Oh, how we wish for things to be different: Our bodies strong and healthy and, preferably, slim. Our children stable and successful; our grandchildren happy and thriving. Loved ones alive and healthy. Our marriages deeply loving, or else wishing for that elusive man to complete us. Plenty of money in savings.

Hahahahaha is what I have to say.

Those wishful thoughts cause us more suffering than illness or poverty. You might not even be aware of it, but clinging to wishes and regrets robs us of our happiness. How do we put an end to this suffering, and feel content instead? Acceptance.

 
 

Radical Acceptance

Mild acceptance wouldn’t really do the trick, though. Radical acceptance is a Buddhist term that means total and complete deep down acceptance of reality. This means truly letting go of the things that were never meant for you.

I believe each of us has at least three aspects of our lives that we would give anything on earth to change. Things that cause us pain, heartache, bitterness, frustration, disappointment, rage, despair or sadness. These may be things we can’t stop talking about or things we keep hidden.

There could be something extreme, like a physical deformity or a tragic death. Or something ordinary, like not enough money or an inability to lose weight. It could be you wish you were smarter, or that you had not married the wrong man, or that you could have sent your kids to college.

These could be regrets, or circumstances beyond your control, like cancer or a house burning down. Circumstances you wish you could fix but can’t, like an unhappy child or struggling grandchild.

Something that many others experience, like divorce or loss of a job, or something that makes you feel very alone, like a secret shame.

We all have them, things that feel awful and terrible and unacceptable.

I’d like to invite you to take a moment to identify the three most undesirable circumstances of your life, things you cannot change or control. Things you know in your heart you just have to accept. Maybe even write them down.

Steps to Achieve Radical Acceptance

Be Aware

You must first become clearly aware of the aspect of your life that is creating torment for you.

Acknowledge

You must admit to yourself that you desperately wish for this reality to be different.

Accept

“This is not what I wanted, or hoped or expected or planned for, but this is what I got.” Deeply and completely, in your bones and breath and heart and soul, it is time to accept that this thing is part of the reality of your life.

This is a fierce and intense and passionate acceptance, that “Yes, this is my life, and it is not changing. It’s not going away; it is what is meant for me in this lifetime.”

At first, you may feel great sadness from accepting the truth and letting go of the dream and wish for things to be different. But soon you will feel a sense of freedom, of relief, of calm, of burdens and bitterness falling away. Energy will be released to allow you to live fully the life you do have.

And maybe, just maybe, you may find that the reality you so violently resisted is, actually, offering you unexpected gifts.

Are there things in your life that you are having trouble accepting? Are you ready to embrace radical acceptance of something in your life that is troubling you? Please share these bothersome things and how them impact your life. Join the conversation below.

Sheri SaxeSheri Saxe is a psychotherapist with a focus on helping women to accept and integrate their painful experiences and blossom into new life; this is called radical acceptance. She has a passion for wilderness backpacking, meditation, and being a grandmother. She is the founder of the blog Seasoned Women Over Sixty.

Let's Have a Conversation!