How To Practice Radical Acceptance

Updated April 2, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Practicing radical acceptance is a skill that you develop by exposing yourself to important events in your life that you have had a hard time accepting. The temptation to avoid your source of conflict is understandable; everybody has different coping mechanisms. However, radical acceptance can potentially help you understand how you felt during that specific moment and what you can do going forward. In this article, we define radical acceptance and introduce methods that help you learn how to practice radical acceptance in the face of difficult life circumstances.

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Radical acceptance can transform your life - learn to embrace it

What is "practicing radical acceptance"

The term radical acceptance has its origins in dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), a form of therapy founded by Marsha Linehan, professor emeritus at University of Washington, to help patients managing borderline personality disorder. The core teaching of radical acceptance is to practice an unconditional acceptance of thoughts, circumstances, and emotions that are out of your control.  It means choosing to accept the present and past exactly as it comes, no matter how difficult or unfair it may seem to you. 

When you radically accept your current circumstances, you take the time to recognize the situation, no matter how painful it may be, and observe the experience without judgement. Despite the term “acceptance”, to practice this approach to life’s difficult moments does not mean to blindly accept what happens to you. Rather, you learn to identify that something bad is happening to you as opposed to denying it exists or fighting the pain. 

What should you radically accept?

Refusing to accept reality can be likened to the defense mechanism denial, when unpleasant feelings, thoughts, or events are excluded or ignored from conscious awareness.  Temporary denial (right after an incident) is a normal part of grieving and acceptance. Still, if you never make it past denial into acceptance, you may cause yourself a lot of pain. 

As opposed to suppressing these negative experiences, radical acceptance gives you the space to accept what is happening (or has happened) and allows you to acknowledge and honor the pain it causes you. Once you reach this place, you may find you are better able to cope with negative life events as they arise and improve your perspective on the positive aspects of your life. 

Here are some areas in which you can try to practice radical acceptance:

The past

To practice acceptance does not mean you approve of painful things that have happened to you. Instead, you are accepting with your entire being that you cannot change the past nor is it in your control to do so. Again, it means understanding that everything that has happened is gone from your control.

You may have heard it many times but take this saying to heart. The past is in the past. Acknowledge the pain in caused you and accept you and remind yourself you had no control. 

Radical acceptance helps you to accept the things that have happened to you without having to forgive, forget, or agree with any of them.

The present

When you think about the practice of refusing to accept reality, you may think it refers to the past and future, but this mentality can be most stunting in the present. There are things in everyone’s life that cannot be changed or can only be changed at a great loss to yourself.

The present is an interesting area of radical acceptance because it is important to accept things as they are, whether it is the unfair reality of something that happened that may have impacted your life drastically or the store's minor inconvenience being out of milk. 

While it is okay to try and change things that you can – like exercising to lose weight or drinking more water keep yourself hydrated– it can greatly improve your mental health to be able to accept the things in your life as they are to reduce trauma and disappointment if they cannot be changed.

The future

Acceptance is about accepting things that already affect your life, but also about accepting the things that will inevitably affect your life. So, to practice radical acceptance regarding the future, you must recognize and accept reality and its limitations.

Limitations vary from person to person and can be seen when viewed realistically. Coming to terms with your future's reality and accepting your limits can help motivate you to excel in all possible areas.

The basics of practicing radical acceptance

Practicing acceptance is a skill that comes with time and needs to be implemented slowly. However, the idea of radical acceptance is not complicated. Here are some of the basic skills and steps that may help you learn this resilience-building practice:

Accepting what is

Accepting things as they already are and making the conscious choice not to fight a situation's reality is the first step of learning radical acceptance. Practicing acceptance does not mean being okay with everything in your life but understanding that denying the reality of these things will not change it. 

Identifying things beyond your control

Stop and think about what is happening in your life. Can you realistically change the situation or person that is causing you irritation, pain, or discomfort? If you cannot, you may conclude that there is no logical reason to exhausting your energy and emotions toward that situation anymore. Instead, put your energy into the things you can change and building relationships with those you love.

Appreciating the feeling of fear

Understanding the biology of fear is important for recognizing how fear benefits us. When you become aware and curious of fear, you may be able to recognize specifically from where the fear stems and find a way to make it stop. 

For example, do you feel fearful while standing on the top floor of a tall building? Analyzing fear may help you to realize the source of your fear is the idea of falling. Then you can assess the situation – you are safe, there are windows in place, the area is peaceful and under control – and you may find that the fear dissipates.

Radical acceptance can transform your life - learn to embrace it

Loving yourself

A healthy approach to your life is to give yourself love and compassion any chance you have. We will be with us for the rest of our lives, so we should treat ourselves like a loved one or close friend. Forgive yourself for mistakes and choose to learn from them. Allow yourself time for grieving and compassion to help move toward acceptance. It is often said that “nobody is harder on you than you.” People can indeed be hard on themselves, but the reality is that we should be kind to ourselves. If you find love and compassion for yourself, you can rest easy knowing that you will always be loved.

How to learn radical acceptance from a professional

Radical acceptance is taught as a part of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) – a type of cognitive behavioral talk therapy that was originally designed to help people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). The central tenet of DBT is integrating both acceptance and change to improve one’s ability to function and attain mental health. For example, a therapist may approach their client in total acceptance of who they are while working closely with them to change in ways that help them reach treatment goals. So, not only will a therapist in DBT help you work through acceptance and change, but they are also themselves practicing radical acceptance as you work together.

Remember that radical acceptance is only one part of dialectical behavior therapy. Though learning to practice acceptance is a large step in this therapy, a few techniques involve self-love and self-awareness that can also be crucial to healing. Throughout your sessions with a DBT therapist, you will be guided in finding the balance between acceptance of self and a personal commitment to changes that benefit your mental health and general well-being

Radically accepting the past, present, and future is a learned skill that can be achieved with patience, an openness to learn, and the help of a talented, educated counselor. Finding a therapist who can help you learn these DBT strategies is an important step in learning radical acceptance and overcoming your past pain and the limitations and difficulties of your present and future.

Finding a therapist specializing in this therapy field is a great way to learn radical acceptance and help you in life. If you prefer to learn about radical acceptance in your own home, you can try finding a talk therapist online. Research has shown that online delivery of dialectical behavioral therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy in reducing symptoms, with the added benefits of increased accessibility and extended platforms of communication (for example, secure messaging). Regain offers a large selection of therapists who can teach you about radical acceptance and how you can implement the techniques mentioned in this article into your own life. It might seem impossible in moments of duress to get to a place where you can accept life but learning to accept the pain of reality is possible. 


Loving yourself unconditionally and using that compassion to fuel the learning of radical acceptance is not always easy. However, learning to practice acceptance is often referred to as one of the most life-changing skills someone can learn. Radical acceptance requires an open mind and patience as you take small steps towards accepting things as they come. One of the best ways to ensure your journey is fruitful is by using the advice and wisdom of a licensed, educated therapist. With the help of a professional, you can learn not only to practice radical acceptance but how to enjoy the journey of life, despite its obstacles and challenges.

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