Radical acceptance – who practices it?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the term “radical acceptance” after spending a couple of hours last week walking in the woods with “Jennifer” (see previous posts). “Radical acceptance” is a term coined by psychologist Marsha Linehan and it means “not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change” or words to that effect. I think of it as “playing the ball where it lies.”

I believe that radical acceptance isn’t just recommended as a coping mechanism for self acceptance, it also involves how outsiders interact with the individual. Outsiders are the family, the mental health system, the courts, etc. In a family situation, an example of radical acceptance could be accepting the fact that your relative doesn’t want to take medication or doesn’t want to do anything that you think they should do “for their own good”. And, you may be right about what they should or could do but wrong about how to change the situation for the better. Another way of thinking about radical acceptance could be “whose side are you on?” But, I haven’t cleared my understanding of the term with psychologists. I’m winging this one.

Radical acceptance is a tension pitting the individual against the care providers and it can feel quite “unfair” that one side has to do the acceptance while the other side appears seemingly oblivious to the need to constructively help herself.

Jennifer’s hospitalization happened after she took herself off the medication, Haldol, which she told me she hated because it made her hands tremble. (She did it responsibly by tapering slowly under professional guidance. In my book she gets points for that but I doubt that the mental health system sees this as a positive.)

Jennifer’s hands are once more shaking because the hospital put her right back on the medication that she doesn’t want to take. This seems totally contrary to the idea of achieving best outcomes by listening to the patient and taking her position into account. What are they thinking?

Her state appointed guardian wants to move her to a residence where her med intake can be supervised. It’s located in a small village half way up a mountain. Getting to her normal haunts will be that much more time consuming and expensive. Jennifer doesn’t want to move to the new place. She asked me to intervene. Without telling her I have done so, I wrote to the guardian asking if it is at all possible that they can find living accommodations closer to “civilization” (although I was more diplomatic in my choice of words). He is aware and sympathetic to the fact that she is isolated. At least, that’s what he told me. The public health system doesn’t have much leeway for these kinds of requests, but I’m nonetheless hoping he’ll prove me wrong.

To sum it up, Jennifer doesn’t want to shake, doesn’t want to take medication, and she doesn’t want to be isolated. Instead, she is being forced to shake on the same old med and she’s being moved to a remote location where she will have little social interaction. Many people say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome.

Who here is playing the ball where it lies?

9 thoughts on “Radical acceptance – who practices it?”

    1. She should have a close relative doing this for her. Caring relatives would visit her often and not entrust her to a state guardian. Outsiders like me can only do so much, and I’m in the process of moving to another country.

  1. Hi, Rossa,
    Jennifer’s situation is tragic and the power invested in the mental health authorities is misplaced. I have been reading the histories of some of the people at “Altostrata’s” website “Surviving Antidepressants,” which includes antipsychotics and various “alternative” therapies. They are heart-wrenching, with new people arriving all the time. I pray that someone who can reach Jennifer will appear to take over before you leave.

    Alto, who I met years ago at another site, pointed me to the information offered by people suffering from drug side effects, withdrawal symptoms, and residual symptoms after they had gotten off their drugs entirely. I downloaded that data and used it as the basis of my SSRI study. Inspired by the vast work she undertook when she founded her own site, I took a fresh look at my SSRI study, edited and updated it. With some tinkering, I now have it in a downloadable format. My viewpoint is that whatever other harm SSRIs and antipsychotics medications do (and they do plenty) they harm the ears. Usually, the ear can be treated. It can be supported with music while the person is tapering off drugs and it can be exercised back into health once the harmful chemicals are out of the body.

    Haloperidol is known to cause Parkinsonian reactions. It usually is used in a crisis situation, i.e., the psychotic break, then a drug with fewer side effects is substituted. Whoever is overseeing Jennifer is ignorant, unethical, or not paying attention, even within the parameters of the psychiatric profession.

    Thank you for refueling my rage to carry me through another day of advocacy and teaching. I will remember to pray for Jennifer.

  2. I’m rendered sad from my belief that without you there advocating for her, her guardian will take the path of least resistance for himself. That will be to move her to hell’s half-acre and drug her to next Sunday.

    A few school shootings happened in the US over the winter, and then a couple of celebrity suicides; and you just watch in utter amazement how the narratives get turned away from what appear to be the roots causes: psych pharma. Of course nothing is simple, but all things being equal it’s safe to say that a big portion of these things wouldn’t happen if psych drugs weren’t being popped like candy by virtually everyone.

    Very sad about Jennifer, and kudos to you for how you’ve supported her.

  3. I would add thanks for your metaphor of “playing the ball where it lies,” which I appreciate from my husband’s golfing prowess since I have never been a golfer. It neatly summarizes the positive aspect of Gestalt psychology and the Serenity Prayer of AA. Over the past year, several aspects of life in our family that seemed to be “givens” have shifted significantly. Pieces of paper representing legal arrangements are rendered worthless by creeping Alzheimer’s. Legal advice that seemed clear and carved in rock makes a tectonic shift. A healthy person slides abruptly into ill health. These changes seem more than the usual vicissitudes of life. The scenario Liz portrays, which is literally of a world gone mad and choosing a crazier “solution” from Big Pharma, is the backdrop to other more unreasonable and unpredictable cultural shifts. The perfect rationality of your golfing metaphor can be interpreted in a faith context, too, and works for me as an organizing principle in the apparent chaos. Fore!

  4. Poor Jennifer! Haldol is a miserable drug. Was put on 10 mg a while back. It killed my joy for living and feeling of connection with people around me. The fits of Parkinson’s, eyes rolling back uncontrollably, and psychotic mini seizures were Hellish.

    I hope she can get off soon. Also that they have her on a lower dose.

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