When we judge our feelings as “bad” or we tell ourselves that we “shouldn’t” feel a certain way, we are essentially telling ourselves that something is wrong with us. This creates shame, and shame is at the root of self-sabotaging behaviors. Our harsh judgment of our emotions snowballs into something much worse.
If we practice radical acceptance, we observe and describe our feelings-free of judgment. We understand that our feelings and our behaviors are independent of one another. Just because we feel a certain way, does not mean that we have to act on those feelings- especially if our actions lead to pain and regret.
Let’s say, for example, that I am feeling depressed. If I say to myself, “Look how good I have it. I shouldn’t feel depressed. What is wrong with me?” I am actually shaming my feelings and making my depression worse. On the other hand, if I practice radical acceptance, I notice that I am feeling depressed without judging it. Rather than shaming myself, I find healthy ways to treat my depression.
Here is another example. Let’s say that I am feeling very angry at a loved one who has always been there for me in the past. Instead of practicing radical acceptance, I beat myself up for feeling angry. I say to myself, “I can’t believe that I feel angry at her after all that she has done for me.” Now- I am not only angry at my loved one, but I am also angry at myself for feeling angry. And anger turned inward often causes depression. I have made things worse.
By practicing radical acceptance, I notice that I am feeling angry without judging it. There is no “should” or “shouldn’t.” It just is. I realize that being angry at the moment does not take away the wonderful things that this person has done for me in the past. It is not all or none. I can love someone and still feel angry. After I accept my feelings, I can decide how I want to behave. I understand that I can be angry without acting in a destructive way. I understand that being angry at the moment does not mean that I will never forgive.
Radical acceptance is about observing things for what they are and leaving the critical judgments behind. When you are already scared, angry, or in pain, the last thing that you need is to beat yourself up for feeling scared, angry, or in pain. Try compassion instead.
Thank you to Todd Lohenry at Wholeheartedness for sharing the above graphic and inspiring this post. Wholeheartedness