Written by Joe G. Santos
Radical Acceptance (RA) is a term floating around in both spirituality and behavioral psychology circles. In a nutshell, RA speaks of acknowledging life for what it is instead of dwelling in a mindset of wishful thinking. Now, that does not mean that it urges us to be utterly devoid of desires; those (if managed well) can be incredible tools. Instead, RA shines a light on being present, and therefore terminating wishes to alter either the past or future outcomes. Through RA, we develop healthy coping mechanisms that help us make sense of our mishaps and the aspects of ourselves that we may have a problem appreciating. However, there is a problem with RA that is not often mentioned.
The word “radical” can sometimes imply excessiveness. When we push RA to an extreme, it may start to look like Radical Indifference. It harbors an outlook of “things are as they are, and I cannot do anything about it.” However, this mindset does not stem from accepting your circumstances but from fear and an attitude of powerlessness. To accept does not mean to enjoy. That distinction needs to be made before practicing RA, especially if dealing with challenging life lessons. That can create a state of denial, causing emotional blockages that can later manifest as more unpleasant circumstances. In fact, this misguided form of RA achieves the opposite of what is intended. A better way to understand this concept is to think of it as Radical Gratitude (RG). Changing just this one word brings a new understanding of the idea. Gratitude, at its core, is directly opposed to Indifference, and for that, we will refer to “Radical Acceptance” as “Radical Gratitude” in this article. When we learn to appreciate the present moment for what it is, we gain the ability to see the hidden meanings of our current moment. Still, how do we ensure we do not fall for the trappings of Radical Indifference? Below you will find two simple questions to ask yourself to check if you are practicing Radical Gratitude correctly.
When we spend energy pondering on unpleasant life events, whether we are at the center of it or not, we find ourselves at a mental forked road. From there, there are two paths we can take. On one side, we look at how our circumstances could have been different. If a connection between our actions and the mishappening is present, we often can even go back in time through memory and imagine what we could have done to alter the present moment. However, on the other side, we can choose to look at what has happened and how every specific detail—“good” or “bad”—had to go as it went for us to exist here and now.
The challenging aspect of bringing RG to mistakes is doing so even through discomfort. Especially when we have to deal with errors we believed to be a certainty, frustration can be a formidable enemy to fight. It can cloud our vision to the fact that the same unpleasant event that led to this uncomfortable or, at times, even loathsome moment will also lead to future opportunities for joy. Occasionally, our emotions can make it challenging to believe that things will be better in the future. Some may even think they have failed to learn a lesson life was trying to teach them. Still, looking at every mistake as a lesson does not make you feel any better. It makes it seem as though something needs to be done. Yet, when we are faced with this impending inquietude, the best way to bring RG into the picture is by merely being. Instead of thinking of the event like a failed test, think of it as a message for your protection. Life will often nudge us towards a sense of unrest, only as a warning that we are not where we are supposed to be; we are straying away from our path towards our highest good. It is important to remember that this nudge is instrumental to the manifestation of our Higher-Selves. Life does not speak through words but emotions, so to bring gratitude to the situation, treat it like life is a friend giving you advice —because it is. Would you not say thank you after they are done?
To continue with the same metaphor, what happens when we ignore those nudges?
When we are trying to remain motivated, we run the risk of attempting to be in that state no matter what. When fused with Radical Indifference, the tragedy of that attitude is that we can become numb to our own emotions. Like we have discussed before, that is the primary way life communicates with us. Not being in touch with how you genuinely feel about your circumstances will simply continue to push you away from your path. What happens when we spend too much energy, focusing our minds on a future outcome is that we become so obsessed with its specificity that we lose touch with the subtle hints of the present. That could be telling us that what we are attempting to manifest may need some adjustments or may not even be favorable at all. By and large, this comes as a consequence of our fear of failure and an obsessive attachment to control. We must not ignore all of our slip-ups with the excuse that “everything happens for a reason.” There is no need to dwell on the pain that may come with our mistakes, but we must still allow ourselves to feel it if we are to be genuinely in the present.
The way Radical Gratitude breaks that attachment is by bringing awareness to the processes. We must learn to be thankful for the motions of life we cannot control. Since the Universe dwells in the timeless, it has the foresight that we lack. That same lack of control allows for synchronicities and miracles to happen, for if we were the only machinists of life, we would never have the privilege of being pointed towards greater directions incognizant to us. That reason precisely is why we should also always be open to an outcome outside of what we envision. Our creativity is unquestionably powerful. Still, the Universe will ever beat us effortlessly; after all, she created us.
Accepting everything that comes your way can be a challenging task to take on. The Universe’s chaotic approach to creation makes it even harder at times when we have to find the deeper meaning of the parts of life that speak of death and disorder. Still, acceptance can be easily misunderstood as indifference. It is important to be aware that every situation can be “changed” when you bring Radical Gratitude into it and morph our fears into love. When we ignore pain, we miss out on powerful growth opportunities. Through RG, we become conscious of the mysterious ways the Universe works for us and through us. With that, we begin to see that every painful moment eventually leads to grace if we are open to see it that way. This fact is not just exclusive to pain, but our mistakes and the consequences attached to them are also tools we can use to see the bigger picture if we allow ourselves to be immersed in our emotions that serve as our own internal compass. Still, life always calls for balance. There is a danger in both dwelling in these feelings and ignoring them altogether. We have to pay close attention to what is the source of these emotions, for they could very well be stemming from an attachment to a certain outcome. Whether you read it as Radical Acceptance or Radical Gratitude, both push us to embrace whatever future comes our way with a humble “thank you.” The Universe is never working against us; we are it. So if you ever become radically indifferent as means of protection, remember what you are avoiding is yourself.
About the author: Joe G. Santos
Writer, Thinker, and Visionary. Through writing, I aim to clarify the most pressing questions about human behavior and world issues, pointing to practical resolutions in an entertaining and accessible manner. You can find my work and contact me at https://www.joegwriting.com/.
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