LC 14-Radical Acceptance

In a previous post, I discussed the way Reiki and holding space are interwoven tools that help me to navigate Long Covid (LC) symptoms. While holding space (for self or others) can be learned via studying and practicing its guidelines, Reiki requires training that might be out of reach for those who are bedbound or homebound with LC or other hidden illnesses. Another powerful palliative strategy that can be learned and practiced is called radical acceptance. This means embracing the facts at hand, in other words, it is what it is. During Reiki training, my teachers impressed that this is an important concept to embrace if one wants to truly hold space for healing. It is a form of surrender that allows for remedies to arise from beyond the ego’s limited narrative; remedies that can feel magical; remedies that allow for grace and the relief of suffering.

Acceptance is a great place to start to make real change. After all, how we can change what we do not accept?  As a practice, radical acceptance encourages observation and acceptance of situations beyond our control without judgment or attaching to the discomfort or pain (our own or another’s pain). This doesn’t mean we like or approve of the situation. I most certainly did not (and still do not) approve of the raft of LC symptoms that have set up shop in my body, and the similar symptoms in the bodies of millions of other humans. But accepting my situation has ultimately been as empowering as it has been humbling.

For me, radical acceptance is the ultimate expression of holding space for myself. I started using the phrase a couple years into the pandemic. I pulled the words out of thin air one day while meditating on how I might cope with the ongoing covid threat. I would use the phrase as an affirmation or meditation, and in conversation. The phrase itself was comforting and helped me to accept the life-threatening new allergy profile that had appeared out of nowhere. Ironically, in hindsight, I now understand the profile’s origin. After my late 2022 trigger event, holding space, Reiki, and radical acceptance set me on the path to my incredible healthcare team and remedies that now support me living my best life, given the status of my biology.

I didn’t really grasp the subtle nuances of radical acceptance until I turned to online searches where I learned that this is a mindfulness practice that helps us to stop turning difficult or painful situations into unmanageable, deep suffering. The practice has its roots in Buddhism, but was brought forward as a concept by the psychologist, Marsha Linehan, in the early 1990’s. Buddhism holds the tenant that non-attachment is the key to overcome suffering. Radical acceptance is all about non-attachment to the things that cause us pain; the things that can nudge pain into a state of suffering. To me, radical acceptance is an authentic and useful form of self-compassion and self-care. It continues to provide me with a space for happiness, peace, and contentment in the face of these chronic conditions that rise and fall, sometimes without rhythm or reason.

Radical acceptance can complement philosophies that place a focus on positive thinking and manifesting our heart’s desires. Positive thinking is often a useful practice for attaining goals, especially if it doesn’t cross the line into toxic positivity. Manifesting is a process everyone experiences, utilizing imagination, creativity, focus, and practical action steps to bring ideas into form. My professional experience doing energy work and somatic therapies showed me time and again that these approaches can help to release pain and promote healing. But sometimes these strategies fail, causing more disappointment, shame, frustration, and pain. Suffering can take hold. That is when radical acceptance provides the ballast needed to reduce suffering and promote healing. I know this because I experienced it. I put “experienced” in the past tense because I am not suffering. My body can still experience symptom flares (painful at times), but I am no longer attached to the suffering caused by these symptoms. In some ways, as with a grieving process, the only way out is through. The six stages of grief include acceptance and finding meaning. Radical acceptance has opened the door for both, while helping me to establish a working baseline and living my best life. It is what it is!

I feel that this palliative practice is useful in myriad situations and especially for those living with complex medical conditions. This link describes more about radical acceptance and how to put it into practice. If you have thoughts or questions, or would like to have a conversation, please message me below.

Thank you for reading! Next time the LC Series will explore grief and gratitude.

Please Note:  The Long Covid series is intended to be both a memoir and an educational resource for the “living well” aspect of our mission. It is hoped that the content will increase empathy, support, and understanding for those living with chronic conditions.

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