Radical Acceptance

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There are essentially 4 responses that any XJW can have in response to the problems that bother us.  We can do nothing and continue to let them bother us.  We can change how we think about the problem.  We can find a solution and resolve the problem.  OR we can practice something called Radical Acceptance.  Some routes are more practical for certain situations than others.   Today lets talk about Radical Acceptance!

Sometimes we get stuck on a problem and we think about it and think about it.  We get stressed.  We relive it.  This is called rumination and it’s not getting us anywhere if we don’t take action.   As mentioned about you might be able to change the way you think about the problem or you might be able to actually solve the problem.  But what if its a problem that cannot be easily resolved?  That is Radical Acceptance comes in.

Before I start I want to add that sometimes when people hear about Radical Acceptance-type topics they are reminded of the JW idea of just praying away their problems.  JWs are encouraged to endure their problems with passive praying and bible reading rather than active problem-solving and making changes.  That is not what I am recommending here.  If you have a problem that you think you can solve or there are things you can change then I recommend that you explore that!  Journalling might help you explore solving problems.  I plan on writing more article about problem-solving for XJWs in the future.  This article is about exploring and processing things that you are unable to change.

The following is an XJW interpretation of an article by Karyn Hall Ph.D., a DBT certified clinician.  

Radical acceptance is about accepting life as it is.  It’s about not resisting what is.  It’s about not resisting the things you cannot change.  As XJWs there a lot of things we cannot change but might want to.  I was born into the Jehovah’s Witness religion and it caused me a lot of suffering.  I missed out on a lot of life.  I cannot change this.

Think about any problem you’ve had that you said, “That shouldn’t have happened!”.  (This is sometimes called “should-ing” and I plan to talk about this in a different article)  There are a lot of things in this world that shouldn’t happen and yet they do.  Bad things have happened to you and me.  It doesn’t matter if we think they should have happened or not.  The reality is that they DID happen.  Accepting that even though we feel it shouldn’t have happened but it did happen is radical acceptance.

An important concept here is that Radical acceptance is not about condoning what happened.  Its only about accepting that it happened.

When we resist accepting reality it brings us much pain and suffering.  It’s almost as though we think that if we resist reality aggressively enough we will somehow change what has happened.  I can resist the bad that has happened to me over and over.  But the fact is it happened and it will not change.

Once we start to accept the things we cannot change it will bring us a certain peace, a relief from the suffering.  It’s easy to write about but not always as easy to practice.  It can take some time.  Be kind and patient with yourself when working on accepting things you cannot change.

Life is filled with emotional experiences.  Some experiences produce feelings of love, joy, happiness, and contentment things we think of as good.  Other experiences produce feelings of sadness, pain, or longing.  Often we cling to the positive feelings and we resist the negative ones.

This clinging to the positive and avoiding the negative brings us suffering.  This is a core teaching of Buddhism, which I also plan to explore more in a different post.  Here we are talking about avoiding the negative specifically though.  And when we do that we miss out on the hear and now.  We miss out on opportunities to experience life, especially the joys of life.

Sometimes this clinging to the positive and avoiding the negative can lead us to addictive problems like drinking, gambling, spending too much, eating too much, or becoming a workaholic.

We can turn our troubling ruminating thoughts into accepting thoughts.  For example, we can tell ourselves something like this, “I was born into Jehovah’s Witnesses and experienced XYZ (fill in the blank).  I don’t approve of it and it’s certainly not ok.  However, it is what it is and I can’t change what happened to me”

This is a tough concept to grasp and to practice.  It takes time.  It takes having a lot of patience and love for oneself.

If you’re interested in this topic I recommend the book called Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.   

References:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201202/got-problem-the-good-news-is-you-only-have-four-options  by Karyn Hall Ph.D.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201207/radical-acceptance by Karyn Hall Ph.D.

Published by Ryan David Tuttle

PhD Graduate student studying Behavioral Neuroscience, Addiction, Stress, Behavioral Economics, and Individual Differences. Former member Ministerial Servant and Pioneer in a Spanish speaking congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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