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  • Makeena Rivers

Practicing Radical Acceptance

There is a common opportunity underlying both the themes of navigating transitions and honoring endings- an opportunity to practice radical acceptance.

The term ‘radical acceptance’ has its origins in a form of therapy called DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). In the context of DBT radical acceptance can be broken down to mean the following
  • ‘Radical’ as in total, complete, or all the way; accepting with mind, heart, and your body.

  • This includes letting go of the tendency to fight reality or pretend that we can change the present facts of reality (even when they are not what we want them to be).

  • This also includes releasing the tendency to throw a tantrum or to willfully neglect reality as it exists.

  • ‘Radical acceptance’ does not mean we approve of reality, but rather that we recognize what it is. It is the ultimate understanding that ‘it is what it is’.

This practice is not about falling into despair or helplessness, but rather it is about embracing the truth that denying facts of reality does not change reality.

While it can often be difficult to accept challenging or painful realities, when we differentiate between what we cannot control and what we can control, we have more energy to effectively cope and tend to the wounds that need healing.

The purpose of radical acceptance is to keep pain from turning into suffering. Things in life can be difficult but resisting reality is tiring and can make it incredibly difficult to function.

To Try:

These worksheets are a beautiful place to begin to experiment with the tool of radical acceptance. It is important to remember, the goal of this is not to immediately feel better, but rather to develop other tools to cope with the feelings of distress that can come with facing reality head on. The goal is to keep pain from turning into suffering, while recognizing the truth that we cannot always avoid pain.

Additionally, another place to begin in engaging radical acceptance is through following ten steps below as outlined by the founder of DBT (Marsha Linehan):

  1. Observe that you are questioning or fighting reality (“it shouldn’t be this way”)

  2. Remind yourself that the unpleasant reality is just as it is and cannot be changed (“this is what happened”)

  3. Remind yourself that there are causes for the reality (“this is how things happened”)

  4. Practice accepting with your whole self (mind, body, spirit) - Use accepting self-talk, relaxation techniques, mindfulness and/or imagery

  5. List all of the behaviors you would engage in if you did accept the facts and then engage in those behaviors as if you have already accepted the facts

  6. Imagine, in your mind’s eye, believing what you do not want to accept and rehearse in your mind what you would do if you accepted what seems unacceptable

  7. Attend to body sensations as you think about what you need to accept

  8. Allow disappointment, sadness or grief to arise within you

  9. Acknowledge that life can be worth living even when there is pain

  10. Do pros and cons if you find yourself resisting practicing acceptance


be Morr is a culturally affirming therapeutic community in New York City where Women of Color receive Mental Health services by WOC individually and in community. To learn more about our services, please visit


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