Breaking the Control Habit: Discovering Freedom in Radical Acceptance

Category: Blog

Radical acceptance: accepting reality as it is, without judgment or resistance. Acceptance of all of it: not partial or conditional.

I was having a conversation with a dear client yesterday who shared that he was practicing radical acceptance with a recent experience. Two hours earlier at my yoga class, someone said to another student, “I’m trying to practice radical acceptance on this one, but it’s difficult.”

On two occasions within two hours, the universe gave me a gentle tap on my shoulder to pay attention. I dusted off my copy of Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach and started rereading it.

I’ve recently discovered that there are layers of truth and understanding when processing difficult emotions or parts of our lives. For instance, I can process something intellectually, wrap my head around it, muster up a good dose of resilience, and “onward and upward” it, kicking dust in its face. But yesterday, I discovered that I kicked up so much dust on something that I couldn’t see the emotional abyss in front of me, and I fell right in.

Truth be told, I had a really, really big cry yesterday (like one of those really messy ones when there doesn’t seem to be enough tissue in the house and you have to wash your sweatshirt afterward). I had been stuffing the sadness of the world and some past events in my own life into this intellectual suitcase, and yesterday, like a tsunami, I was flooded with tears. This was my biggest fear: If I start, I won’t be able to stop. That proved to be true.

But the release opened the acceptance—radical acceptance—of what was and what is. No onward and upward. Just sitting in acceptance. Not wanting it to change because I didn’t have the energy to want anything. Not wishing it were different. Just accepting things as they are and feeling the difficult emotions of them.

I have been avoiding this puddle of goo for months, and frankly, I feel so much better for letting it flow. My eyes are puffy and my heart is too, but in a really good way. My body is lighter. The physical pain in my neck is gone.

Feeling “the feels” without wanting them to change or be different gives us agency and strength. It’s a paradox, really. We stay strong on the front end of things, thinking that if we plow through, we can avoid these emotional tsunamis that we assume will take us down. We think we won’t recover from them. We assume that they make us weak and prevent us from being productive or that we will be seen as somehow “less than” by others. Perhaps even more so in the workplace.

Do vulnerability and truth about our emotions have a place in business? As leaders, how do we balance intense personal emotions while upholding trust and truth on our teams and in our communication with coworkers? I believe it’s important for us to foster community, especially among those of us who lead. Let’s open candid discussions with questions like:

  • How do you navigate emotional challenges in your business?
  • What role do emotional truth and sharing what you are going through in your personal life play in your leadership?
  • Can we truly be transparent with our teams while still inspiring confidence?

“Stuffing it” creates such a controlled mindset that the body responds by locking emotions into place to keep them all together. And the chiropractor appointments, massage appointments, and acupuncture appointments start to add up. It takes so much maintenance to keep it together. So much energy. Good gravy. So. Much. Energy.

I want to share this because I know many of us are on the edge of this emotional abyss, and I want us to be there for each other. Or we know someone on the edge who needs a big hug and just needs to let it out. Or maybe I just want to make sure you have a big enough supply of tissue in the house so you’re prepared for the tsunami. I don’t want you to have to add toilet paper to the grocery list like I did today.

Consider candid discussions at work and at home about radical acceptance of what is and what was. If you’re in a leadership position, think about how you might model vulnerability so your team isn’t stuffing it and feels safe to embrace their truths. Let’s support one another by sharing our experiences and strategies.

Wishing you peace, self-compassion, and radical acceptance.

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