Monday, June 14

Mindful Monday: Radical Acceptance, Part 1

I do a lot of worrying. It's exhausting and makes me anxious, but I can't seem to stop. It's a deeply ingrained habit. If something serious happens to a loved one's health, say, my natural concern transforms into anxiety about what the future may hold. "Oh, no! What if...?" Bleak expectations quickly follow: "It's never going to get better. This will be a lifetime struggle." Really helpful.

A few days ago, I read this line on a mindfulness site: "Stop believing that feeling bad makes you a good person." This thought pulled me up short. It's exactly why I worry, though I hadn't realized it before. Unwittingly, I've believed that if I don't worry about a loved one and get myself in a twist when s/he is in trouble, I must not care. In my world, showing and feeling worry equals showing concern and love. How odd, when you think about it, because worry does little but weaken us.

For some time, I've known that I need to stop resisting hard, painful things in life, but I haven't known how. There's no switch to flip to let go of control. I've looked high and low and found no "how to" manual until coming across the concept -- with actual guidelines! -- of radical acceptance.

Dr. Marsha Linehan developed a cognitive-behavioral treatment called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) "to treat interpersonal chaos, intense emotional swings, impulsiveness, confusion about the self (identity), and suicidal behavior. It is based on a bio-social theory that states that problems develop from the interaction of biological factors (physiological makeup) and environmental factors (learning history), which together create difficulty managing emotions"* What interests me about DBT is that it has a strong mindfulness component, borrowing heavily from Zen mindfulness meditation.

An important aspect of DBT is "radical acceptance." With anxiety and worry, you have the equation:

pain + non-acceptance = suffering

Linehan suggests that the more helpful equation is:

pain + radical acceptance = pain

Pain is inevitable. Suffering and mental agony are not. When you radically accept something, you accept it completely from the depths of your soul, with your mind, heart, and body. When you do this, you stop fighting reality. You let go of the struggle, and you're left with ordinary pain.

Next Monday, I'll describe the steps to the three skills of reality acceptance, which includes radical acceptance, turning the mind, and willingness. I hope it will be helpful to those of you who are glued to worry and resistance. It's helping me already.



for Mindful Monday

© May 19, 2014, post, Donna Pierce
* "What is DBT?"
Photo credit: Konstantin Tovstiadi,

#mindful #monday #findingGod


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