The Alphabet of Happiness: R

I hope you found yesterday’s post regarding the Quicksand Analogy to be helpful. If you just joined this journey, be sure to take the time to go back and read from the beginning. Without delay, let’s get to it and discuss the letter “R”.

It’s a Friday afternoon and from your desk at work, you are watching the minutes count down on the wall clock. You have had a long week with many projects, deadlines, and late hours at the office. AT LAST, it’s finally 5:00 o’clock. You grab your things and go rushing towards your vehicle in the parking garage.

You feel a surge in your mood and you are looking forward to the weekend and some much-needed peace and quiet. As you are mindlessly driving, dreaming of what you will do this weekend, you notice all of the bright red brake lights in front of you. Traffic is beginning to slow down. You are now at a standstill. There is an accident ahead blocking all lanes of traffic. OH NO!


What are you going to do?

You really only have two choices. You can be angry, upset, frustrated, stressed and anxious. Or, you can choose to not react this way. It’s really up to you.

Radical Acceptance

What is “radical acceptance?” The word radical can be better understood when considering some other related words, such as, broad-minded, nontraditional, open-minded, unconventional, and unorthodox. The definition of acceptance is best defined as the act of accepting, or “to receive or take willingly, to agree to, or to stop resisting.” Now we put all of that together.

Radical Acceptance means “fully opening yourself to your present reality – acknowledging how it is, right here and now, and letting go of the struggle with life as it is in the moment.” (The Happiness Trap, by Russ Harris, MD)

Dr. Marsha Linehan, the creator of DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), explains the basic principles of radical acceptance for us.

Radical Acceptance is…

  • Freedom from suffering by accepting from deep within of what is.
  • It is the only way out of (your personal) hell.
  • Pain (physical and/or emotional) creates suffering only when you refuse to accept the pain.
  • It involves acknowledging what is.
  • It is not about judging (good or bad).

Why should you use Radical Acceptance?

This skill is about identifying what you have control over, what you don’t have control over, and knowing the difference between these two. (sound familiar? Think Serenity Prayer) There are many things in life that are out of your control, including people and the environment (like the car accident on the interstate). What you do have control over is yourself. You can control your thinking, feelings, impulses, and behaviors.

It’s important to remember that radical acceptance has absolutely nothing to do with judgment. Choosing to accept doesn’t state or imply that you have to like it. It is accepting that reality is what it is. Then you can focus on being who you need to be and acting how you need to act to be as effective as possible.

What about the car accident?

Do you have control over this situation? No!

Can you do anything about it? No!

Did you know it was going to happen? No!

Will yelling, shouting, getting angry, hitting the steering wheel, stomping your feet and otherwise working yourself into a huge frenzy help at all? No!

You may feel better for an extremely short amount of time. However, as long as you are harboring those feelings, you are only going to continue to feel worse.

So, what CAN you do instead?

Try using a skill known as “thought defusion.” This principle is centered around the idea that if you can learn to lessen your painful and unpleasant thoughts (what you were experiencing in the car), they will, in fact, lose their ability to grasp you in a chokehold, so to speak. As you continue to learn how to defuse your thoughts and use acceptance, they will have much less influence over your behavior.


Radical Acceptance takes a lot of practice. And understandably, it might feel strange and hard. But remember that radical acceptance is about acknowledging reality – not liking it or contesting it. Once you acknowledge what’s really happening, you can change it or start to heal. Radical acceptance has nothing to do with being passive or giving up. To the contrary, it’s about channeling your energy into moving on.

Continuing with the example I gave, as you sit in your vehicle waiting for the accident to clear, make a conscious decision to not suffer. Not suffering means not entertaining or dwelling on all of those negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Acknowledge the accident, acknowledge that there isn’t anything you can do to change your present situation and take action on the things you CAN do. For example, read this article on your smartphone and leave a comment. 😉

As we continue this journey together, I encourage you to keep reading. If you have yet to find your own how or why to happiness, I strongly believe you will. Please come back tomorrow as we explore the letter “S”.

Copyright © Julie Corbett 2017


4 thoughts on “The Alphabet of Happiness: R

  1. It’s a great piece, Julie. The part that spoke to me most was making a conscious decision not to suffer – it’s tough! I know I for one have recently started to recognise how much I have been attached to suffering and how deep down I’m not thrilled to give it up! Working on it 🙂


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