Holiday time often equals stressful times, and that’s when DBT skills come in handy! Radical Acceptance is a Distress Tolerance skill that shows you how to manage situations that are undesirable and completely out of your control.
To radically accept means to utterly and completely accept a situation as reality and not try to change it. In DBT, and in Buddhism, the definition of suffering is not accepting pain. We learn that pain is inevitable in life, while suffering is optional. Letting go of fighting reality means you can use your energy towards endeavors that actually can enact change, and that is wonderfully empowering!
Here are three ways you can use Radical Acceptance this holiday season, and beyond:
1. With other people – Other people can drive us nuts, and DBT teaches us that we have no control over their behaviors. Suppose you have a great-uncle who has intolerant beliefs and pushes them onto others. You avoid him as much as possible, but it means so much to your grandmother that you see him for Christmas, so you choose to be around him on that day. You have tried educating him in the past, to no avail.
If you radically accept that he will most likely say something hurtful, you can do everything in your power to manage how you handle it. You can prepare ahead of time how you wish to respond to him or you can choose to ignore him when he is hurtful. Or you could simply tell him ahead of time that you will walk away from the conversation should he be disrespectful.
2. With your feelings – Feelings, when painful, can be extremely difficult to accept. You are single again this year on New Year’s Eve and feel extremely sad and lonely about that fact. You want nothing more than to either partner up with anyone so you have a date to the party, or somehow magically not care about it at all. However, you can’t just snap your fingers and feel better. Feelings are present for good reason. The irony is that if we simply allow our feelings and not try to push them away, they dissipate on their own. Think about how this is also true for comfortable feelings-when you are on cloud nine about something, you don’t stay there for too long either.
3. With your judgmental thoughts-DBT teaches us that judging ourselves or the world around us as good or bad is not helpful. However, DBT also teaches us that we are human and imperfect and are bound to judge. When we have judgmental thoughts this holiday season, such as, “There goes annoying cousin Sue bragging about her superficial life again!”, we can notice them, not judge our judging and accept them as simply thoughts. We may not like the fact that we think this way, but we accept it, move on, and choose not to act on it.
Emmi Barnoski, LCSW
1731 N. Marcey St, Suite 510
Chicago, IL 60614