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How the Skill of Radical Acceptance in DBT Reduces Suffering

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) offers clients a wide range of useful skills. A powerful example is radical acceptance. It’s a tool that can reduce suffering as you endure challenging scenarios.

What’s “radical” about it, you wonder? Well, that part comes into play when you realize that this is full acceptance. In mind, body, and spirit, you accept how reality is playing out in your life.

This style of non-attachment requires that you carefully monitor your feelings and thoughts. You’re already feeling stressed or sad or angry. There is absolutely no reason to make things worse by becoming attached to the pain and suffering.

What Radical Acceptance is NOT

Skill of Radical Acceptance in DBTThere is a massive difference between acceptance and approval. There’s a massive difference between acceptance and surrender. Radical acceptance does not mean you turn your back on injustice or give up once a tough situation arises. Instead, DBT teaches us to first accept that a negative event has happened and recognize that it is beyond our control.

The only way to address this pain is to accept that it exists. Suffering arises when you aim non-acceptance at your pain. That can lead to emotions like anger, resentment, shame, and guilt.

Radical acceptance, on the other hand, reminds us that painful experiences are a normal part of life. We cannot change the current facts but we can still be mindfully present in a life worth living. In that place, solutions can be found and suffering can be minimized. Radical acceptance is an excellent DBT tool, but doesn’t apply to all scenarios.

How the Skill of Radical Acceptance in DBT Reduces Suffering

A major first step is to recognize that some situations do not call for radical acceptance. For example, if you find yourself in an abusive relationship, you must find a way to extricate yourself. Acceptance is not called for in this situation. In something like job loss, however, it becomes far more crucial. I can reduce suffering when you:

  • Identify what is and isn’t within your control
  • Accept reality, e.g. acknowledging what has happened and where it has left you
  • Assess your current situation without judgment
  • Live your life as it is in the present moment

Other Radical Acceptance Steps to Reduce Suffering:

  • Allow yourself to feel the negative emotions as they arise
  • Recognize that the pain is not all that’s happening in your life
  • Practice self-care to manage the physical and emotional fallout of what happened
  • Avoid statements and questions like: “Why me?” and “Things shouldn’t be this way”
  • Take inventory of the events that have happened and accept them — one by one
  • Take inventory of the causes of these events and accept them — one by one
  • Add yourself to the list of things to radically accept
  • Practice positive self-talk

When you fully accept reality, you place yourself firmly in the present moment. With such acceptance, you’re stuck in the past and/or dreading the future. The only place where you can make changes and adjustments is now. Radical acceptance encourages mindfulness and thus relieves you of the unnecessary burdens of denial or self-judgment.

Learn More About Radical Acceptance and DBT

Right now, you might be thinking “this is easier said than done.” Indeed, radical acceptance is a tricky practice to embrace — at first. That’s why it makes so much sense to consult an expert in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. With time and practice, your sessions will guide you to a place in which radical acceptance becomes the norm. This means, of course, that less suffering will also become a norm.

Like anything else that contributes to healing and recovery, radical acceptance takes time. So, why not get the process started by setting up a free and private consultation?

Suffolk DBT proudly provides quality dialectical behavior therapy, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, at their offices in Manhattan and Long Island, New York and online. Their experienced NYC therapists specialize in serving teens, children, adults, and college students struggling with depression, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and self-harm. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills and treatment can help you or your kids to manage emotions and work through life’s challenges.

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