I find that this is where most of my anxiety comes from: thinking things should be a certain way, and being unwilling to accept that they are actually the exact opposite. I fuss and I tussle and I tumble with “the way things are,” trying every day to bend it to my iron will. Newsflash to those who might need it — the world doesn’t work that way, and it probably never will.
The way I see it, the way DBT teaches it, we really shouldn’t be trying to bend any thing or any person to our own will. Life is meant to happen, and it is us railing against the facts of the world that make us so unhappy. In many situations (not most, not all, but not just a few), there is very little we can do about any given situation, other than control our reaction and response to it.
For example, I may or may not have a small road anger (it’s not true RAGE, I mean, c’mon) issue, but I have been trying to practice radical acceptance in most matters, and have recently been applying that to driving. It has been interesting. This morning, someone honked at me because I didn’t move at a green arrow a half second BEFORE it changed. Normally, I would have flown the bird high out the window, but today I gritted my teeth and thought, “gee, I wonder what that guy’s problem is…he must be having a hard day…thank you baby Jesus, that I am not that impatient or angry, amen.”
I felt pretty good about not flipping the angry man the bird, and felt so good about it, in fact, that I let some cars in front of me at a construction site. My grandpa taught me over two decades ago that this was common courtesy. Grandpa would be shocked at how people drive today, but that is besides the point. After letting in three cars (and then moving because the light turned green), I couldn’t help but notice that I had invoked a spitting-mad, yelling tirade in the woman behind me, ,because she had to wait for the light to turn green again.
A few months ago, I could totally have been the pissed off honking man or the cursing impatient woman. Thanks to DBT, ahem, the PRACTICE of DBT skills, I find myself no longer trapped in anger at situations where I have no control. My mind is open and willing, and my patience for *most* people has greatly increased.
Practicing accepting situations beyond our control, as a matter of distress tolerance, is a mighty valuable tool. I do have to turn things over in my mind repeatedly to get there, but I have been able to better manage my hostile, off-the-cuff reactions to other people’s inadequacies.
I have learned that I do not control the world around me, and I do not control the people around me, so what is best for me is to roll with the circumstances, and when things get too heated or when I start getting upset and to the point where I feel like my values have been stepped on, then I remove myself from said situation.
I really do think that radical acceptance is the hardest thing to practice in DBT, but I also feel it is most important (or at least as applied to my life). When we can accept things for what they are, and not struggle and fight, life overall becomes much easier, much less painful. I wish this is a skill I could stick in my back pocket and just pull out when I’m feeling like putting out the effort, but it is something that is best practiced daily, along with a heaping dose of nonjudgemental stance (and yes, I mean nonjudgmental stance toward oneself, as well).