As we welcome the New Year, many of us may be looking to start fresh and change certain aspects of our lives.

But maybe we are resisting making changes. If that sounds familiar, Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT) and one of its key components — radical acceptance — may be the approach for you. 

The word “accept” has many definitions. Two of those given by Merriam-Webster are “to endure without protest or reaction” and “to recognize as true.” 

Radical acceptance involves facing issues that you have struggled with unsuccessfully for many years. They may involve the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship or an unfulfilled long-held dream.

These are issues that you may have pondered for a long time and have experienced a great deal of spiritual, physical and emotional suffering over.

According to Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Catholic monk known for his interfaith work, “We all want to be happy, be grateful. We need to stop, look and then go in order to see all of what we have to be grateful for.”

The problem lies in how we move forward. We can take one of three steps:

Solve it — This is the approach that many of us tend to take. Unfortunately, this rarely works because many problems, including the loss of a loved one, can’t be solved but need to be accepted. 

Change how you feel — Once again, sometimes our feelings of sadness and anger are valid.

Accept it — Acknowledge your feelings, stop trying to change them and learn to accept them.

Accepting something painful is not easy. There are many roadblocks to acceptance. For example, it is just plain difficult to accept areas of our lives that cause pain and disagreement. Anger may occur even though we agree to move forward. Maybe we feel the person or situation causing the pain deserves the anger.

It is hard work to accept. We may have to accept something painful again and again before we become comfortable with the idea. It is painful to acknowledge the end of a dream. Change is never easy and maybe you have lived with those painful feelings for a long time.

Acceptance involves several key components. They include:


Being aware of the present moment. 

Setting a goal to respond positively. Resist self-doubt, being a naysayer and not accepting compliments.

Looking for areas of your life that you are grateful for. Maybe it’s nature, your family or your favorite dessert, book or song.

Taking time during the day to do things that you enjoy.

Asking for forgiveness.

Understanding that we are not perfect.

Setting healthy and realistic goals.


Acceptance is difficult but meaningful work, and it can be life-changing when achieved. It is a good time of year to reassess areas of your life that are roadblocks stopping you from moving forward. Remember that acceptance happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. JN


Marcy Shoemaker, Psy.D., is a staff psychologist at Abramson Center. This piece was first published in the Jewish Exponent, a Jewish News-affiliated publication. 

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