The word dialectic in dialectical behaviour therapy, means to find balance between change and acceptance. You need to change those patterns of thought and behaviour in your life that are creating suffering whilst at the same time accepting yourself the way you are. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is about acceptance and change, not acceptance or change.
Radical acceptance, which you can develop further through mindfulness practice, means accepting something without judgement. Accepting the present moment means that you accept the moment as it is without fighting against it, without judging it, without getting angry at it, and without wishing it away.
Radical acceptance is not about giving up and accepting poor treatment at the hands of others. Some situations are the result of the behaviour of others – if for example you are abused or assaulted. For most other situations you will have a part to play and therefore will share at least some of the responsibility. Many people share the perspective that life is something that just happens for them, this leaves people with a sense of anger and victimhood = which serves no one and can lead to some very self-destructive behaviours.
Radical Acceptance applies to life situations but it also applies to accepting yourself, without judging or criticising yourself, radical acceptance means loving yourself the way you are. Sometimes struggling emotionally can leave us struggling to find ourselves lovable. Many people experience themselves as defective or bad, and become very frustrated with their limitations and stop acknowledging the positive qualities that they do have.
Radical Acceptance is about accepting the current situation and being open to recognising your part in whatever is arising. This creates the possibility for a responding in a way that is outside of the painful pattern.
Radical Acceptance Exercise
Think of a distressing situation that you have experienced and use these questions to help you radically accept the situation.
1. What happened in this distressing situation?
2. What past events lead up to this situation?
3. What role did I play in creating this situation?
4. What roles did other people play in creating this situation?
5. What do I have control of in this situation?
6. What don’t I have control of in this situation?
7. What was my response to this situation?
8. How did my response effect my thoughts and feelings?
9. How did my response effect the thoughts and feelings of other people?
10. How could I have changed my response to this situation so that it led to less suffering for myself and others?
11. How could the situation have played out differently if I had radically accepted the situation?