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What is Radical Acceptance?

Published: 17/08/2023
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Date of the last update: 17.08.2023

Mindfulness and meditation are very closely linked to the practice of Radical Acceptance. An understanding of Radical Acceptance can help people maximise the benefits they obtain from mindfulness and meditation. It can also help people incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives. Radical Acceptance itself is the ability to accept situations that are outside of your control. It is about observing a situation, without defining it as good or bad, and accepting it for what it is. This reduces the amount of suffering created by upsetting situations because the practice of Radical Acceptance is based on the belief that suffering comes from attachment to pain, rather than the initial pain from the event itself. This basically means that the initial pain caused by a situation is made worse by dwelling on it because it by extension dwells on the negative emotions created by it, which then recreates those negative feelings in the present moment. It is only by accepting unfortunate circumstances for what they are that you are able to let go of them and move on. By accepting unfortunate situations, you are no longer negatively impacted by them because you do not dwell on them and thus do not re-experience the negative emotions, thoughts, or feelings caused by that behaviour. This links to mindfulness and meditation because these practices are also focused on living in the present moment; they are about letting go of negative emotions, thoughts, and feelings that don’t affect the present moment.

Table of contents:

  1. Appropriate vs inappropriate radical acceptance
  2. Practising Radical Acceptance

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Appropriate vs inappropriate radical acceptance

Radical Acceptance is applicable in situations where an outcome is unchangeable or unfixable; usually, this outcome is seen as unfair or too sudden to process. In these instances, it is important to not become overly caught up in the painful experiences they cause. It is completely normal to feel as though the situation is unfair, experience grief, or experience disappointment. However, becoming overly caught up in these emotions can prolong the pain caused by them. It is important to be able to let go of these emotions and accept the event to move on from it. You practise Radical Acceptance when it is useful and helpful to not get caught up in present events that have upset you. Here are some bullet points listing instances of when it is appropriate to practise Radical Acceptance:

  • You have lost your job 
  • You are coping with the death of a family member/friend  
  • If you are going through a breakup  

The practice of Radical Acceptance can sometimes be harmful and can be detrimental to improving your quality of life. It is inappropriate to practise Radical Acceptance as a coping mechanism for ongoing traumatic life events or times when you need to stand up for yourself. These are times when you can and should speak out. These circumstances can be changed and can get better. Having a mindset that these situations cannot be fixed would be detrimental to your mental health. Here are some examples of when not to practise Radical Acceptance and when it is important to reaffirm that you can change the outcome of the situation you are in:  

  • An abusive relationship
  • Harassment or bullying  
  • Repeated sexual assault  

Practising Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance is a skill that is difficult to obtain and becomes easier with practice. It is important to pay attention to instances where you struggle to accept an aspect of reality around you and to notice when it frequently occurs. In those moments, remind yourself that reality cannot be changed, but that the causes for this reality are outside of your control. Here are some ways in which to practise radical acceptance:  

  1. Take a moment to sit down in a peaceful area and for 5-10 minutes, think about what you would do if you were able to accept the event causing you to suffer. Once you have come up with a plan of what you would do, try to do some of those activities. By trying to do activities that you have identified as things you would be doing were it not for your suffering, you are in some way letting go of the suffering that is preventing you from doing them and focusing on the current moment by doing current tasks.  
  2. Use mindfulness techniques, such as those suggested in the previous section: body scans, focussed attention, or resting awareness. You can also use other mindfulness techniques like journaling. When you take time to reflect on what you are doing in the present moment, you give yourself the opportunity to consider how your current actions are making you feel and this can give you a better insight into your emotional patterns. You might identify behaviours in your life that are causing you stress and distract you from being fully present.  

Check out also: What is Mindulness?


Naturally Balanced
The Naturally Balanced team includes experts in their field who create the best content for you, collaborating on their knowledge and experience.