Working on my radical acceptance

By Mir
July 10, 2012

So my new (awesome) therapist commented to me this morning that in her experience, people fall into one of two categories: Either they are worriers—chronically agonizing over absolutely everything—or they tend not to worry at all, even in situations where it’s appropriate and advantageous to do so. I bet you have NO IDEA which category I tend to fall into. (I’m hilarious!)

This leads to a lot of talking about this concept of “radical acceptance” (which I will leave for you to Google if you so choose), which basically boils down to a philosophy of “These things just ARE, and cannot be changed, so I accept them and move on to dealing with the things which ARE changeable.” HOLY WOW is this easier said than done, but it turns out that despite a lifetime of trying to get one’s head around this logical concept, having a mentally ill kid in the hospital is kind of that final push needed to realize “I have to find a way to live with this and still be a person with a life and hope and happiness.” Lucky, lucky me.

So that’s what I’m doing. Chickadee is in the hospital and I do not like it, Sam I Am. I do not like it one bit. But obsessing over the hows and whys and what-ifs changes nothing, except that it makes me miserable. Hmmmm. I have a lot of work to do.

In the meantime, my current thought processes reminded me of an incident from my youth that feels relevant, here. (Also, Off Our Chests has changed their name to Feel More Better, which I kind of love.) C’mon over and check it out.


  1. niki

    I must go google this concept. I could really use it in my life right now as well.

  2. Pure Klass

    I can’t remember where I saw it first, but this is a pretty useful graphic:

    Also, William B. Irvine’s book, A Guide to the Good Life, offers many beautiful and useful insights about how to live with things that are horrible, and still appreciate the beautiful.

    Also, I haven’t really commented on your blog much (or at all?) but I read every post, and have for a long time… For what it’s worth, both my sister and I were hospitalized with mental illness issues in our early adolescence… and we’re both just fine. It’s not that the path was easy – it wasn’t, and sometimes still isn’t – but life is full of unexpected things, and all one can do is push on. I guarantee that when you get to the other side of what you’re doing now, you’ll all be so much stronger than you ever knew you could be.

    In fact, you probably already are.

  3. Tarrant

    It helps. And I’ve tried to train my mother into it and what is amusing is she falls into not using it but I hear her coaching other people on the phone to use it.

  4. Jamie

    I like the concept of radical acceptance until the guilt comes knocking.

  5. Issa

    I am for sure the worry type. Worrying ftw! Oh wait.

    I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy trying to get past it. I can to a degree, yet I still worry over small details and not the big things. Shrug. I’m a work in progress.

    Hopefully you can get to the place where you still enjoy life. I can’t imagine how hard all of this is on you. But I do believe that life has to move on despite the chaos. .

  6. Cameron

    This! Great description- its hard for me not to come off sounding apathetic when trying to explain my emotions surrounding my alcoholic/addict parent. I’m the OPPOSITE of apathetic, but have had to (1) realize that there is nothing I can do to control someone else’s life and (2) put up some (helathy) emotional boundaries to protect myself. It takes years, and is an ongoing process. Good for you, hitting a HUGE mental/theraputic milestone! Thinking of you all-

  7. suburbancorrespondent

    It takes time, though. You do need time to adjust to the new reality. But not fighting it does help speed up the process!

  8. dad

    I think your an “intensivist” rather than a radical.
    You care deeply and do nearly everything you do with something beyond verve.

    Good for you…even if I occasionaly advise you otherwise.

  9. Megan

    Yup, I think it’s the immovable object/irresistible force conundrum. There just comes a point where you have to realize that your irresistible worry is not budging that darn object (generally when a point of absolute exhaustion beyond all previously conceived exhaustion is reached). What makes it even more fun is that – if you’re me – you get to re-learn that radical acceptance all over again the next time! Nope, I can’t be taught!

  10. Anna

    I’ve been working on learning this lesson in a big way, myself. Good luck. :)

  11. Heather

    I could definitely use some radical acceptance, myself. Gotta work on that.

  12. Meri

    I think medical problems force a lot of people to face this.

    I wish I’d had the phrase at hand more than a few times in the past. People couldn’t understand that accepting the current state of things does not disallow working to make them better. It just means you don’t have to be miserable in the meantime. I am tired and I can’t tell if all of those negatives parse, but you can get the gist.

  13. Mandy

    While dealing with some pretty rough trauma, one of my awesome therapists recommended reading Pema Chodron. Although she is a Buddhist monk, you don’t have to be Buddhist to get something from her work. If you have a minute, check her out on Amazon. Two titles I really loved (and sadly gave away to someone who never returned them – boo!): WHEN THINGS FALL APART and START WHERE YOU ARE.

    ((hugs)) from a long-time reader and fan of Mir and Mir’s family <3

  14. Jessica

    I’ve been trying this philosophy (my husband’s family has an “it is what it is” philosophy that I thought about for a long time and realized that “it is what it is” only applies if I can’t do anything to change it. If I can change it and it bothers me enough to try, I should. If I cannot, “it is what it is” should work for me.), anyway, I’ve been trying it for a couple years now. I still cannot stop my brain every so often from worrying a subject like a pre-teen boy with a scab, but I can’t figure out how to get it to stop. When I know my brain is stuck on that setting, I warn my husband (I tend to get really crabby when it happens, because I’m all stressed out and worried) and then I try to keep busy.

    I still don’t get why The Worry overtakes me every so often. And I hate it.

    (When we were still trying to get back into blogging after a while of being away, here is what I wrote about it: As you can see, we didn’t get that off the ground for long. ;) Also, it helps if you know that my husband’s family is Swedish, which explains the Scandinavian part.)

  15. Margaret

    I never knew there was a name for it, but I have learned how to do it. Of course, the medication helps. I prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and then manage to keep moving. There are too damned many things in life that I CAN do something about for me to spend a ton of energy on things that are beyond my control. (However, the fact that this contradicts my belief that I am the Queen of the Universe is sometimes difficult to swallow.) Hang in there, Mir!

  16. Pats

    At one point I was crazy enough to believe that if I worried about something, it wouldn’t happen. Sort of Murphy’s Law in reverse? It was my own way of attempting to control the universe. Then I had a life-changing catastrophe that finally made me realize that you can’t prevent most things. Worrying just sucks the good part out of “now.” It’s hard to let go, though, isn’t it?

  17. Therese

    Hubby and I are at the opposite ends of this spectrum. He is the ultimate worrier, while I am of the “I’ll worry when it comes time to worry” camp (and then it’s usually too late!) Fortunately, it seems to balance us out :) Things will get better. Chickie is a smart girl–she’ll figure out how to balance things in her own mind and time.

  18. jodifur

    I never heard of radical acceptance. I’m going to work on it it to. I could use it.

  19. Jaelithe

    I could probably use some of this radical acceptance you speak of, myself. Worrying and I are very old frenemies. I keep a paperweight on my desk that says “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles: it empties today of its strength.” But reading it every day has not yet made as much of a permanent impression on me as I might wish.

    We parents think we’re supposed to be the ones teaching our kids how to live. And yet often we’re the ones who wind up having all our hopes and expectations upended, and needing to learn a whole new way of dealing with life, again and again, in order to parent effectively.

    You’re doing a great job right now. You are a good mom. (Put that on a paperweight and look at it, maybe?) I hope things get better for Chickie and all of you soon.

  20. Sharon

    i remember when we hit this step in the DBT group i was in to help me learn to deal with my son’s mental illness and my reactions. all 6 of us looked at the two coaches and about died laughing. it is something i still have to practice, like meditating, and that is still hard. i practice it and work at it, the radical acceptance that lets you find how to be effective, but,
    but, i am mighty mom! and a math/science/engineer person! and that means we can fix everything! no, i can’t, but i can work on finding ways to help us get through this every day. but, yeah, some days….
    hugs, and yeah, teach that monkey to run the dehydrator! i use ours for backpacking foods, and for wild mushrooms mostly, so it gets used only seasonally.

  21. kim @frogpondsrock

    I thought I had commented here. I must have wandered off and just thought about it instead.

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