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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

What is Radical Acceptance Anyway?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 9th 2013

questionThere’s a funny cartoon of a father sitting in his chair with two young kids running around it. He turns to look at the kids and says, “You kids are making this radical acceptance thing very difficult.” There is probably something to say for boundaries here too, but in general, when speaking about radical acceptance, we’re simply talking about acknowledging things as they are. That’s the first step and some natural benefits start to emerge from there.

But first here is the cartoon:


If you were standing in the middle of unfamiliar territory, it would benefit you to objectively survey your surroundings to know what you’re working with. That’s the first benefit for radical acceptance; it’s to know exactly what is here, without the catastrophizing, so you can assess what the most effective approach to it may be. 

When we’re feeling anxious, the last thing we need is catastrophizing the situation with frantic “what if” scenarios. If we had some semblance of radical acceptance, it may look more like the recognition of the nervous system being heightened and the need for some soothing activity. 

When we’re slipping into depressed mood, the last thing we need is more self-judgment and hopeless thoughts, but that is what we’ll get on default. What we need more of is some recognition that this moment is difficult and a gesture of taking care of ourselves. That may be taking a warm bath, getting some exercise or calling a friend. 

It all starts with being brave and accepting the reality of all the factors that are here creating this mood state. From here we’re more likely to sit in the driver’s seat and have perspective. 

When Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there’s a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response and in our response lies our growth and freedom,” he was implying radical acceptance. The Now Effect is based on this quote, based on training our brains to recognize this space more readily, dipping into radical acceptance and choosing the best response. 

Try practicing saying to yourself in moments, “It’s like this...this moment….it’s like this.” Allow your eyes to be open and see what happens. 

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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