Radical Acceptance as a Tool for Change

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Let go of guilt, be decisive, and still get what you want in relationships.

anger
” toward the parent and stay distrusting and angry even when the parent attempts a repair. Moving forward, in adulthood, those of us with preoccupied styles are likely to remain angry at ourselves. Because we are hypervigilant for negative social cues, we also are likely to replay negative events over and over in our minds and scan our memories to see if there is anything else we may have done wrong. In this context, the only way to head off rejection or criticism is to get out ahead of the curve and hit yourself before others do. But self-criticism just results in a self-fulfilling and repeating negative cycle.
What will change things:
Acceptance (of the act and its consequences).
Self-regard and care.
Corrective/growth-oriented action.
Recognition.
Acknowledge that you actually engaged in the behavior and own the negative impact on yourself and others. There is no reason to do this repeatedly with the same event. Once you do this, move on to the next step.
Acceptance.
Accept that you are capable of the behavior and that this does not make you a bad person. You are still a work in progress and have work yet to do. Having recognized and owned your part, just accept that now you get to experience the consequence of that behavior. It can be that simple. For example, if I say something insensitive to my wife and she is mad at me for a week, I may simply need to accept this as a normal consequence of the behavior… and tolerate it without attacking her for being mad. It’s this simple; I did something crappy and now I am experiencing the consequence.
Self-regard and care.
Remind yourself that you are a good person.

Accept that good people like you can be fallible and hurt others. Part of self-regard and care is learning to forgive yourself. If you lie there and beat yourself up–“If only I hadn’t done X, I wouldn’t be in this situation”–you won’t change. You will just hurt and stay stuck. Instead, try saying, “I did do X, this is the result, and now I will do what I can to correct the situation and change and grow. If I can’t change the situation, I will forgive myself and grow into my new reality.
Corrective/growth-oriented action.
This step requires opening up and being vulnerable. Unless it will result in more damage or pain, ask the other person what they need in the present moment or what you might do to provide a resolution. If you can’t identify change strategies on your own, seek out a sponsor, mentor, coach, or therapist to help. And trust that good can come out of any negative situation.
Follow up by exercising self-discipline. After all, there is not that much left to think about. You did the deed, you are accepting the consequences, and you are approving and nurturing enough of yourself so that you can take the necessary corrective/growth-oriented actions. This does not mean that you will avoid feeling residual negative emotions. But if you stop punishing yourself, the negative emotions will fade and will not prevent you from growing into a more positive future.
References
Shorey, H. S., Snyder, C. R., Yang, X., & Lewin, M. R. (2003). The role of hope as a mediator in recollected parenting, adult attachment, and mental health.
Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 22,
685-715.

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