Radical Acceptance is a concept that emerged from Dialectical Behavior Therapy and it is a very useful skill to apply when dealing with current or past relationships with Narcissists. Radical Acceptance is a concept that can be applied to narcissistic coworkers, neighbors, friends, supervisors, family, or romantic partners. Radical Acceptance is a technique that you can use when you feel frustrated, betrayed, hurt, or let down by someone and you get stuck in that emotional state. This is a great skill to learn if you have a Narcissist in your life, and they really are everywhere! Unfortunately, you probably have more than one to deal with.
You can voluntarily end some relationships but some are tricky to leave, like your relationship with your mother, your grumpy neighbor, or your boss. If you are in a romantic relationship with a Narcissist, due to financial obligations, children, or cultural norms, you may decide to stay in that relationship. You always need to do what is right for you and what makes sense. No judgement here! Sometimes we have to interact with people who are not good for our emotional wellbeing and this can take a toll on our mental health. You often cannot control whom you will see and interact with, but you can always control how you think about and how you react to Narcissists.
When you radically accept something, you are accepting the facts and the reality of the situation, including all the positives and the negatives. Radical acceptance is the opposite of living in denial. You also let go of control or judging what happened when you decide to practice Radical Acceptance. When you practice Radical Acceptance, you do not try to fix or change the situation. You accept that “It is what it is” and you set realistic expectations.
Emotionally, when you radically accept something, you name and honor your feelings around the person or event. You are honest with yourself and you do not deny your feelings or the truth. You do not live in denial, make excuses, justify, rationalize or try to change your feelings, you just recognize and accept them.
Radical Acceptance is not justifying or condoning bad behavior and it does not mean that you let people walk all over you or take advantage of you. It also does not mean that you are ignoring bad behavior. It means that you are honest and realistic about what and who is in your environment and your role in these relationships.
When you practice Radical Acceptance, difficult people, situations, and memories have less power over you. You also feel disappointed less. When you radically accept something, you will decrease the amount you suffer and likely prevent yourself from continued cycles of hurt. As I state multiple times in my book, The Psychologist & Her Narcissists, A Guide to Surviving Toxic Relationships, Narcissists do not change and their behaviors tend to turn into patterns, and often very predictable patterns.
You do not need stay awake all night ruminating when your Narcissist ruins a party, lies, tantrums, or does not show up. You can acknowledge you are disappointed and that the behavior is wrong and then get your rest. Your job is not to cover things up, make excuses, or waste time trying to figure out why your Narcissist does awful things. Sometimes when we are in relationships with Narcissists we tend to look the other way or push feelings down to get through a situation. This is not Radical Acceptance! When you radically accept you are brutally honest with yourself and you take things and deal with them as they come.
Here is an example of how to apply Radical Acceptance:
Situation: My mother is such a drama queen and has a meltdown ever holiday. She screams and says the most hurtful things. I really wish I could skip Christmas, but I want to see my dad, sisters, and nieces and nephews. I get so mad and upset after the holidays that I do not sleep well for weeks and all I can think about is my mother’s bad behavior and how to get her to stop acting like a toddler.
Radically Accepting the Situation: My mother will probably scream and say hurtful things at Christmas and this makes me feel angry and sad. This behavior is inappropriate and I am comfortable saying that. My mother does not control her emotions well and it has nothing to do with me. I am not responsible for making that situation better. I am going to go and focus on enjoying Christmas with the other members of my family. I am going to focus on my values of being kind and loving to others. I am going to engage with my mother as little as possible when she is screaming because I do not want to interact with her when she is acting like that.
Best of luck practicing Radical Acceptance and much love
Jenny Tamasi, Survivor and Author of The Psychologist & Her Narcissists, A Guide to Surviving Toxic Relationships