Radical Acceptance, Explained


– Carolyn Moriarty, LCPC


Imagine this: you’re faced with a situation that’s not at all what you had hoped for. It might be a personal setback, a relationship challenge, or even something as pervasive as a global crisis. Whatever it is, it’s not what you wanted or expected. What do you do?

This is where “Radical Acceptance” may come in handy. Radical Acceptance is a concept associated with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a type of psychotherapy developed by psychologist Marsha Linehan. According to Linehan, Radical Acceptance is all about fully embracing reality as it is, without judgment or resistance. It’s about saying, “Okay, this is how things are right now, and that’s okay.”

I can sense the gears in your head are turning and I already know what you’re about to say: “okay…but isn’t that just giving up?” Absolutely not. Radical Acceptance is not about “giving up”, throwing in the towel or resigning yourself to a passive existence.

But first, let’s talk about the mental block that makes Radical Acceptance a difficult concept to fully wrap your head around.


Why is Acceptance Difficult?


Acceptance can be tough for several reasons.

  • It goes against the natural human instinct to control and manipulate our surroundings to fit our preferences. We’re wired to resist situations that make us uncomfortable or unhappy, which makes accepting them a challenge.
  • Societal norms promote the idea of constantly striving for improvement and success, which creates pressure to reject anything that doesn’t align with our aspirational visions. This societal pressure can make us feel inadequate or weak for accepting our circumstances as they are.
  • Accepting reality requires us to confront painful truths or emotions that we may prefer to avoid. It involves acknowledging vulnerabilities and facing uncertainties, which can be unsettling and provoke fear or anxiety.
  • Fostering acceptance requires patience and practice in the face of inevitable setbacks. This journey towards acceptance can feel daunting, especially when progress seems slow or non-existent.


What is Radical Acceptance?


Imagine a constant tug-of-war between reality and your idealized vision of how things should be. The two sides fruitlessly struggle against each other day after day. Radical Acceptance is not about entertaining this game of tug-of-war—it’s about dropping the rope completely. Only after doing so will you be able to find peace and empowerment in accepting things as they are.

Think of it like this: when you stop fighting against reality, you free up a ton of mental and emotional energy that you can redirect toward constructive purposes. Rather than wasting your energy on pointless resistance or denial, you can focus on what you can control and how you can make the best of the situation. In this way, Radical Acceptance is the exact opposite of “giving up”. It functions as a powerful tool for managing difficult emotions, reducing suffering, and fostering resilience in the face of life’s challenges.


To start practicing Radical Acceptance, try using some of the following coping statements to remind yourself to “drop the rope”:

  • This is where things are right now.
  • I am physically unable to change the past.
  • Trying to change what already happened is pointless.
  • I can only control the present.
  • This moment occurred because of countless other decisions that came before it
  • This situation is occurring exactly how it should be, given everything that came before it
  • Instead of blaming and doubting myself, I just need to act.


Radical Acceptance isn’t always easy, especially when faced with circumstances that seem unfair or overwhelming. However, the payoff is immense. By embracing Radical Acceptance, you open the door to inner peace and resilience. You learn to ride the waves of life with grace and courage, knowing that you have the power to choose how you respond to whatever comes your way.




Seeking Mental Health Support

Schedule an appointment with Chicago Counseling Center . Our therapists specialize in OCD and can develop an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. — Meet our team to learn more!


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