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Radical Acceptance: How Do You Accept the Unacceptable?

It can feel like such a slap in the face to finally take steps to get out of an abusive relationship and start the divorce process, only to be told that you should practice radical acceptance. You want me to suddenly just accept the fact that person is emotionally, financially, physically, or otherwise abusive and move on with my life? Something like that anyway. Especially in the beginning stages of the process, where the best interests and protection of children is involved, it can feel like the exact opposite of what you want to do, which is to storm into the courtroom with your pages of evidence and stories about abuse and harm this person has perpetrated on you and your children.


That's the thing about radical acceptance though--it really doesn't have anything to do with any other person, regardless of how unacceptable their behavior has been (or is). I believe that radical acceptance is much more personal. It requires us to take a look at ourselves and decide what our definition of acceptable is, and how we will manage when that person violates or crosses over into unacceptable patterns of behavior (boundaries, anyone?).




According to my Divine Abundance oracle deck, the card "Allowing" states that "Radical acceptance says yes to reality in any given moment so what's needed can come next.". While that's a much broader life application, it has application in the context of divorcing an abusive or disordered individual, especially if you are entangled in our very broken Family Court system.


Radical acceptance means accepting those things that are out of your circle of control and focusing on the things inside your circle. In fact, it can be a very healthy exercise to grab a piece of paper and draw a big circle. On the inside, write down the things you have control over--your thoughts, emotions, actions, responses. Think about the things that are causing you the most stress and put them where they belong--are they things you have any control over? In the context of divorcing a person with narcissistic, BPD, or other sociopathic behaviors, anything that involves their actions or emotions goes on the outside.


If you've done any research about these types of personality disorders, you know that people like this don't change. You can't reason them out of their opinions or behaviors. You might think "If I could just get them to see how much their actions are hurting our children, maybe they wouldn't...", or feel like you are responsible for managing the chaos they create. The truth is, you can't. Their behavior, their actions, their emotions are not within your circle of control. Radically accepting that fact and focusing on the things that are within your circle is the key to maintain your own mental health, as well as moving forward in your healing process.


Once you make that connection, it's so much easier to operate strategically and create space for your own responses. It's tough for sure--especially when you're freshly out of the relationship dynamic and operating in a trauma response to all of the nonsense and vitriol being thrown at you--harassing emails and texts, full of lies and false accusations, court dates, etc. It's all so triggering and you feel like you have to "fight back" or the court will believe all this nonsense, right? (nope)


Radical acceptance is one of the most important components of your healing journey--whether in the context of your own emotional wellbeing, or in the physical context of Family Court and the realities of how broken the system is. This is why it is one of the key things that I work with my clients on. I can help remind you where something belongs, and then regardless of whether it's inside or outside of your circle, develop some strategies to move forward, respond to accusations, or even present in Family Court. I cannot emphasize enough how difficult it is for someone in one of these types of relationships to think clearly and strategically through the process. Complex PTSD (CPTSD) is a beast and definitely subject for future blog entries, but for today, and in the context of radical acceptance, we'll just leave it at the idea that CPTSD can make radical acceptance very difficult to understand and know when it's necessary to practice.


The healing journey is a long and winding road that honestly, never ends. It evolves. Understanding and practicing the idea of radical acceptance is something that has huge potential to move you forward in so many meaningful ways.


If you're struggling with this or interested in scheduling a free 20-min consultation, please contact me and let's talk.



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