This is a subversive book. It won’t lead you to social or political revolt, but it will suggest overthrowing all of your current ideas about psychotherapy, personal growth and self-help. In the process it will cause you to re-evaluate almost all of the therapies, techniques and books about self-help already out there. How does it do this? By teaching something so radically different, and something so radically powerful, that the challenging becomes inevitable. And what is this teaching? Radical Acceptance.
The basic premise of Radical Acceptance – what makes it so different – is that your ‘fixer’ is powerless: no matter how hard you try, you can never fix yourself. You can struggle hard against issues, undergo hours and hours of therapy and make innumerable resolutions, but they’ll all end up with the same result – nothing. You can learn some new skills and gain some new insights, and you may even make superficial changes and some short-term deeper ones. But the part of yourself that wants to make permanent changes will never succeed: your core, fundamental personality will always stay the same. At some level you already know this, even while protesting that it can’t be true.
So if your ‘fixer’ is powerless and you can’t be ‘fixed’, what does Radical Acceptance suggest instead? As its name suggests, the answer is acceptance. To understand what this means, imagine that you’re a liar – yes you, the liar reading this book. You may not tell ‘big’ lies, you may only tell ‘little white lies’, you may fail to fully disclose the truth or you may only lie to yourself, but imagine that in some way, you’re a liar. Once you’ve found this out, the most common response is for the ‘fixer’ to arrive – saying, “I must fix this aspect of myself. I must root out lies. After all, honesty is the best policy.”
Instead of trying to ‘fix’ being a liar, Radical Acceptance says to accept this part of who you are. Being a liar isn’t something to fix, but is actually something to be accepted, embraced and even loved. Lying also isn’t ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – it’s just appropriate in some situations and not in others. Radical Acceptance even asks you to actively see the gifts in being a liar: whether it’s lying about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy or lying to protect the life of a loved one, not telling the truth can sometimes have advantages. When you can accept both the idea of lying and yourself as a liar, you’ll open the door to making conscious, healthier decisions in your interactions with yourself and other people. The same goes for how you treat all the rest of your ‘character flaws’, too, no matter how big or small they might appear to be.