Happiness & Radical Acceptance

A short time ago, an old college friend called my cell in tears. It was the can’t speak type of sobbing that puts you on high alert because something is dreadfully wrong. She relates to me how she just received a call from her sister who found a large abnormality on her skin. It was first spotted a few weeks ago and she had already seen a professional. Although the expert was unsure about the spot and referred her for further testing, the sister calmly ensured my friend that “Everything is fine, have no worries, I need to hang up to get ready for the party.”

“No worries? Get ready for the party? How can she be so ok with this? The expert has no idea what is wrong with her? What if it’s cancer?” my friend screams to me. Her emotions had reached a hurricane level of five with a mixture of anxiety about what will happen to her sister, fear of the worst possible diagnosis, and betrayal due to two weeks passing by without any notice about the spot. Surprisingly, her biggest point of contempt was that her sister was attending a party despite this seemingly terrible news. “How could she be attending a party while I’m here crying?” The answer: radical acceptance.

Radical acceptance is saying that reality “Is ok” or “It is what it is” even though we don’t like reality or don’t approve of it. My friend’s sister was probably terrified of the future, but at that moment she radically accepted that the abnormality was part of her reality and she did not let it interfere with her happiness. We all experience pain throughout our lives. If we attempt to avoid the pain or pretend that it doesn’t exist we also reduce our ability to experience happiness. By accepting reality for what it is instead of fighting against it, even if only for a second, we can shift our minds toward joy and happiness.