The iconic Serenity Prayer is well known and deeply respected by millions. It advocates one simple but profound concept–accept what life offers us when we cannot possibly alter the outcome of life's events. It clearly and succinctly proposes changing what we can, but ultimately to make peace with what remains. It is the struggle to overcome what cannot possibly be changed that creates much of life's misery. Wisdom is a key concept as well. How do we know what we can change and what remains immutable? Ah, there's the rub.
Radical acceptance implies that we not engage in a hopeless resignation to what causes us suffering, that we not "give up" and passively face the abyss, but an active recognition that this is the only path towards healing.
We are, by nature, creatures that imagine future scenarios, plan, try to anticipate danger and ultimately worry about it all. We have evolved to survive by anticipating problems. We have evolved to avoid danger, we have evolved to look to events which have not already occurred, and to worry about them. We seek out the sources of our own despair and attempt to correct them. That is fine and necessary from an evolutionary perspective. But we tend to obsess over every possible negative outcome. By doing so we are suffering in the present moment for outcomes which have not, and perhaps will not occur.
Previously I wrote about the path of Gratitude. It is an active acknowledgement of what is good, or at least positive. The best response to life's adversity is to embrace both acceptance and gratitude. They are not mutually exclusive. Recognizing what is positive in our lives lifts our spirits, accepting what we cannot change is a support against the downward spiral of depression, frustration and self-pity.
It is radical acceptance because it is a choice based on a conscious decision to be at peace with what we cannot change. It is a healing choice