What does it mean to accept? Acceptance means letting go of fighting with reality and acknowledging facts that are true. Acceptance does not mean that you like something or approve of it, rather that you completely and totally accept the facts of reality and are not fighting for them to be different from what they are.
All people experience pain in life, whether it is from getting the flu, scratching a knee, fighting with a friend, or other, more intensely painful experiences. With acceptance, we are not saying that we approve of the reality that we face, rather we are not trying to fight it. Pain + non-acceptance = suffering (Linehan, 2015).
Sometimes, we need to practice radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is the skill of accepting the things we can’t change. When we don’t accept reality, we often get stuck in our lives and are unable to move forward. Rejecting reality doesn’t change reality, it only increases suffering. When we refuse to accept the pain that we experience, we can’t fully live our lives. Approaching problems that cannot be changed with an accepting attitude opens us up to cope with the reality of challenges without needing to fight that reality.
Make no mistake, acceptance is a difficult thing to do. It’s a commitment, a constant turning of the mind towards acceptance. Sometimes we get trapped in the belief that acceptance implies giving up, or approval of the situation, and that gets in the way of acceptance. Other times it’s our intense emotions that can get in the way of acceptance. It’s important to remember though, that acceptance will help with those emotions. Acceptance enables our emotions to come, be heard, and move on. It is a healing process.
Practicing radical acceptance is acknowledging that life can be worth living, even with pain. When we allow the world to be what it is we can then participate in it fully. And once we’ve accepted reality, we can take steps forward to improve or change our lives.