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The Indecision Trap: When it Comes to Life’s Challenges We Really Only Have 4 Choices.

Staying Miserable Isn't the Best Choice...

Radical Acceptance is a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skill used to help reduce emotional suffering. It is also a common practice of meditation leaders, Buddhists, and Zen masters, and a book written by the incredible teacher, author, and psychologist, Tara Brach. It is called radical acceptance because it is freaking radical. We don’t need to radically accept things that aren’t particularly challenging or causing us distress, those things are just fine. When we approach life’s challenges we have 4 choices.

  1. Problem solve. When there is a problem that can be solved, by you, SOLVE IT. Admittedly my favorite option, I love solutions. I love being able to fix things or make things work better. When there is a problem that is solvable, go get at it.

    • Identify the problem and that it is in fact solvable (by you).
    • Analyze the problem, explore pro/cons of different solutions, what could go wrong, anticipate possible barriers and strategize the best solution for the problem at hand.
    • Implement solution: take action: troubleshoot along the way, tweaking and changing as you go, remain flexible and solution focused.
  2. Change your Perception of the problem. Re-frame. This involves changing the way you see a problem, for example, if there is someone difficult in your life you can view the relationship as an opportunity to learn about yourself and how to cope more effectively with difficult people. Now when difficulty arises you see it as a chance to practice new skills! This can take the focus off the other person and on to what matters most, YOU.
  3. Radically Accepting the Situation: Accepting completely and all the way whatever the situation is with your whole heart and whole self. Accepting reality as it is, rather than how you believe it should be. Letting go of the resistance, judgment, and control and detaching from the story of right/wrong or fair/unfair, settling into what is happening, because it is happening! Radical acceptance is not agreeing or condoning something, but rather accepting it as it is, because it is. For example, getting the flu and having to radically accept that you are sick and cannot go to Miami for an amazing conference you have been looking forward to!
  4. Stay Miserable/non-acceptance: Of course, staying miserable is never an option we would sign on for intentionally. “This can’t be happening,” “I can’t stand this,” “This isn’t right.” It is almost as if we think refusing to accept the truth about what is happening will keep it from being true or stop it from happening. It is like closing your eyes, and hoping for the if I can’t see you, you can’t see me trick.

I often reflect to clients after going through a decision dialogue around a particular problem, “so you are choosing to stay miserable?” Then we laugh and go back in, trying to find something, ANYTHING more effective than that. Staying miserable is akin to a default state, it happens way more often than any of us would like. If you can’t solve the problem, are unwilling to change your perception of the situation, and aren’t ready to radically accept it, then by default you are staying miserable.

Refusing to accept reality doesn’t change reality, it just increases our pain. Accepting you didn’t get the job, the person you love doesn’t love you back, that you were let go from a job you busted your ass at, these are not easy pills to swallow. Life is full of things we cannot change, accepting life is difficult when life is painful. When we think about challenges as being contingent on the choice we make, it makes our default state of “stay miserable” less likely, as we are being intentionally aware and mindful of the power choice has over our experiences.

I am reminded of the serenity prayer, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” We are often stuck resisting something or trying to change things that are unchangeable, like the past or another person. When we focus all our energy on things we do have power over like our own behavior, reactions and choices, we can get out of the tug of war game with ourselves and our problems. The real skill is the wisdom to know the difference. It is hard to accept that things are out of our control or not solvable by us, trust me- it usually looks something like this:

Me: “You cannot change this, it is 100% out of your control.”

Also Me: “Maybe if you {xn•y<(7n+7y)*sum of + n-yz2} then you can change it…”

Pro-tip: Radical Acceptance is not linear and it is not a one and done kind of skill. Sometimes we need to radically accept something five minutes after having just radically accepted it the first time. You may notice you have picked said accepted challenge back up, and now it is in your hand again. That’s ok, radical acceptance happens over and over and over again. Put it down, rinse repeat. You got this. Radical acceptance is the answer to ending unnecessary emotional suffering, one radically accepted breath at a time.

Pain + non-acceptance = suffering.

Pain + acceptance = pain that is about to pass.

Practice Practice Practice. <3 Meg

Originally published at www.meghanbreen.com

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

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