Radical acceptance for parents of difficult children

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by MidwestMom, Jan 29, 2014.

  1. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    As I've sort of told you all, I am very into mindfulness therapy (diablectal behavioral therapy) and find Radical Acceptance so calming and wonderful that I thought I'd share the concept with you. If you can master it, it is freeing and liberating.

    One of the four options you have for any problem is Radical Acceptance (Linehan, 1993). Radical acceptance is about accepting of life on life’s terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life, just as it is.

    Imagine that you talk with an apartment manager about leasing an apartment in a popular complex that is completely full. He agrees to call you when the two-bedroom apartment is available. You wait for months, then stop by to check with him. When you arrive he is signing a lease agreement with a couple for a two-bedroom unit. When you confront him, he shrugs. That shouldn’t happen. It isn’t fair. And it did happen.

    The pain is the loss of an apartment that you really wanted. You may feel sad and hurt. Suffering is what you do with that pain and the interpretation you put on the pain. Suffering is optional; pain is not.

    Find a Therapist
    Search for a mental health professional near you.It’s difficult to accept what you don’t want to be true. And it’s more difficult to not accept. Not accepting pain brings suffering.

    Refusing to Accept Reality

    People often say, “I can’t stand this,” “This isn’t fair,” “This can’t be true,” and “This shouldn’t be this way.” It’s almost as if we think refusing to accept the truth will keep it from being true or that accepting means agreeing. Accepting doesn’t mean agreeing.

    It’s exhausting to fight reality and it doesn’t work. Refusing to accept that you were fired for something you didn’t do, that your friend cheated you, or that you weren’t accepted into college you wanted to attend doesn’t change the situation and it adds to the pain you experience.

    Accepting reality is difficult when life is painful. No one wants to experience pain, disappointment, sadness or loss. But those experiences are a part of life. When you attempt to avoid or resist those emotions, you add suffering to your pain. You may build the emotion bigger with your thoughts or create more misery by attempting to avoid the painful emotions. You can stop suffering by practicing acceptance.

    Life is full of experiences that you enjoy and others that you dislike. When you push away or attempt to avoid feelings of sadness and pain, you also diminish your ability to feel joy. Avoidance of emotions often leads to depression and anxiety. Avoidance can also lead to destructive behaviors such as gambling, drinking too much, overspending, eating too little or too much, and overworking. These behaviors may help avoid pain in the short run but they only make the situation worse in the long run.

    Acceptance means you can turn your resistant, ruminating thoughts into accepting thoughts like, “I’m in this situation. I don’t approve of it. I don’t think it’s OK, but it is what it is and I can’t change that it happened.”

    Imagine that you are late for an important job interview. Traffic is especially congested and you are stopped at stoplight after stoplight. Raging at the traffic lights or the drivers in front of you will not help you get to your destination sooner and will only add to your upset. Accepting the situation and doing the best you can will be less emotionally painful and likely more effective. With acceptance you will arrive at your interview less distressed and perhaps better able to manage the situation.

    Radical Acceptance Requires Practice

    Radical Acceptance is a skill that requires practice. Practicing accepting that traffic is heavy, that it’s raining on the day you wanted to go to the beach, and that your friend cancels when you had plans to spend the day together are important for coping well and living a more contented life. When you practice acceptance, you are still disappointed, sad and perhaps fearful in such situations, and you don’t add the pain of non-acceptance to those emotions and make the situations worse. Practicing acceptance in these situations also helps you prepare for acceptance in more difficult circumstances.

    Everyone experiences losing someone they love. The death of a parent, a child, a spouse or a dear friend is particularly difficult. Your first reaction may be to say something like “No! It can’t be,” even though you know it is true.

    The death of a loved one will always be difficult and painful. Acceptance means you can begin to heal. Resisting reality delays healing and adds suffering to your pain. When you practice acceptance everyday, you may be more prepared when the most difficult experiences in life occur. So practicing accepting the heavy traffic is about easing your suffering in that moment and also about being able to decrease your suffering in more difficult situations that may come.

    Reasons to Not Accept Reality

    Sometimes people behave as if they believe not accepting something will change the situation. It’s like accepting painful situations or emotions is being passive or giving in. That’s not it. It’s allowing reality to be as it is.

    Other times people don't want to feel the pain. There are many life situations that are painful and that are not in our control. We can't avoid that pain, but we can control how much we suffer over the pain that we experience. Suffering is the part we can control.
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  2. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member


    this is a great great summary, and so true. Radical acceptance, when I can invoke it, changes everything. Pain without suffering. I went to a retreat last summer that was called The Art of Suffering...Thich Nhat Hahn...so simple..his pose was that if we can learn to suffer well we suffer less.

    I also read Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, which I highly recommend if anyone wants to practice, or learn tools for practice.

    It has saved me with my difficult child, and probably with a lot of other stuff as well (my mom's death, my SO's betrayal....well I didn't do very well with radical acceptance on that one...all of my kids, even my easy child's issues, my ex's frustrating not to say debilitating behaviors...) I would say that practicing these tools has allowed me to remain basically optimistic and resilient (for the most part) through all, and I look forward to the rest of my days.;

    Thank you for bringing this forward.


  3. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    So true MWM, that how we define the thing determines what it means to us. I think you are right too, in believing we can change the habit of defining things in a certain way. (Like the traffic example you used.) Eckhardt Tolle said something like this in The Power of Now. He said to pretend everything that happens has happened exactly as you wanted it to.

    No energy wasted on resentment, or on stupid anger that accomplishes nothing.

    I did not know there was a name for this kind of thinking.

    Thank you for posting.

    I will try to find more information on this.

  4. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Echolette, you went to a retreat with Thich Nhat Hahn?

    I am totally jealous.

  5. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    I did, and it was an ACTUAL gift from god event! YOu can visit his place in France, if that is a thing you do...or he will be back in the US in 2015 if he keeps to his usual pattern. There is also a documentary coming out about him called "Walk with Me" I can't wait. I love him...and Bono!