05 Mar Radical Acceptance with Mercury in Retrograde
Have you ever heard a person blame Mercury Retrograde for the cause of a mishap? The concept has become a common pop culture reference in memes and social media posts. Mercury Retrograde is considered the time when the planet Mercury appears to be moving backward, and astrologers believe that it can negatively affect communication and technology.
The gist is that during this time, things can become a little wonky. Maybe you accidentally erase an important file or an email somehow gets lost in the junk folder. Either way, the idea is that the planet Mercury, in relation to Earth (something we humans clearly have no control over), affects our lives in frustrating ways.
Whether or not you believe in astrology or planets affecting our life circumstances, we all know what it is like to have one of those days (or sometimes weeks), where things just don’t go the way we want them to. This is where the DBT skill of Radical Acceptance can be your life preserver during a storm.
Radical Acceptance is when one fully and completely accepts the reality of the situation that is occurring. When you are accepting something fully, you are acknowledging that all of the facts, past and present, are true. This does not mean that you like or want the facts to be the way they are, but you are surrendering to the facts as they are.
For example, if you’re on your way to an important meeting and you unexpectedly become stuck in traffic (or on the subway for our NYC folks), it could understandably leave you with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. You may think, “why is this happening?”, “this shouldn’t be happening to me,” or “this is so unfair.”
It would also be reasonable to feel anger, frustration, powerlessness, anxiety, worry, etc. You wouldn’t be alone in these experiences. Yet, even though you can’t change your situation, there are still ways for you to take care of yourself via radical acceptance.
Here are the basic steps to radical acceptance:
- Observe that you are resisting the situation or reality. Use mindfulness to get yourself to the present moment and realize that your thoughts are resisting the present situation.
- Carl Jung introduced the concept of “what we resist persists.” So stop resisting what is. Remind yourself that it is normal to resist, but the situation cannot be changed at this moment. In the example of the deleted email or file, it is just the reality of the situation; your resistance to reality will not change the fact that the file is not able to be recovered. You need to be able to accept reality in order to consider your next step.
- Allow feelings to arise within you and then attend to the bodily sensations. For example, if you are having the “why me” thoughts or feelings of anger, pay attention to your body. You may notice your chest becoming tight or your heart racing. It is at this moment that you could allow yourself to take 10 deep breaths (4 counts in and 6 counts out).
- Opposite action – practice what you would do if you accepted the facts. Imagine if a person in your situation fully accepted the situation. What would they look like? What actions would they be doing? Is there a way to make the situation more enjoyable? Now do those actions.
In summary, there are so many things that we cannot control in our lives. We are undeniably going to have uncomfortable challenges that could have been personally initiated, celestially-caused or just old-fashion bad luck. This is an essential element of living. So whether it be a planet intermittently moving in a different direction or a rotten day, try practicing the skill of accepting reality in the moment in order to reduce your resistance and feel better.
Authored by: Alison Trenk, MA LCSW