by Emily Suzuki, MA, LAC
It’s only a matter of time, until each of us encounters moments in life that arrive with the experience of emotional, physical or spiritual pain. It’s daunting but true. Pain is a reality that we often avoid when things are good, and maybe even continue to avoid when things are hard.
The truth of pain can be difficult to accept. Pain is an experience we instinctively move away from. Our brains are wired to protect and seek safety. But pain is a fact of life, it’s a necessary part of the human condition.
However, suffering is something entirely different from pain. Buddhists point out that suffering is created in the space between what the reality of the situation is, and some imagined reality that we wish were the case instead. Though it is still real, and also very much a part of being human, we have agency around how we relate to suffering.
In a state of distress, we often ruminate on should’s and projections, rather than looking squarely at the truth of the situation in front of us. We pine over, long for and can weave together elaborate stories of what we want to be, or wished would be, but in doing so, we suffer because we haven’t fully accepted what really is.
Radical acceptance is the practice of meeting reality directly where it is. Without resistance or bargaining we open ourselves fully to the hard truths of the situation before us. It’s not a thing that happens once, but a practice that must be repeated over and over again. As things change, circumstances change, so must our acceptance of situations be continuous and evolving.
When we meet painful experiences with radical acceptance, we are moving from an embodied practice of compassion. Holding pain in mind, body and spirit is such a radically loving thing to do, that it can reduce the suffering we create, and soften the pain we feel.
Radical acceptance is much like the act of holding a small baby. The way a mother might hold her child, with a full heart for the good and the hard, and a love that is unconditional and all encompassing. Turning towards pain and suffering in radical acceptance, we can imagine that maternal love and compassion, and hold ourselves and others in that care.
Radical acceptance is a skill that when practiced can offer great relief from the pressure and discomfort of suffering. We may not always understand, want or approve of what it is we find ourselves faced with accepting, and that’s ok. Radical acceptance is the opposite of resistance or reactivity and can actually hold space for both the reality of what’s happening and the uncomfortable feelings that arise in light of it. It doesn’t mean we love it, like it, or get it, it simply means, we accept it. This radical practice is both simple and complex. Embodying acceptance in this way, gets directly to the core and essence of what is, and is a powerful skill to ease times of pain.
To learn more about radical acceptance check out this video from Kristine Aguilar, one of the clinicians in the practice. Read more about the clinicians in Ewing, New Jersey at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling. Call to schedule an appointment.
Mindful and Multicultural Counseling Clinical Team
Therapists and psychologists committed to improving well being and mindful living.