Radical Acceptance Can Change Your Life

July 17, 2019 Heidi Green, Psy.D.

Radical acceptance is a term often taught in dialectical behavior therapy. It pulls from Buddhist principles and is the act of fully accepting reality just as it is. I have found that many of the DBT principles are simple in theory but difficult to implement. Radical acceptance is no exception, but there are many benefits of radically accepting things you cannot change.

How Is Radical Acceptance Helpful?

Why should you accept things you don't like? Well for starters, objecting to reality doesn't change it. However, fighting against reality by focusing on why things should be different or how unfair the situation is can perpetuate your pain. The foundation of radical acceptance is that pain plus nonacceptance equals suffering. This means that pain with acceptance equates to normal, healthy pain.

Here is an example of how I used radical acceptance recently to keep a bad situation from getting worse. My family and I missed a connecting flight to Dublin when our flight to New York City was diverted for bad weather. As a result, we were stuck in NYC for 24 hours. I could have chosen to be angry and upset that we were missing a full day of our Ireland vacation. Instead, I chose to accept the situation and made plans for us to have a fun day in New York. It ended up being a great day. 

What Things Must We Radically Accept?

We must accept things that are outside of our control and cannot be changed. Radical acceptance does not mean rolling over and giving up. It means recognizing when there are no longer any alternative options and that things are the way they are.

When we arrived in New York, I ran like crazy to the next terminal to try and catch our flight, even though it was scheduled to leave just a few minutes after we finally landed. Once it was clear we couldn't catch the fight, I bolted to the counter to see if we could get on the next one. Unfortunately, it was full, and the next flight we could take was 24 hours away.

At that point, radical acceptance was my best option. I couldn't do anything else. I gave my best effort, but this was the reality we were facing. If I chose not to accept the situation radically, I would be miserable. 

Radical Acceptance Makes Difficult Situations Bearable.

In summary, radical acceptance means accepting reality just as it is. It means not focusing on how things should be different. It requires us to let go when we can't control outcomes and make the most of a situation so we can feel peaceful.

If you would like to hear my best tips for practicing radical acceptance, check out my video below. 

APA Reference
Green, H. (2019, July 17). Radical Acceptance Can Change Your Life, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Heidi Green, Psy.D.

Heidi Green is a clinical psychologist and self-love aficionado. She lives her blissful life in Arizona where she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and snuggling her rescue pups. Find Heidi on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and her blog.

Please note: Dr. Green shares her personal opinions and experiences and nothing written by her should be considered professional or personal services or advice.

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