I remember when I started saying, “It is what it is,” before learning skills. It seemed like a bit of a cop-out. It was like I was giving up. I would just put my hands in the air, shrug, and basically admit defeat.
And then I learned skills.
You need to understand that I learned skills in one of the deepest and darkest parts of my journey with my son. He had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and life with him at home was very difficult. The boy that I had imagined growing up to be this talented, caring young man struggled with bouts of paranoia and psychosis and was often very hard to live with.
I learned the concept of radical acceptance at my first skills training session. It didn't make sense to me. Was I supposed to accept that my son was someone I didn't recognize and be fine with it? It seemed wrong. It didn't compute.
Then the speaker shared some very simple concepts with me that struck my heart and my soul like a dagger and changed everything. They were:
I can have control.
I can't control everything.
When I control me, people around me can change.
It all had to start with me. If I could learn this skill of radical acceptance I would have the capacity to see my world in a much better light. So I gave it a try.
First, I needed to learn that radical acceptance isn't giving up or losing. I needed to recognize how much I was suffering when I was trying to control everything. That wasn’t difficult to do. I was suffering and it was affecting my job and my home!
The next thing I needed to learn was that radically accepting means I needed to fully accept reality as it is. This skill was something I could access when my emotions were really strong. Maybe I was angry at myself or at others or sad or guilt-ridden. Radical acceptance gave me the freedom to let go of bitterness and resentment.
What I was doing wasn't working. I needed a new path to walk on and radical acceptance was a firm and steady road.
So I tried it. I chose to radically accept my son's illness and our combined journey as a family. It wasn't an easy process, but what I noticed was that when I radically accepted him and us, I was able to shift the energy that I was putting towards controlling the situation into seeing everything in a fresh new light. I saw my son as someone struggling with an illness that was so difficult and painful for him and I learned to accept him as he was.
I learned to accept him as he was.
No character faults.
It was so freeing and our relationship improved immensely and both of us were much happier.
It didn’t take much to transfer this knowledge into my classroom. As a teacher, there was so much out of my control. It was so hard when things didn’t make sense from my perspective. It was easy to become resentful, angry, disillusioned, and even want to quit. Like any relationship, staying in a negative mindset is not effective. It was hard on me as a teacher and it was hard on my colleagues and my students. I found it difficult to separate opinions and feelings from facts. Radical acceptance helped me do that. It helped me recognize what is truly in my control and what I was willing and able to accept. It helped me access my wise mind and that came with a lot of practice.
Like validation, radical acceptance doesn't come easily. It's not the way I was raised and it definitely took intentionality and practice. I'm so glad I not only learned the skill but that I have practised it enough so that it comes more naturally to me every day.
The funny thing is, the saying that I used flippantly earlier, is radical acceptance.
It is what it is.
I just needed to learn how to say those words in a new way.
I hope that for all who listen to our teachings with SILA Skills, this becomes a part of their new reality too. We live in a world where there are a lot of angry and bitter people and it's hard to see hope when it's so dark. Radical acceptance is one skill that brings light in and pushes the darkness away.
We look forward to sharing more about this skill this month. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and X (still getting used to that!). Participate in the journey by asking questions and reflecting on how radical acceptance can help you too.
Radical acceptance can help you too