Radical Acceptance – A Gift to Yourself
By Ruth Stern, MA
What if you could experience stress, cravings, anxiety, sadness and accept yourself at the same time? Does that sound like a tall order? As I read Tara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance, I began to understand how we could create within ourselves the ability to experience any problem without beating ourselves up and start the process to move through our difficulties. And the ultimate result would be relief, less turmoil and more inner peace.
I began reading Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance and was fascinated by her Buddhist interpretation of how we can free ourselves of suffering. The following article is a brief summary of this wonderful philosophy. In her book, she writes that when we experience our life through the lens of personal inadequacy, we are imprisoned in a “trance of worthlessness”. Trapped in this trance, we can’t perceive the truth of who we really are. In Buddhist meditation practices, one frees the self from the suffering of trance by embracing whatever we see with an open heart and what is in the present moment.
This cultivation of mindfulness and compassion is called Radical Acceptance. Through Radical Acceptance, we can clear our judgments and stop neglecting ourselves. In holding oneself with compassion, we can be free to love in this world. As we free ourself from suffering (something is wrong with me feeling), we can express the fullness of who we are.
This trance of unworthiness and feelings of being separate from others makes us feel defective and vulnerable. which leads to suffering. Our suffering may be expressed in some form of addiction to food, alcohol etc., to relationships, overworking, depression. Our fears and insecurities have been passed along for generations in our families of origin. Often we have received messages overtly or un-intended that we are bad, unacceptable or not good enough. If we only define ourselves or focus on our not OKness and insecurities, we lose sight of our natural curiosity, our humor, caring, love and the beauty around us. So many of us have defined ourselves by our negative belief systems that rob us of happiness.
So..how do we achieve radical acceptance? First, it is important to accept our human imperfections as natural and then we can begin to cherish our life in the present moment.
One mindful exercise, Brach shares: As you go through the day, occasionally pause and ask yourself- “do I accept myself just as I am in this moment?” Without judging, become aware of sensations in your body, your feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Our attention can be a time for profound insight and opening to change. What you notice are clues and insights into what is happening inside of your psyche. With increased consciousness you then can begin to have the ability to make healthier changes. “As the trance of unworthiness becomes conscious, it begins to lose its power over our lives”. Carl Rogers (a famous humanistic psychologist) stated,” The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”.
Accepting everything about ourselves doesn’t mean resignation or putting up with harmful behaviors. It is when we shut our heart to who we are and what we feel fuels the fears and feelings of unworthiness. So, instead of judging our desire for needing attention or craving chocolate; we can regard our grasping with gentleness and care.” Compassion makes our acceptance whole hearted and complete”. In my practice, I use a wonderful technique called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), where the client tunes into their specific problem while saying the affirmation “I deeply and completely accept myself anyway”. This is what Radical Acceptance is all about. I recognize I have a problem and I accept myself anyway. Using the affirmation is important; as we are helping the client stop the continued sabotage which prevents them from moving forward and healing. For example; a client says “I want to lose weight, but I don’t deserve to take the time”. “I don’t deserve” or “it’s too hard” are examples of self sabotage and that is exactly why the client can not lose weight. In EFT, we use the principles of acupuncture and tap on specific acupressure points while tuning into the problem. The premise is that all negative emotions create an imbalance in the energy system. So we are utilizing the energy system to restore harmony to self and free us from our suffering. So, first we tap and say the affirmation. Tapping on the points balances the energy system and allows the client to make new cognitive shifts to accept on a deeper level acceptance of self even with the problem. In my practice, I have seen EFT become a profound “accelerator” to boost Radical Acceptance and diminish negative feelings. Ultimately the client creates new beliefs and new behaviors to achieve their goals. Clients often see results begin, in one or two sessions. Utilizing this energy psychology is a phenomenal way to create lasting change and free ourselves to bring genuine peace and happiness. And what better gift could you give yourself!