Keeping it Real with Radical Acceptance
There is no healing without radical acceptance. It’s really that simple. Radical acceptance or acceptance is not saying what happened is ok, and acceptance is not giving in. Acceptance is acknowledging reality so you can marshal your psychological and emotional resources to heal (Pedersen, 2019). The concept seems so simple, the practice is extremely difficult, because it means a radical shift in thinking as well. It means letting go of belief systems that allowed the narcissistic relationships in your life to persist. Without those, you are looking at a new landscape, and initially that is terrifying. But it also opens you up to a new landscape, andyou will see that is quite hopeful.
Have you ever had something break at home, maybe an appliance, or your laptop, or your car? You think, let me fool with this for a minute, I must be able to figure it out. You fool around with it, turn things on and off, do what you can with what you know. At some point, you get someone with some expertise to look at it, and they may say “oh, there was no way this could work, you need a certain part, or this is a glitch that requires some special software, or you need a whole new engine thing.” And at that moment, you may be frustrated because this means either an expensive fix, or you have to get rid of the thing because it’s not worth fixing. But also at that moment, you recognize, there actually was nothing you could have done, and you are ok with it, you aren’t an appliance fixer. If you can accept that you can’t fix your refrigerator or printer, I know you can recognize and accept that you can’t fix the toxic people in your life (and there is no expert than can).
Radical acceptance is destabilizing because many people think that the only path forward then is that “I have to leave, or go no contact, or remove this person from my life, or quit the job.” Not necessarily. It means you interact with the relationship or the situation differently. You use your resources differently in the relationship. You stop blaming yourself when things don’t improve. But the fear that seeing it clearly means you have to upend your life, can mean that acceptance and grief become closely related.
There is no healing without radical acceptance. It’s not just the simple acceptance of “they are not going to change.” But it is also the acceptance that you can view yourself and your role in this differently, that you are not to blame, and that there is life after narcissistic abuse. This month is about taking that hope you misplaced in the narcissist, and putting it into yourself.