Radical acceptance is the process of making the choice not to fight against “what is,” but to lean into the reality of an experience with awareness and curiosity. This challenging task has its roots in Buddhist teachings, but the result of avoiding unnecessary suffering is a benefit everyone can enjoy.
Accepting Our Experience
There is much in life we have little control over — the traffic jam impeding our journey to work; our partner’s surliness; our boss choosing a co-worker for a position we covet. But our lack of control rarely stops us from fuming, brooding, fretting or grieving over the reality in front of us. We think about how we could have garnered a different outcome, or rage over the unfairness of our “loss.” We look for opportunities to sneak past the obstacles. We respond with similar frostiness to those who offend us. And while we may assume these reactions are instinctual and unavoidable, we truly have choices. And those choices offer us freedoms from negative, toxic or harmful emotions. If we instead embrace the time in a traffic jam to catch up on a phone call with an old friend, or pop in a favorite CD to enjoy some “car dancing,” we’d likely feel much calmer when the cars ahead of us started moving again. If we choose not to assume our partner’s bad mood is because of something we did or said, and instead allow them the respect to their own experiences without judgement or the attempt to change them, we may feel a freedom that comes with staying on “our own side of the street.” If we refuse to give into bitterness or jealousy toward our colleague, and instead commit to supporting them in growing into their new role, we afford ourselves the luxury of directing our energy stores to those things at our job that can move us forward. Radical acceptance does not mean we don’t hold others or ourselves accountable, nor does it curtail us from trying to change or improve situations when we can. Rather, by relaxing into radical acceptance, we allow ourselves the relief that comes from loosening our grip on what, in truth, was never in our control to begin with.