I'll admit it. When I started reading about DBT and bought a guide to it, I hated radical acceptance. It made me so angry I stopped reading the book. I found it insulting and stupid.
The biggest problem is that certain DBT books are piss poor at explaining radical acceptance. Often it's so simplified that it comes off as either victim blaming, giving up, chosen helplessness, or being okay with bad things. To me it sounded like the book was asking me just to give up and forget what happened without reflecting on it. It came with annoying sentences like "There's nothing I can do about it." "A million things out of my control have caused this thing to happen." I hated it. I hated this line of thinking. I found it very naive. It was like choosing not to look at a situation and learn from it. It felt like choosing to lay down and just let the bad happen. I need to understand things. I need to fight back.
I jokingly started to use these sentences as though they were mad libs.
"A million things made my boyfriend a fucking asshole and I accept that he will always be a fucking asshole."
"I radically accept that medical professionals are stupid and there is nothing I can do to make them not be abusive fuck tards."
"There's nothing I can do avoid bad relationships, I just need to accept that they happen."
I completely missed the point.
It wasn't until I started to phrase it in my own words that it made sense. I started with my private therapist and how I can accept certain things because they are out of my control. e.g I am late because my bus is late, there is nothing I can do. It is what it is. A late bus. And from there I slowly gained a non-verbal understanding of what Radical Acceptance meant.
The group I am in was far better at explaining the concept than the book. They made sure to mention that it wasn't being okay with bad things, or giving up, but coming to terms with them. By accepting that you can't change the past and you can't control everything. It has nothing to do with giving up. It has nothing to do with being okay with what happened. It has to with accepting that it happened, and now you have to keep living.
In the newest version of the official Linehan DBT book, Radical Acceptance is explained (at least in the worksheets I have so far) as Willingness and Wilfulness. I get this two confused and re-named them Self-Succeeding and Self-Defeating.
Self defeating (wilfulness) is giving up. It's letting the past control you. It's choosing not to participate in the world because you can't give over the bad things. It's forgetting life. Dwelling in all the bad things and bad thoughts. It's throwing the tantrum to say "it's not fair." It's hiding from the world because you don't like it. (Yes, Sarah eventually turns around but there are parts in the Labyrinth where she gives up)
Self Succeeding (Willingness) is accepting that bad things do happen. That you can move on. That you grow from it. The world will be what it is, and you can't change the past, but you can continue to live and eventually thrive. It's choosing to help yourself. You pick yourself up and you keep living. Like Ripley, bad shit keeps happening and instead of saying "I told you so" or giving up, she kicks ass.
It's becoming comfortable with the bad things that have happened. I gave the example that I am okay with surviving an emotional abusive relationship. I label myself as a survivor. I don't try to pretend it didn't happen. Instead I choose to look at it. I tried to understand why it happened (this isn't part of radical acceptance as far as I know, but I find understanding makes me able to accept things.) I've learned from it. I helped myself succeed because through my strength I've made it through that hell. I've met so many other people who have also survived and that really helped me accept it. It doesn't hurt me as much any more.
However, my medical stuff. I haven't accepted yet. I do throw little tantrums and choose not to seek health care. I defeat myself. I'd rather choose pain or death. I'd rather pretend it didn't happen. It's gonna be hard to get past it, because there's so much fear and distrust. I am trying, but I still consider myself a victim rather than a survivor.
Maybe it isn't the perfect understanding of the concept of Radical Acceptance, but I've found it's open my eyes. I have the power to eventually move past it and become a survivor.