“Radical acceptance rests on letting go of the illusion of control and a willingness to notice and accept things as they are right now, without judging.”
– Marsha Linehan
We all have those times when themes seem to permeate into our lives, as the same ideas come up time and time again. My theme this week is the idea of radical acceptance.
Radical acceptance is the act of seeing things as they are and not trying to fight them; moving forward with the knowledge that this is reality. The concept is slightly different than saying, “it is what it is,” which implies that’s just that. Radical acceptance, rather, is a conscious effort to move forward and accept life on life’s terms, and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change.
This quote depicts the essence of radical acceptance:
“It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.”
– William James
It takes precious energy to fight against reality. You don’t have to like something to accept its existence, but how you perceive it has the power to control where your energy goes.
Radical Acceptance in Treating Attachment Styles
Radical acceptance can play an essential role in confronting insecure attachments and how they affect relationship dynamics. Here’s how:
Step One: Exploration and acceptance
- Learn about your attachment style.
- Radically accepting your attachment style.
Step Two: Working with a professional counselor to develop a collaborative approach can help guide you throughout this process. The following questions are a good place to start:
- What do you want in a relationship?
- What is your vision?
Step Three: Strengthen your metacognitive ability and become aware of your own thoughts by:
- Tracking your thoughts to help regulate your emotions
- Questioning your thoughts
- Assessing and evaluating outcomes
- Becoming aware of your own perceptions
- Reexamining and revising these thoughts and perceptions
Case example: Marla and John
Marla sees John, who is emotionally unavailable. He is charming, sweet, and handsome. They have been seeing each other ‘casually’ for several months, and Marla tells John that she wants more from their relationship. John responds by saying that he genuinely values her and their connection, but he is unable to be in a relationship right now. John prefers keeping things light and superficial in his relationships, never allowing himself to really get to know others or truly be seen.
Marla hears the “right now” part in hopes that he will be able to be emotionally available in the future. Marla is fighting the reality of her situation and is feeling unfulfilled remaining in a casual relationship with John.
How would radical acceptance alter Marla’s situation?
- Marla radically accepting John’s present reality makes space for vulnerability, which opens up her ability to feel and process her emotions.
- In this space, she can be mindful of how her emotions feel in her body. Working with a therapist to help make these mind-body connections will help Marla move from an insecure attachment to an earned-secure attachment.
- You can build your healthy attachment muscles by practicing being intentional in all of your interactions.
John has a hard time committing that prevents him from trusting others and allowing closeness. He is unable to enjoy the benefits of connection since he is unable to access his emotions. John has an avoidant -attachment pattern.
How would radical acceptance affect John?
- John’s radical acceptance of his learned attachment style would help him see how it prevents him from feeling intimacy and closeness.
- Practicing empathy toward others through asking questions and being interested in others will help John connect to what others are feeling. A key component needed to experience closeness is the ability for John to develop emotional attunement.
Forward -Thinking Radical Acceptance in Attachments
A good friend of mine told me that she made a pact to say YES to everything in life during the past year (within reason, of course). This is a mental twist on radical acceptance, but I love it because it is saying YES to new experiences and to what the Universe is sending to you, for you. How beautiful.
It means being open to exploring new relationships (vulnerability) and practicing new skills to assess the healthiness of each new relationship, whether it is a friend, coworker, or intimate partner.
Having the willingness to practice new behaviors can be an exciting journey that will open many doors toward developing connections, closeness, intimacy, and love with others. It starts with radical acceptance.