Friday, June 17, 2016

Practicing Radical Acceptance to Reduce Life’s Suffering

by Katie K. May

With warm weather in full swing and fun in the sun at the pool, I’m reminded of two summers ago when my son broke his arm. He was six years old and had just learned to swim. He loved splashing around in the water and swimming to each end of the pool. Then, a camp monkey bar accident and a full arm cast put a stop to his pool fun for the rest of the summer.
I can remember others’ remarks like, “That’s awful!” and my son’s tearful plea, “Why did this have to happen?” Not only was he in physical pain, but he also experienced emotional anguish every time we drove past the placid blue water of our pool.
An important idea in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is pain vs. suffering. When you don’t accept reality as it is, it leads to greater suffering. Alternatively, when you can accept reality, or what is, you may still feel pain, but you can avoid suffering. As a DBT therapist, I call this concept Radical Acceptance.
Radical Acceptance means accepting what you can’t change so you can spend your time and energy on what makes your life worth living. It means understanding reality for what it is. Once you understand what you can and can’t change in your life, you can accept reality for what it is.
If we look at my son’s experience in the context of Radical Acceptance, we can understand exactly why it happened. Understanding the logistics is the first step to Radical Acceptance: He was climbing across the monkey bars, which put him in a precarious situation. He fell mid-way across and kept his arms too stiff as his body made impact with the earth.

Next, consider what you can’t change in the situation. My son was not allowed to get that cast wet. Period. So…swimming was not an option for the summer. It was something we could not change. Continuing to focus on the “can’t” in the situation would have led to greater suffering. If we talked about NOT swimming every day, it would remind him of something he loved that he could not have.

Finally, you CAN choose to use skills and act effectively or focus your attention on ideas and events that serve you. Well let me tell you, with water not being an option, we went to every museum and park that summer and changed our summer vacation from the beach to Washington D.C., and it was all amazing!

It’s important to remember that acceptance does NOT mean that you’re giving up or agreeing with a situation or incident that is difficult. It doesn’t mean putting up with a situation or relationship that is harmful for you. It means focusing your energy and taking action on what will help you move forward in your life.

When you practice Radical Acceptance, you shift your focus from “Why did this happen?” to “What can I do now?” It’s this shift that allows you to take ownership of your personal experiences and begin making choices about how to create your path to happiness.

Katie K. May is a Licensed Teen Therapist who specializes in offering groups. A new session of Teen DBT Skills Group will begin in August. Contact to explore whether this group will best support your teen.

Thanks, I’ll Take It From Here

by Rachel Kobin

When I chose Acceptance as the theme for our July newsletter, I thought I knew what I wanted to say. Now that I’m actually trying to write it, I feel lost. There’s a voice inside me saying, “You should brainstorm, just write a list of all of the reasons you wanted to write about acceptance; you should mind map or make a vision board; you should at least write an outline.” But how can I write an outline when there’s so much I could say, and who is this bossy person calling me “You”?

Acceptance. Okay, I’m going to practice it right now. I’m the Director of the Philadelphia Writers’ Workshop and I’m struggling to write a few paragraphs about acceptance. I’ll just sit with this struggle and be compassionate with myself. This is part of the writing process, part of any process. But there’s that girl nagging, “But you’re the Director of the Philadelphia Writers’ Workshop. You of all people should be able to write a cogent article.”

That voice isn’t nearly as loud or shrill as she used to be. After years of helpful therapy, I worked with a life coach who helped me have a direct conversation with that mean, bossy girl barraging me with an endless list of shoulds I would never be able to accomplish. I thanked her for her concern, for her attempts to save me from exposing my shortcoming and faults. I told her I wouldn’t be hiding until I was perfect anymore: it was time for me to move on, to open up to the world around me and embrace myself as I am.
Like I said, that voice is still there. I can hear her now: She’s worried I’ll make a fool of myself if I don’t write an article “worthy” of me. “What will people think?” she’s saying. I reply, “This is what acceptance looks like: letting go of what other people think, daring to make myself vulnerable and embracing my imperfections. Acceptance isn’t organized; no amount of outlining or mind mapping will remove the bumps and potholes from the path to reaching it, but it is scenic. As I take in the variety of vistas, my love for myself and others grows.”

Oh, dang, there she goes again! “You should be writing the perfect article!” Chill girl, I’m sure whatever I write will be good enough.  

Since 2006, Rachel Kobin has facilitated acceptance via creative writing workshops held at The Resiliency Center on Tuesday Nights. She also helps people finish their novels, screenplays, plays, collections of short stories, and essays in the Manuscript Workshop and as a private editor. Learn more at

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Receding...and a Reseeding

by Dean Solon


with the quiet,
in the deep.
with allowing the world to come to me,
with being in this world with You.

a peace prevails,
a peace abides and resides.
allowing the world to come to me,
allowing a surrendering to Your will and whim...
cravings recede.  cravings for anything and anyone,
cravings for outcome, cravings for life and how to live it,
cravings for human beings to be other than who they are.

so, this is who i am, now.
so, this is a sweet spot,
a great good fortune life.
so, all of this is the same as it ever was
...everything changing in each and every moment.
so, everything is play in the House of the Lord.

resting, in the center of the cyclone,
the whirlwind tour strangely and surprisingly quieting,
i am nearly silenced
and all in
and already gone