Radical Acceptance: Who, What, When, Where, and especially Why?

WHO? Starting with yourself, and then expanding to loved ones, acquaintances, strangers, and ultimately to those with whom you have difficulty. Please note that this doesn’t mean tolerating abuse or mistreatment.

WHAT? Meditation teacher and psychologist Tara Brach, PhD defines Radical Acceptance as the “willingness to experience ourselves and our lives as it is.” Radical Acceptance is a frame of mind as well as an embodied mindfulness practice. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” This means cultivating the willingness and capacity to experience your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations just as they are, without needing to avoid or distract from them. Instead of getting lost in never-ending trains of thought that perpetuate emotional distress, mindfulness offers a way of recognizing inner experience with more spacious awareness. While it may seem that just giving attention to your inner experience isn’t doing anything, more and more research studies are validating the power of this approach to create greater emotional well-being, resilience, physical health, more fulfilling relationships, and much more.
WHEN? As often as possible! You can practice when feeling sad, numb, anxious, angry, stressed, melancholy, or ashamed, or any time at all. Radical acceptance can be especially powerful when given to the parts of yourself that you most struggle against. It can also be a wonderful practice when feeling joy, peace, and relaxation as it serves to enhance these experiences and helps the brain to integrate them.
WHERE? You can practice radical acceptance anywhere you go. In the body, you will often find sensations and emotional energies in the belly, solar plexus, chest, throat, head, shoulders, arms, and hands. However anywhere in the body will do!

WHY? “What we resist persists.” ~Carl Jung

“The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself.” ~Steve Maraboli

Why so much focus on bodily sensations?

  • Physical sensations offer a way to focus awareness on our inner experience. They also provide a way to redirect attention from negative mind-loops to our actual felt experience. Emotions and thoughts often occur as reactions to physical sensations (though vice-versa can also be true). By becoming more comfortable with the diverse landscape of bodily experience, we can teach our minds that staying with our present moment experience can create more well-being than trying to think our way out of it.

Resisting inner experience is like adding fuel to the fire.

  • When we react to how we are feeling with thoughts that it is wrong or bad, this sends a signal to the nervous system that there is a threat. This sense of threat can then lead the mind into ruminative cycles that only create more focus on a sense of inner deficiency. Thus, reacting negatively to our own experience can further exacerbate whatever sense of discomfort was there to start with.

Sensations in the body just want to be felt.

  • I like to think of bodily sensations as aspects of ourselves from earlier times in our lives… this sense of fear… that fury in the belly… an ache in the heart. They are like children just wanting to be accepted and cared for. When we respond to them with care, curiosity, and acceptance, they often dissolve. It is important to note that this works best when there is true acceptance for the experience to be there as long as it wants or needs to be.
  • Turning towards your inner experience with openness, awareness, and acceptance helps cultivate a strong and compassionate relationship with yourself.

You are the one that you will be with through your entire life. Given this, wouldn’t you want to have a close and caring relationship with yourself?

  • Attending to how you feel and responding to your body and emotions with compassion and acceptance is what one would often want from a friend. By learning how to give that to yourself, you become one of the closest people in your own life. This can be very healing for people who struggle with a sense of loneliness or isolation.
  • So often we seek validation and acceptance from others while being very hard on ourselves . Dependence on external validation can create codependent relationships. Having those same qualities of care towards yourself can create both a more fulfilling life, and healthier relationships.

I hope you have found this article helpful and inspiring. I always enjoy hearing responses to my writing. If you have something you would like to ask or share, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Warmly,
Asha

“Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart, is what I call Radical Acceptance. If we are holding back from any part of our experience, if our heart shuts out any part of who we are and what we feel, we are fueling the fears and feelings of separation that sustain the trance of unworthiness. Radical Acceptance directly dismantles the very foundations of this trance.” ― Tara Brach

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