How to change your attitude in order to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed by difficult emotions.

I was recently reminded of RA (Radical Acceptance), which is a change in attitude when you are dealing with difficult emotions.

The danger that so many of us expose ourselves to, when we deal with difficult emotions, is that we tend to push them away, suppress them, dismiss them, or become carried away by them. More than that, we tend to judge ourselves or criticise others for provoking these emotions in us, and for making us feel a certain way.  If we consistently deal with our emotions in these ways, then we are at risk of becoming overwhelmed.

“Practicing Radical Acceptance means acknowledging the present situation without judging the events or criticising yourself, and recognising that the present situation exists because of a long chain of events that began far back in the past[1].”

 This doesn’t mean that you are encouraging less favourable behaviour by yourself or others.  It means that you are giving yourself a chance to deal with the situation without blame, anger, or accusations. By paying attention in that particular moment, you will be able to focus on your options and identify potential solutions without intensifying your pain.

For example, if you missed your train this morning on your way to work, and you were late for your meeting… Instead of blaming your children who didn’t cooperate, Sydney Railroads, or your bosses for making you get to work so early, you can redirect your attention to what you can do about the situation immediately. You can talk to your manager, explain the situation, and reschedule the meeting. Once you have sorted everything out, go for a walk or make a cup of tea and try to destress.

It might be a good idea to come up with your own powerful statements to help yourself deal with difficult feelings and emotions as they arise.

“Accept the present moment and the chain of events that created it.”

  • Well, it’s all over now.
  • It is in the past now.
  • I can’t change the past.
  • I can’t change the past—I can only change my behaviour in the present moment.
  • I won’t cry over spilt milk.
  • I am not going to waste my energy on the past. I will use it wisely on today and my future.
  •  This moment is the result of many decisions prior to this moment.

This is what you can try out this week:

  • On the way to work, if you are stuck in traffic or on a full train or bus, don’t judge, don’t wish for things to be different, and don’t get angry. Practice radical acceptance.
  • When you don’t get what you want, don’t judge, don’t sulk, don’t curse. Practice radical acceptance.
  •  Next time you turn on the TV, watch it without any judgement—whether it is a news segment or reality TV show—simply watch without judgement.

[1]McKay, M., Wood, J. C., & Brantley, J. (2010). The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook: Practical DBT exercises for learning mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation and distress tolerance. ReadHowYouWant. com.

 

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