The crises won't stop coming. Radical acceptance is the key to coping.

You will probably need to take a long, deep breath this week.
Which week is it again

The one that brought down Hurricane Ida, a Category 4-level storm that knocked out power in New Orleans for several weeks. The one in which the U.S. ended the 20-year war against Afghanistan, but left behind Afghans in danger. The one in which a massive wildfire in California swept across the Sierra Nevada mountain range, threatening thousands of homes in Lake Tahoe and the surrounding wilderness. We must not forget about the spread of the Delta variant. This could lead to an additional 100,000 deaths in the U.S. from now through December. The vast majority of these fatalities can be prevented with a vaccine that some people refuse to use.

It is possible that it will be another combination of disasters next week, driven by climate change, geopolitics and conspiracy theories, as well as other forces far beyond our control. Despite the fact that catastrophe is an inevitable part of human life, it is not possible to prevent tragedy and death. The news keeps coming in faster than ever, via our smartphones and social media. 18 months ago, the pandemic shifted our collective existence. Any difficult development now compounds the unpredictability and grief, particularly for those who are able to experience them firsthand, rather than watching them unfold from afar.

Happiness is still possible, however. With the right coping skills, we can get through each day. These disasters are more than just the emotional equivalent to walking on water. They demand radical acceptance, which Tara Brach, a psychologist, has advocated for almost two decades.

Brach describes this concept as follows: Radical acceptance is the courage and acceptance of reality, our current experience, and what's going on now.

Radical acceptance is possible

Brach explained how to use this skill in the face of another crisis. Skeptics may find accepting the events of this week to be a recipe for further pain. They mistake acceptance for condoning or being passive about them. The approach can be helpful in turbulent times if it is used correctly.

Brach, a meditation teacher, and author of Radical acceptance: Embracing your Life with the Heart of Buddha, believes radical acceptance can be achieved through mindfulness and compassion. Mindfulness simply refers to the ability to notice what is happening within us at any given moment, and to name those emotions. Brach says that compassion can bring out a sense of open heartedness in those inner experiences when it is used.

Sometimes, she likes to ask radical acceptance the question: What's going on inside of me right now? And can I respond with kindness?

"What's going on right now? Can I be there with kindness?"

Brach says that if the answer is "no", it's okay. Radical acceptance is also accepting what we cannot accept at the moment. Radical acceptance would not allow someone to accept the New Orleans heat and their discomfort. It allows you to recognize when it is too difficult to process at any moment.

The practice has the critical advantage of helping someone to get out of the "fight, flight or freeze" state where stress hormones are running through their bodies and their "primitive survival brain" has taken over. Although this evolutionary stress response is important, if left untreated, it can lead to poor decisions that are rooted in anger and panic, among other emotions. Sometimes we neglect ourselves and may lash out at others. It is possible to stop worrying about our minds and bodies by accepting radical compassion and mindfulness.

It's time to slow down

Brach refers to the sacred pause as a precondition for a smooth transition. Radical acceptance begins with slowing down enough to feel our emotions and greeting them with gentle presence. It is difficult to find this stillness when there is so much information available. This includes media coverage, calls for help from those trapped in their homes during a hurricane, or trying to evacuate from a wildfire. Radical acceptance is impossible because of doombrowsing and dooomscrolling. Instead, turn off the computer and put down the phone.

Brach says that speed can hinder our ability to access resources. Brach says that the faster our world is, the less we listen to our feelings and the more information we use in our lives, the more we are entangled in stereotypes. We don't think through things.

Brach states that she can be sucked into powerful emotions such as anger or blame when she hears about someone who perpetuates social injustice or racism. She tries to stop and take a "U"-turn. Brach says that instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of someone, she tries to refocus her attention on what is motivating them. For example, anger is not the only emotion. Fear is undergirded with grief for the suffering she has seen, and underneath that is caring.

Brach says, "If we can return to the caring, then it is possible to actually respond in a manner that is useful in this world."

How to get in your own way

Sometimes our feelings of inadequacy can block us from radical acceptance. Brach suggests that we can feel like failure when stressed and then become trapped in anxiety or confusion. Sometimes, we may feel that we haven't done enough or made the wrong decisions. Brach refers to this as the "trance or unworthiness," a feeling of utter failure. This can lead to a loss of self-worth, a sense of insecurity, and a lack of creativity, which can impact our relationships, creativity, work capacity, and ability to enjoy our lives. This feeling of insecurity propels us on a "chain reactivity," which is where our actions are dictated more by our insecurity than our "wise presence."

However, these feelings of inadequacy may cause us to use judgment and blame on others as well. Brach points out that these are the most common ways people attempt to control chaos. It is possible to judge yourself harshly and do the same thing to others who are trying to survive a crisis. However, it does not provide real relief. It can also make us separate from other people.

Brach suggests that we can cultivate courage and compassion that will help us to face challenges with greater intelligence by recognizing our failures and then practicing radical self acceptance.

Radical acceptance reminds you that you are not alone

Brach created an acronym called RAIN (recognize. Allow. Investigate. Nurture) to help you get started if the idea of radical acceptance is daunting. These steps can be used immediately after feeling distressed or later, when there is time to reflect. Brach says that even a minute of using the acronym (a light RAIN) can make all the difference.

For example, when you feel anxious, your response can be quick and simple. It could include naming it and quickly acknowledging it. It doesn't have to be complicated. It's enough to simply place your hand on the person's heart and say kindly that it is OK.

We can reconnect with the caring underneath our emotions and be better at taking care of ourselves. For example, see the millions of dollars donated last week to Afghans in need. Having that clarity and presence can make us feel isolated and reactive.

Brach says, "As soon we remember our unity, we have all of the resilience in this world."