This article was written by Christopher Oliphant. He is a life coach in Toronto.
Radical Acceptance is a bold, new approach to looking at life. It has been described as paradigm shattering as it is fundamentally different from most other approaches currently being taught. The basic premise is that we are not broken, there is nothing to fix. Rather, we can choose to accept all of who we are.
What does that mean? I was working with a woman the other day. (I'll call her Yvonne.) Yvonne was sad, depressed and feeling powerless. Yvonne had been in an emotionally abusive relationship. The relationship was over, but they were still living together. She was living in a toxic environment in a toxic relationship. After some investigation I realized that Yvonne was deeply embedded in the victim archetype. In fact, her victim archetype had become toxic and was the source of the other toxic aspects of her life. She was stuck with nowhere to go.
More conventional approaches would be to help her get out of being a victim. She might look at being more powerful or assertive. She might examine how she makes choices in her life. Radical Acceptance says, no, stay in your victim archetype. Trying to get out will prove pointless. Trying to get out is most likely going to fail, making your victim archetype even more toxic.
Saying yes to this is difficult. Our culture is firmly planted in the need to fix, transform or somehow avoid the dark and unpleasant aspects of life. For some of our clients they will resist and try to fix several times, each time failing, each time becoming more toxic, until finally they can accept.
In my chat with Yvonne, she started out fighting this idea. She tried going back to her childhood hoping that she could fix the problem by learning its source. But she already knew the source and she was still in victim. She tried talking about her partner, but she already knew all about her partner and she was still in victim.
Yvonne's victim archetype is now an integral part of who she is. My suggestion to her was to see how being miserable feeds her. How she gets payback from her suffering. Then I asked her to being emailing me with daily accounts of all the things she did to make herself more miserable. She was to rate the action on a scale of 1-10 where 1 was an action that only made her slightly more miserable and 10 was an action that made her hugely more miserable.
We played with this for a while. Her whole being started to shift. She began to feel more powerful and less miserable. This new energy prompted her to want to move out of victim. I rejected that idea. Moving out is about fixing or changing. That would only work for a short period of time and then Yvonne would return to the toxic victim. I wanted her to befriend her victim, get to know her and embrace her. Only this will remove the toxicity from the victim.
Yvonne's first email was fairly short. It is more difficult to make yourself more miserable when you are aware that you are doing it. Another way of saying that is, when your ego is aware you are watching she has to become more subtle. Over time Yvonne will grow more aware of her actions and more aware of the times she acts to increase her suffering is subtle and not so subtle ways. Then she will become aware of when the victim wants to increase suffering, but Yvonne will make another choice. The victim is still present and active. Yvonne has embraced her and learned to accept her. In that acceptance, Yvonne is now free to make new choices. A freedom she never had while fighting the victim.
This is the beauty of Radical Acceptance. The more I accept myself, the greater my freedom. When I know I am a control freak, I have the freedom to act controlling, or not. When I know I am an addict, I have the freedom to finally stop acting on my addiction, or not. And the list goes on. Each toxic, rejected part of my self that I own and embrace removes the toxicity and brings me greater freedom.
So welcome all liars, cheaters, haters, victims, martyrs, violators, betrayers - you make life richer and freer through the gift of Radical Acceptance.
The final words go to Yvonne. "Btw, haven't been miserable in quite a while; I hear it's easier to deal with me now :) - that makes me feel good about myself. My relationship with my 'partner' improved a lot, and we started to behave like humans. Even though it's not what I always wanted, but I'm not sure I knew what it was that I wanted; I only knew what I didn't want. Not sure if that makes sense. I can't believe all I had to do is to accept!!! I'm still amazed at how easy it became for me to deal with things that used to be incomprehensible to me. Thank you again for your help!"
See more of Christopher Oliphant.