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Radical Acceptance

Hello there! I’m Rita Donahue. I came to Peerstar in December 2020, and I’m both a Certified Peer Specialist and Certified Peer Specialist Supervisor. Prior to working here, I have a background in working and volunteering with adults with Intellectual Disabilities and Dual Diagnoses for 10 years. When being asked to write blogs for Peerstar and to be a part of the Recovery Advisory Board, I was honored, humbled, and a bit alarmed, eek! My inner dialogue screams out, “What is it that I can put out in the world that hasn’t already been said?!”

What I can say with certainty is that my heart and passion is in mental health, teaching coping skills, and advocating for changing mental health stigmas. Therefore, my focus will be in these areas in future blogs.

After pondering what to write about first, I felt that Radical Acceptance would be a wonderful topic to bring to the team, especially amidst COVID-19. Radical Acceptance sounds pretty intense but what it boils down to are the ideas of accepting “it is what it is”, “Let it Goooo” [channeling singing the theme to the ‘Frozen’ movie here], and the idea of choosing to let emotions ride, rather than deny them or feel shameful about them. How does one begin with Radical Acceptance? Firstly, we must accept and embrace what is happening in our lives. Don’t fight reality nor emotions felt— configure how to live in the here and now despite how uncomfortable or painful it may be in the moment. Avoid feeding into habits to numb emotions, yes, they feel good in the moment, I get it! Learn to recognize if you’re avoiding feelings with another vice whether it’s some Ben and Jerry’s, excessive lottery playing, or to have a glass of wine. These are all okay in moderation, just try to identify whether the habits are to avoid feeling an uncomfortable emotion. One approach that can be helpful is to figure out what we can and cannot control. Here’s a handy tool referred to as the “Circle of Control”. If you Google search “Circle of Control”, there are different variations of this and also worksheets to fill it in for your own personalized version. When we get emotionally reactive over things we can’t control, it doesn’t change who wins the Superbowl or the elections. We can’t change the ice and subarctic temperatures into sunshine by getting pissed off that we had to clean ice off our car for the 3rd time in one day! Yelling at the receptionist that you forgot your mask in the car after getting to the building for an appointment doesn’t make ‘Rona go away. It ultimately affects ourselves and those around us if we allow the “uncontrollable” aspects to rule our lives. An old Buddhist concept that may help tie this together is, ““Pain is what happens to us, suffering is what we do with that pain.”” Tara Brach is a lovely person that shares ideas of Radical Acceptance in meditation sessions, books, and videos. Look her up if this is an area of interest to you! Here is one quote from Tara regarding Radical Acceptance: “Pain is not wrong. Reacting to pain as wrong initiates the trance of unworthiness. The moment we believe something is wrong, our world shrinks and we lose ourselves in the effort to combat the pain.” Radical Acceptance is a process. There are many aspects to it so my words here are a condensed version. It’s about checking in on your emotions, feeling them, not avoiding them, and learning how to bring your emotions in before they explode and take over. It’s about leaning to not wade in self-hate or wallow in a mood set from an event earlier in the day. Rejecting things that happen doesn’t change them, but accepting feelings and choosing how to move forward can change you and how you interact with the world. Disclaimer: Blog posts reflect the opinions and experiences of the specific blogger and do not reflect the views or beliefs of Peerstar, LLC as an organization.

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