In the midst of a pandemic, I have found myself wanting to change the circumstances and I’m guessing I’m not the only one who feels that way! Living near the beaches of Santa Monica, I look forward to walking my dog by the clear blue skies and waters. While it makes sense, Mayor Eric Garcetti closed the beaches of Los Angeles to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At first I found myself fighting that this was true. “Nah, this can’t be true. He can’t actually close down the beach! Sure he can close the parking lots, but not the beach. How did we possibly get here?!” I was clearly in denial.
Fighting reality leads to frustration, exhaustion, and eventually misery. I may choose to attempt to go to the beach every day but I can be turned away, fined, or even increase my chances of being exposed to the novel coronavirus. Trying to alter will get me into bigger issues.
My beach example is a very simple example, but think about the ways you are fighting reality at this very moment and how it’s impacting you. Fighting that you work from home so you haven’t set up a workspace? Telling yourself there are not shelter-in-place restrictions so you continue to schedule playdates? If you’re telling yourself that “this couldn’t have happened” or “this can’t be reality” then you are living in non-acceptance. Unfortunately, not accepting reality does NOT change our reality. Being upset that the beach being closed will not change Mayor Garcetti’s position on opening the beaches.
IF YOU ANSWER YES TO EITHER OF THESE QUESTIONS, KEEP READING TO FIND OUT HOW TO FREE YOURSELF FROM THE SUFFERING.
Are you currently fighting reality ( exclaiming “this isn’t fair”, “this can’t be true”, “why does it have to be this way?”)
Have you attempted to change the situation and are you still suck?
Radical acceptance is the one skill that will change your life. Guaranteed. Radical acceptance is the skill to accept reality as it is-totally, completely, and with every ounce of your body, heart and soul. Sounds easy? In my opinion, this is actually the most difficult skill from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Accepting that life circumstances are out of our control is a really hard feat and sometimes you may not be sure when to actually accept reality vs. when to change it.
Here’s the General Concept of why Radical Acceptance is a Game-Changer
PAIN + NON-ACCEPTANCE = MISERY & SUFFERING
PAIN + ACCEPTANCE = PAIN
Pain is an aspect of human life. We cannot rid painful events (if you are a ninja and have found out how to get rid of pain, please call me!). However, we can still live a meaningful life even with the existence of painful events. Life becomes unbearable when we are stuck in our ways of trying to change the circumstance when it cannot be changed.
Let’s practice radical acceptance, using the following step-by-guide:
What is the one thing in this exact moment that you are fighting to accept?
1. Label that you are fighting reality and remind yourself that there are causes that led up to the reality of this moment
i.e: the beaches are now closed due to the crowds last weekend and to prevent the spread of the virus.
Disclaimer: you may not always know the exact cause- but remind yourself that all events are caused
2. Practice accepting reality as it is in this exact moment
Check the facts of the current situation to bring you back to reality (i.e., schools are physically and temporarily shut down, people are working from home, elderly persons are at greater risk, etc.).
Practice mindfulness or pray.
3. Imagine, right now, what you would be doing differently if you accepted all the facts of the current reality and start acting in alignment with reality.
What would you be doing differently? How might you be feeling if you had accepted these facts?
i.e., I would stop walking to the beach and I would find a new path. I would use my mindfulness skills to appreciate the new sights of this walk and be open to experiencing something different.
5. Notice that you will initially feel painful emotions as you face the reality that you were once trying to avoid. Allow yourself to experience the emotions.
Practice mindfulness or self-soothing as you start to experience these negative emotions.
You may feel sad, angry, overwhelmed- It’s okay to feel negative emotions, we all have them
6. Repeat as necessary. Continue to act in ways that reflect your current reality. You will notice your misery and suffering will decrease and calmness usually follows. You will learn that fighting reality does not change it and accepting reality does not mean you agree with what is going on. But you are living in truth and you can find great strength from living in reality.
Radical acceptance will change your life when you can’t change it. Imagine letting go of all the things you cannot control in your life. Imagine what you could do with all of that energy, time, and suffering. I would encourage you to practice radical acceptance on smaller things first. The example I gave about walking my dog would be a good place to start since this skill is difficult and does require work upfront to reap the benefits.