Radical Acceptance

art1Carl Rogers, renowned American psychologist, wrote, “The curious paradox is when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”  Acceptance does not mean we have to completely like what we see, and maybe we don’t like it at all.  Radical acceptance means that without deciding how much we are or are not responsible for our present life situation, we stop denying or pushing it away, and just look it in the eye.  I don’t know who came up with “It is what it is,” but, it is what it is.  Without harsh judgment we can stop defending and start deciding if we want to make changes and stop self-sabotaging.

Self-sabotaging happens when we focus on what is wrong and become so down on ourselves that we quit trying altogether.  It’s like breaking a dietary plan and then just eating everything chocolate in sight, or being so convinced that we will never get out of debt, that we just go ahead and spend more.  Radical acceptance begins with looking at the problem and adding up the numbers.

Self-sabotaging happens when we present a false self in relationships because we think that if other people really knew us, they would reject us for sure.  After enough false starts we may become so frustrated that we give up the pretense and the exhaustion and stumble on to something better—working on our own issues first.

Radical acceptance of self can also help in our misguided efforts to change others.  Rogers used the term “unconditional positive regard” to describe looking at the inherent worth of others even when they may not live up to our own definitions of worth. Feeling respected is sometimes the last and best chance for people to decide to change destructive behaviors.

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