May DBT Challenge: Accepting What You Cannot Change

By Wesley Morgan, MA, LLPC

In early spring, the weather in Michigan caused an uproar. The saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” Well, April brought us snow instead. From thousands of complaints to school closings, it was hard to accept that Michigan was experiencing winter all over again when we thought the end was finally in sight.

Radical acceptance is accepting the things you cannot change and seeing reality for what it is despite your feelings. Radical means that you are all in--mind, heart and body. When you radically accept something, you are releasing judgement and avoiding attempts to fight against or change it.

When we practice radical acceptance, we have a better chance at experiencing life

We all would've loved to change the weather last month. However, imagine how those weeks of abnormal snowfall would have gone if you'd stayed inside all day every day actively upset over the low temperatures instead of pushing past frustrations to still experience and enjoy the day?

For the person who spends fall dreading winter is coming, a little radical acceptance can make the difference between enjoying crisp apples from the orchard, warm donuts, and hay rides versus living in agony and feeling frustrated summer and fall are too short. And whether it's snow, a bad fight with a loved one, or ruined plans and unfair circumstances, radical acceptance means "I don't have to like what's going on but I'm not going to dwell in a place I cannot change while prolonging pain and suffering."

Acceptance does not mean approval

The difficulty in accepting something is the belief that we are giving our stamp of approval, but acceptance is looking at the facts and excluding judgment. For instance, acceptance is having a project due at school or work that you don't want to do, don't feel is necessary, don't have time for, but accepting it by taking steps to complete the project instead of complaining and causing emotions to rise.


Your DBT Challenge

-Take some time and figure out what YOU need to accept about your life or situation. Remember, when you radically accept something, you are releasing judgement of it and avoiding attempts to fight against or change it.

-Put acceptance into action. If you struggle with self acceptance, practice radical acceptance by looking at yourself in the mirror in the morning and say, "Good morning ________(your name), you are ________ (fill in the blank)." Examples: beautiful, strong, loving, bold, learning to do better. Remember, no judgments allowed. Learn how to love who you are regardless of looks and feelings. When you radically accept who you are, you open the opportunity to become a better you.

-Do Something Else. If you struggle with being stuck in traffic, practice acceptance by acknowledging you feel annoyed and accept there is nothing you can do to change it. Do something other than be upset: listen to the radio or music on your phone, sing loudly, listen to a podcast or audio book, relax your muscles and repeat a mantra.

Take the challenge and accept that sometimes it is what it is.


Wesley has experience treating anxiety disorders, drug & alcohol abuse, depression, and domestic violence. He spent two years as a crisis counselor diffusing stressful situations, proactively resolving long standing issues, helping people set and achieve challenging goals and objectives, and steering people toward recovery from self-harming, suicidal ideation, and anger management issues. He has a seminary background which has also enabled him to address ethical and moral matters, including problems of conscience and family differences.

His goal is not to change people but to help facilitate the change that they desire. Learn more about Wesley here.

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