BY VAALPARK MHU | June 16, 2021
Mrs Patricia O’Hare
One of the skills taught in Dialectic Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is called Radical Acceptance. Marcia Linehan, the mastermind of DBT defines radical acceptance as “complete and total acceptance, from deep within, the facts of reality. It involves acknowledging facts that are true and letting go of a fight with reality”.
All of us to a greater or lesser degree have trouble accepting reality at some stage of our lives. Think about the disbelief and sense of unreality when a loved one dies or when a trusted partner betrays the sanctity of a relationship or when an inexplicable tragedy occurs. It is normal to initially be stunned into disbelief but sooner or later the impact of what has occurred has to be processed and accepted.
A good yet mundane example of reality acceptance is when our country was plunged into cycles of prolonged and unscheduled load shedding. Our initial reaction was disbelief, shock, and horror. We would say things like” This can’t be happening, this shouldn’t happen, this must not happen, this is a disaster”. Note the judgements implied in these typical responses – judgements of non-acceptance, outrage,” I deserve and demand that everything works when I need it to”. All these response examples emanate from our emotional mind because our responses reflect our non -acceptance of reality. As difficult as it is, no amount of emotional outrage is going to change the reality of a power outage at an inopportune time.
DBT teaches you to control the emotional mind so that the rational mind can assess the true and undiluted facts of the matter and to make contingency plans. How does one go about making these plans? Firstly, you must completely and totally accept that there is no power. Then you must damage control by coping ahead which means you have to think about ways and means to handle the disruptions when they occur. For example, you could buy a generator or an alternate form of power supply, or you could get a schedule which informs you of the times and duration of outages. You could then plan your day around these schedules.
Most of us have probably done all the above but we forget that we can generalize this skill into other areas of our lives like when we are involved with problematic relationships. Most often when a relationship does not satisfy our needs, we demand that the other person change. Unfortunately, this rarely happens, (Escom has never put the power back on because we demand it) so we must radically accept that the relationship no longer serves us and by accepting this totally, evaluate our options from a non-judgemental reality perspective and make plans to cope ahead. We could, for example decide how best to function in a less that perfect system or we could disengage from the system entirely (just as we could disengage from Escom and become energy self-sufficient by using some form of green energy).
Most of us have a number of skills in our armament but we often are fail to transfer that knowledge so the skill becomes situation specific. What skill do we need to that? We need to develop Mindfulness which is a topic for another day.