I’ll admit it. I can be extremely stubborn. I like to have control of my life and I get extreme anxiety when things happen that are unexpected or that don’t fit with my agenda.
That’s where Radical Acceptance comes in.
For those of you who do not know, radical acceptance means that you accept reality for what it is.
Sounds easy enough, right?
In theory, sure. I try to live by the golden rule of serenity. I attempt to ask my version of God for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can. I also think I’m pretty good at knowing the difference.
Unfortunately, this insightful piece of wisdom doesn’t usually come to me until after the fact. I know I’ve allowed painful emotions get the better of me time and again. I’ve let anger and resentment at a person or situation cause me to act irrationally or build to the point that I’m actually suffering.
The thing is, life is constantly throwing us curve balls. We can plan our days and our lives down to the exact detail and we can be more prepared than a boy scout, but things are still going to happen that don’t fit our agendas.
And in that moment that we realize that things are not going as planned… that you didn’t get the raise you were hoping for or that someone talked trash about you on the internet because they don’t agree with you… It’s so easy to forget the wisdom part of the serenity prayer.
This is the point where you find yourself saying things like “it shouldn’t be this way,” or “I can’t stand this.” Or perhaps- “They should have known better” and “Why is this happening to me?”
I remember once, after a particularly difficult break up, I spent months in a depression. I hated my ex for not wanting to be with me and hated myself for not being the person he was looking for. Had I been able to recognize that no amount of crying or begging or (really embarrassing) emailing would change the situation, I could have saved myself a lot of suffering.
I like to think I’m getting better at acceptance when things turn to shit. Or at least, I know what I need to do to get unstuck.
I’d also like to point out that it’s ok to have painful emotions. I’m learning that they serve a purpose. You just have to realize if your particular emotion is serving a positive or negative purpose. Even anxiety can serve a positive purpose. I know I’d never get my bills paid if I didn’t have a little anxiety over it, and then I’d have collection companies calling me and that would definitely produce negative stress. If you’re emotions aren’t serving a positive purpose, you have to learn to regulate them, but that’s a topic for another day.
If you ever find yourself stuck in an unpleasant emotion, here’s what I would suggest.
The only other option is to remain stuck, and that’s no fun. As difficult as it may seem, accepting reality as it is, is the much easier option.
What do you do when you find yourself stuck? How do you go about accepting reality?