a situation that forces me to accept it, I repeat to myself 'it is what it is. Feel the emotion, deal with the emotions/thoughts, and heal myself of this. I may not like what I am going through right now, and I certainly don't like how this is making me feel. But this is okay. I am okay. This will pass. What can I do now? What would help in this moment?'
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I encourage you to try practicing radical acceptance for a situation you encounter today. Perhaps you are faced with stressors at work, or maybe you are trying to break free from an addiction. Maybe you are ailing from a physical condition, or perhaps money is tight and you are struggling to make ends meet. Whatever the situation is - try accepting it. It is what it is. Acknowledge your feelings, and recognize that you alone have the power to silence the negative thoughts and stop any associated harmful behaviours. You can choose to do the next right thing in this moment. You can - and will - get through this. Practicing acceptance is often the first and most-freeing step in doing hard things!

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