Radical acceptance is an attitude towards life that helps to reduce unproductive judgements and responses such as self-blame, blaming others and anger. The DBT philosophy separates the concepts of pain and suffering. Pain is something that is a natural response to negative events; suffering is something that is created and exacerbated by how a person responds to painful events. Suffering develops when a person ruminates excessively on the past, going around and around with overly critical judgements of themselves or other people.
Radical acceptance involves acknowledging the present situation, and seeing it as it really is, without judgement or criticism. DBT uses several exercises for teaching radical acceptance. For example, from a list of statements that summarise an attitude of radical acceptance (e.g. “I can’t change what has already happened”, “It’s a waste of time to fight what’s already happened”), clients are asked to choose one or more statements that resonate with them, or make up one of their own, and then to use these statements on a daily basis in response to smaller events in their lives (p11-12). Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) also includes Acceptance as a core element. ACT offers several structured exercises for demonstrating the idea of acceptance and practicing it. These notes are based on McKay, Wood and Brantley (2007) unless otherwise stated.