Radical Acceptance: the bad, the ugly…


Once upon a time….

I was in a `partial-hospitalization’ program at UCSF, after having admitted myself for extreme anxiety, panic, and insomnia.  I was in the program because I was `too good’ for county services, and had nowhere else to go.

I hated, hated Mark, the therapist assigned to me.  He was the worst version of New York, brash in-your-face obnoxiousness.  He insulted me, telling me during group that he was wasting his time with us.  He was generally disgusted with us.  And I was disgusted with myself…and everyone else.  I was especially disgusted with my family, who really only paid attention to me when I was in a crisis/in the hospital.  During group, I told Mark I was going to send my brother an email telling him what an ass he was for ignoring me until I was practically flinging myself off a bridge.

What do you want? What do you want?  Mark kept yelling at me.

“I want him to love me.  I want him to show that he loves me”, I yelled back.

“Well, do you think sending him an email telling him that he’s an ass will make him show you any more love?”

Oooohhhh, lightbulb moment, and first real `dbt moment’.  Holy crap!  I was the one creating the drama???  Reallllly?????

I had, until this point, felt like I didn’t have control over letting my emotions, feelings and thoughts just pour out of me.  In fact, because I studied philosophy, I was encouraged to just `let it all out’.  I got A’s for doing just that.

But my personal life was a mess.  Everyone left.  And honestly, this isn’t a ‘yay, dbt made my entire life great blog’.  My family still doesn’t talk to me.  But at least I send emails saying that I love them and wish we could have a relationship.  I don’t, unfortunately, have control over their responses.  I feel everything from rage to abandonment about the situation – but I don’t say it.  The one time per year that we speak I concentrate on showing them that I am gentle and kind.  I try to sound upbeat even if I’m feeling like crap.  Does it feel fake?  Yes.  And that’s what it will feel…until I do it enough times that it doesn’t feel fake anymore.  I’m still me – but I am a me who is doing what is effective vs. letting my emotions rule and ruin my life.

As far as not having a relationship with my family goes, I go from wallowing in self-pity to practicing Radical Acceptance.  Things are as they are.  And I’m Radically Accepting that some things are awful.  And I need to Radically Accept that some things are actually okay.  Even good.  And I need to Radically Accept that sometimes it is actually harder to acknowledge the good things than the bad…because I’m not used to it, and it is new and scary to have anything but blips of contentment, joy, peace, gratitude….

Radical Acceptance includes acceptance of what is good.  I keep forgetting that.  Hopefully now that I’ve written it down, I’ll remember.  Maybe you’ll remind me.




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