Radical acceptance is a mindfulness approach to healing emotional pain. Accepting your situation and pain can help you heal emotionally.
In Buddhist philosophy, mindfulness practices such as present moment awareness and meditation support people to awaken to the realization that they are not their thoughts or emotions. Rather, they are the expansive, loving presence behind and within all aspects of life. This allows painful emotions and obsessive thoughts to dissolve into the light of truth and spiritual reality.
Tara Brach, a clinical psychologist and teacher of Buddhist mindfulness meditation, is the author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha. In it she describes radical acceptance as having two components: clear seeing and compassion. Seeing clearly “is the quality of awareness that recognizes exactly what is happening in our moment-to-moment experience…we are willing to be with whatever arises, even if we wish the pain would end or that we could be doing something else.”
Tara goes on to describe compassion as “our capacity to relate in a tender and sympathetic way to what we perceive. Instead of resisting our feelings of fear or grief, we embrace our pain with the kindness of a mother holding her child.”
These tips on how to heal emotional pain are from Gini Grey, a guest author.
Mindfulness involves being with what is in every moment. Feeling the warm sudsy water running through your fingers as you wash the dishes instead of being lost in thoughts; noticing the difference between true hunger sensations or the urge to sooth painful emotions with comfort food; sensing anger surface within before unconsciously lashing out at another.
It takes conscious practice to be aware of what is happening in the moment. Our mind easily dominates with thoughts of the past or fantasies of the future. We have to continually bring our awareness into this moment as we go through the day until we create a mindfulness habit. Finding inner happiness and joy can become our default mindset.
Radically Accepting What Is
As we become more mindful of what is happening in the present moment our emotions naturally surface. Not only do present emotional currents run through us, but any painful emotions we’ve held from the past will come up for air and release. Most of us have not been raised to fully accept sadness, fear and anger, but by not accepting these and trying to stuff them down with busyness, food, drugs or alcohol, we also suppress the lighter emotions of amusement, joy and enthusiasm. Or we cover our true feelings with a veneer of happiness that crumbles upon close inspection.
Have you been diagnosed with a scary, perhaps terminal, illness? Read Trusting God When You’re Diagnosed With Lung Cancer.
Healing Emotional Pain With Radical Acceptance
Here are four suggestions for how to heal emotional pain by radically accepting yourself, your sensations and emotions.
1. Body Scan. Spend 15 minutes each day in a quiet setting where you can close your eyes and turn inward. Begin by focusing on your breath. Feel it come in through your nostrils, expanding your lungs and diaphragm. Then scan your body from head to toes, limb by limb, noticing any sensations. Start with surface skin sensations and then go deeper to feel the tingling of energy flowing through your body. This will support you to be in the present moment and become more comfortable and acceptant of your body sensations.
2. Meditation breaks. Throughout the day, do quick, easy meditations where you stop to notice your breathing, thoughts and emotions that are currently arising. Without judging anything as good or bad, just notice what is occurring for a few minutes and then go back to your work. See if you can bring present moment awareness to your daily tasks. If you need help focusing while meditating, read The Benefits of Burning Incense for Meditation.
3. Bring presence to emotions. As you become more mindful of what is occurring for you in the present moment you will begin to sense emotions arising. Before they take over and consume you or you try to cover them up with thinking, eating or busyness, simply be with them. Observe them with neutrality. What sensations are connected to them? Do you feel tightness, resistance, hollowness or some other physical experience? Where in your body do they reside? Let go of any stories around them and just be present and accept them as they are.
4. Embrace painful emotions. When you feel ready to touch into deeper emotional pain, put aside an hour to honor yourself and process emotions. You may want to begin with a meditation technique to relax your body, calm your mind and connect to your spiritual self. From this centered space, explore your body for old emotional pain that wants to be heard, acknowledged and released. It may start as a sensation in your body, or a picture in your mind. Go with it until you touch into the emotional aspect. Be gentle, kind and compassionate with yourself. Remember that you are the bigger than any pain or emotions. As painful feelings surface, wrap them in your loving presence. Say hello to them. Feel their depth. If you are visual, you may see the emotion as a shape or color. What message is it trying to convey? Does it want to be released? Let go of any holding or resistance and feel it melt away. What sensation, feeling or emotion is underneath? Stay with this process until you feel complete.
When we radically accept what is without judgment, but with neutrality and compassion, our emotional pain softens, loosens and dissolves. We are then left with our true nature of love and joy.
If you feel like radical acceptance won’t help you heal, read How to Hold on to Hope When Life Seems Hopeless.
Do you have any insights on healing emotional pain with radical acceptance? Please share below.