What is Radical Acceptance?

Defined as a way to accept situations that are not within your control without judging them, radical acceptance is a commonly used therapy technique to help those struggling with their mental health or addiction. Radical acceptance is the practice of accepting what you can’t change and control, and embracing what’s happening in a non-judgmental way. By doing so, you’ll gain more of an understanding of how to practice self-acceptance, recover from certain situations and move forward in a much more positive way.

When we fight against a situation or wind ourselves up during a stressful time, this often accelerates the level of distress we feel, causing us more distress than the actual situation itself. Fighting against something often makes it worse because we naturally think about the thing that we’re trying not to think about. Once we accept the situation and allow ourselves to think about it, and therefore stop fighting it, the initial urge will often go away.

Whilst the word acceptance is typically associated with the agreement, the notion of radical acceptance doesn’t mean that you agree with the situation. The goal of radical acceptance is to help you clearly see all the options from an unbiased perspective. The result of this is that you feel a sense of relief along with a much better understanding of the situation. Before you can move forward with positive changes in your life, you need to accept what’s happened and find the best way to handle it.

Another form of radical acceptance is mindfulness. Mindful defines mindfulness as the “basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”. Mindfulness has origins in the Buddhist tradition of maintaining a sense of calm and helps to focus on the present moment without any thought or judgement; this is how radical acceptance can build on mindfulness to achieve the sought-after goal.


How Does Radical Acceptance Help in Addiction Recovery?

The first step of radical acceptance is understanding that there are many things out of your control. When it comes to addiction recovery, those who are suffering from addiction often feel as though they’ve lost control over their own lives, which is one of the reasons that radical acceptance can be so beneficial in addiction treatment. It teaches you how to move through difficult circumstances such as substance abuse, it addresses overcoming resistance to reality, prolonging pain, and coping with grief or loss. The primary aim of radical acceptance is to show you how to move past painful experiences without dwelling on them and letting them take control over you.

Radical acceptance can be closely linked with dialectical behaviour therapy, also known as DBT, which works by balancing change-oriented goals with acceptance to help you regulate emotions, improve motivation, and limit dysfunctional thinking, all of which are extremely important in addiction recovery.

By radically accepting your more difficult emotions of misery, frustration, or grief, you can perceive them in a different way, allowing you the opportunity to regulate your emotions in a much healthier way, identify what matters most to you and what you’re motivated about, and help you understand how to improve your unhelpful thinking. By practising all this, you can reduce your levels of anxiety, stress, and negative thinking, all of which are common triggers for substance abuse.


Applying Radical Acceptance in Daily Life

When it comes to radical acceptance, practice makes perfect. Just like addiction recovery, it doesn’t happen overnight and is a skill that needs to be honed to benefit from the results. One of the key steps you can take to improve your ability to participate in radical acceptance is to keep reminding yourself that in this exact moment, reality can’t be changed. It’s important to remind yourself that this reality is happening for reasons that may be outside of your control and try to imagine how different the situation would be if you accepted it.

All these coping skills are very useful in drug or alcohol addiction treatment and can help you to effectively manage any stress or damaged relationships which could be contributing triggers to your substance abuse. When these triggers occur, pay attention to what they are and when they occur so that you can learn from them; take note of when you’re unable to accept something so that you’re more aware of it than it is likely to happen.

Let go of all judgement, and remind yourself that the past is the past and it can’t be changed. It can be helpful to acknowledge that if you can’t control what happens, what’s the use in getting frustrated? Many of us find it difficult to acknowledge that we’re not in control, however, if you’re able to get past this, you’ll likely feel incredibly free and in a much more positive space to recover from drug or alcohol addiction.

Just like addiction treatment, you can’t expect to master radical acceptance without practising it on a daily basis for a prolonged period. Set yourself intentional goals to use this powerful tool, remembering the benefits of how it can significantly improve your life. Finally, it may sound very simple but practice breathing exercises to ground yourself in the moment. This will result in a more relaxed state of mind, particularly as your body naturally tenses when you’re attempting to fight reality.


Treatment for Addiction

Acceptance-based therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectical behavioural therapy is often underestimated during addiction treatment. However, these therapy techniques are extremely useful when treating substance abuse and mental health problems. Here at Asana Lodge, we recognise the importance and effectiveness of these therapy techniques. We believe that radical acceptance can be an extremely beneficial tool for anyone to take advantage of, especially so when recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.

Back to all posts