Somehow I Manage, Vol. 7
Well, we’re back in action. Great to see that I’m back to weekly blogs. It has been quite some time since I’ve been writing weekly blogs, and it’s good to be back at it. To say life was not going my way over the past few months is a fair estimation. From getting depressed again, getting anxiety, not getting placement, having to defer my exams, to being suicidal, it’s been a rough time. You may think that I may be all down in the dumps over going through the above, but I’m okay with it. It’s life. Life never turns out exactly as planned and it will give you highs and lows that you never saw coming.
I’m a person who holds the negative parts of life in high regard. Personally, I can’t imagine life without them. And I wouldn’t want a life without negative parts in it and times that truly test you. For if we did not have negative or bad times in our life then we would never have any good times. Even if it was all good, it would just become the norm. The good would not seem so great. It would become average. And I do not want to live an average life.
I welcome the bad parts of life. Not to be confused with me wanting everything to go wrong. I’m content as long as there’s more good than bad times, or even if it’s a level playing field. You have to have no so great days to truly great days. From everything I’ve went through, as terrible as it was, its made me really appreciate the good times, and even the average times.
The skill I am writing about today is probably the skill I hold closest to me. Probably the one I’ve relied on time and time again. The skill is all about your mind frame when things go wrong. Not letting your life be defined by one moment. Not being held down or back by an awful memory. It’s about being able to move on and not have your life tarnished by one event. It is not easy, and it takes a lot of practice. I haven’t had many overly bad experiences happen to me, or it could just be that I’m okay with them. The skill I’m writing about today is called Radical Acceptance.
In life there are an infinite number of painful or distressing things than can happen – these things can be really small: like getting stuck in traffic; or really big: like losing someone you love or having someone do something to you that is harmful or damaging. There are only four ways of responding to these situations
- Changing the situation
- Change how you feel
- Accept it
- Staying miserable
WHAT IS IT?
Radical acceptance is a skill whereby we choose to accept something completely and totally. It is a moment-to-moment acceptance skill and we may have to accept something time and time again.
Acceptance isn’t easy, it’s not automatic. It’s not something than can just be switched on or off like a light-switch. It can be a real challenge to accept a painful or unfair situation, Hence, we call this type of response ‘radical’ – because it requires an acceptance that comes from deep within ourselves, not just something superficial. Acceptance doesn’t mean you have to be happy about or approve of the reality. It’s acknowledging that reality is what it is. It is acknowledging that life can still be worth living even if really painful, unfair things happen. It is about finding a way to say ‘this is really painful, frustrating and tough, but I can get through it’.
Acceptance is not the same as
- approval (it’s not saying it’s okay)
- bargaining ( I’ll accept it if)
- giving up or being passive
Acceptance is similar to
- acknowledgement and recognition
- enduring and tolerating
- saying ‘it is as it is’
- not giving pain permission to continue forever
- seeing past the situation
Radical acceptance is a process. It’s not simply making a decision. Radical acceptance doesn’t just happen automatically because you have decided you are going to accept something. It’s a process involving a deeper type of change than just a mental decision making. The process can often be ‘two steps forward, one step back’, in that acceptance may only last for a short time, even a few seconds.
The process of radically accepting something means turning the mind back towards acceptance, again and again. Turning the mind is the bridge between non-acceptance and acceptance. You may ned to do this over and over and over again. But it is hoped that with continued practice, suffering will become less intense, and more tolerable and bearable, and turn into pain.
- Notice when you are fighting reality. Acknowledge what you’re not accepting
- Make an inner commitment to actively accept it. Turn your mind towards the road of acceptance. (Can I accept this for just this next minute/moment?)
- Do this again and again and again – multiple times.
To give a much more real account of this skill and an example of when I had to use it, I’ve copied and pasted a former blog of mine. It’s probably my favourite blog, and hopefully it’ll give you a good idea of how to use the skill.
Finn’s Life Advice: The End 14/05/’16
“Before the sighs of relief/sorrow begin, I just wanted to clarify that contradictory to the title of this week’s Life Advice blog, I do not intend this to be my last blog of the year. In fact, I reckon I’ll have one or quite possibly two blogs left. So bare with me while I share some apparent knowledge on a topic that has been inherently relevant in my life over the past two weeks or so.
Unfortunately, it has come to the time of the year where certain parts of our life come to an end. Be it your first year in college, your final year, your job before you head away for summer, your friends that you feel you may not see again, a relationship that has run its course, or even the of the stress of exams, a this period of the year things can happen and it can be a time for reflection, relief or even worry.
The fact that parts of your life come to an end can be viewed a blessing or a curse, but that’s life for you, and not me nor anybody can change that. College is a brilliant time for the most part. You have the chance to meet amazing people, you get to study a course that you predominately enjoy, you can go out and socialise several times a week and nobody will take any notice of it, we have the most freedom that a lot of us will ever have, but it doesn’t last forever. And would it be as good if it lasted forever? Plain and simple, the answer is no. We’d get sick of having lectures, going out would lose its level of enjoyment. After a while we’ll want a real job, a real life. And I think it’s good that we have something to move forward onto after our life of fun in college. It’s important to grow up and embrace the adult life, but always keep a supply of immaturity in store. It will be an asset that can come in handy during the times where life will throw its absolute worst at you. There will be times where you will need to be a big child, rather than an adult. Don’t forget that.
Why am I writing this blog, most people have finished exams and are finished with college for the year, but this is life advice, not college advice. I believe that I tend to cope with life fairly well these days, asides from my occasional hiccups that remind me that I’m not invincible, that I’m still vulnerable, that life can still throw whatever it wants at me, and sometimes it can get the better of me. And if I can share any bit of information that can help someone else get through life that little bit easier, then why not share it!
Wednesday week ago, I was sat in work, fairly stressed over the train tour that was two days away. The club I had organised to take us had double booked us and informed me that they couldn’t take us the day previous after confirming with them two weeks prior, and I still had some extra planning to do. Running around the office I had manage to miss a phone call from my mum, had a voicemail, and a text message saying ‘ring me ASAP once you get this’. I rang my mum in a panic, expecting to hear that my dog had died as she had been sick. I was nervous to hear the news, worried. The news was worse than I had feared, as my mum sorrowfully told me it was my granny who had passed away less than an hour ago. My eyes filled with tears, my lip started to tremor, I told my mum that I was okay and we ended the phone call. My head sank into my hands, I felt cold. Barry asked me is everything alright. I told him my granny had just passed and the tears began to stream down my face. Even stating what age she was sent waves of sadness through my body. I was truly in the depths of sorrow.
After a while of getting my emotions out and ridding my face of tears, I began to rethink how I viewed the passing of my granny. I couldn’t change the fact that she had passed away, and that was awful, but I could change how I viewed the situation. That’s when I started to use a skill that I learned while in mental hospital, which is radical acceptance. A skill that has helped me a lot recently.
Radical acceptance is essentially accepting that life operates on life’s terms and not resisting the fact that things will happen that we cannot change or choose not to change. It doesn’t mean that life is all brilliant or all bad, it just helps us deal with whatever life throws at you. In essence it’s changing your thoughts to “I’m in this situation. I don’t approve of it. I don’t think it’s OK, but it is what it is and I can’t change that it happened.” It’s not easy to use, and it takes a lot of practice, but it is valuable. Things in life can happen that hurt us, and we can’t change that they happened. If we are able to accept that life is a bitch at times, and not let one event define us, then it is easier to be happier, a lot of the time we can live in the past, in the shadow of one event that has occurred and it will hinder our happiness for the rest of our lives.
It’s a way of thinking, my granny died and I hate that she did, but she lived till nearly 97, I was the youngest grandchild and I got on with her so well, she’s given me ounces of personality, and I have good memories of her. She lived a great life, and she was full of fun till the end, and I can either be sad about the fact that she passed away, or I can remember all the great times that I had with her, and celebrate that she had a great life and I had her in my life for 22 years. The best thing I can do, the thing that would make her happy, is look back on what I had, all the memories I had with her with a smile on my face and be happy that I was able to experience her in my life. I do this, and I well up with emotion, and my eyes get a bit teary, but I smile, give a small laugh and it helps me be okay with it. Why not celebrate what happened than mourn the end of it. Wouldn’t that be how you’d like your friends and family to remember you if you had passed?
On the day of the train tour, at about half ten in the morning, my dad rang me to tell me that our dog of fourteen years had been put down an hour earlier. I was sad, but I did not cry. I was already in radical acceptance mode. She never overly took to me, unless I had food or I was the only person in the house. All the same she was part of the family, and I miss her, but I have some good memories excluding all the growling directed towards me.
Although I have been talking about essentially being ‘cool’ with what life throws at you, it’s even more important to take the time to letting yourself experience the emotions around the event. It’s a bold decision to dismiss your emotions, if you do, they’ll all build up and end up merge into one chaotic emotional outburst and that can be very overwhelming for anyone. It’s important to feel emotions, to break them down into what you are feeling, why you are experiencing the emotion, and to process what you’re feeling.
I didn’t let myself feel my emotions fully when my dog died, and after the train tour when I got home it all hit me. I had been up over 24hours, and spent the majority of them stressed about the event. My dog had died that day, my granny two days previous, and I had just finished my last ever event as Ents Officer. I was also a bit drunk, but once I got home to an empty house, with no growl to great me, no dog bed or bowl in sight, something that I had grown accustomed to in my life. Something that was part of my life. I just kneeled down in my back garden and cried uncontrollably. A lot of things were ending for me, and I let myself experience the emotions I needed to experience, and after that I was okay. I could accept what happened. I felt okay.
Things coming to an end can be scary. They can also be great. Life will continue and it won’t stop for anyone. As much as we may want it to stop, or rewind, it will never happen. Which is unfortunate, but also what makes life so beautiful. It is always changing. One thing may end, and it may be a huge event in your life with this ending, but with the end also comes something new. More challenges, more experiences, more life. Endings and beginnings in the never ending cycle that is life. So do not be afraid of the end. Appreciate what you experienced, learn from it, look back on it with a smile, whether it is because you are happy it is finished, or happy you got to experience it. Feel the emotion, take time to remember what happened, and then let it go. You can revisit it at times if you want to, but life will continue, and we just gotta roll with it. Sure how else will we survive?
Dedicated to my granny, Mary Finn, and my dog, Lady. RIP”