I recently learned from a friend of a term that gave a label to a concept I had been practicing for the last fifteen years: radical acceptance. The definition is, in short: when one stops fighting the reality of the day, letting go of bitterness and its cycle of suffering.
For me, Parkinson’s disease guided me to the concept. I fully accepted early that Parkinson’s was incurable, it would affect me both physically and psychologically, and it would get progressively worse until I died. For some reason, it was just that simple for me. There is no reliable timeline associated with Parkinson’s to help prepare for when these changes will occur, making my fluid adaptation more surprising.
Parkinson’s impacts everyone differently, and there is a wide range of symptoms that can manifest, leaving one never quite sure what precisely they are accepting. The future becomes murky at best.
The bottom line is that radical acceptance works, at least it has for me. It doesn’t ask you to be happy, sad, or mad about the situation. It only requires that you accept life’s current reality. In doing so, one can avoid the most damaging pitfalls, such as considering yourself a victim and wallowing in self-pity. Sure, everyone has bad days and feels sorry for themselves for a while, but radical acceptance can help make those feelings fleeting.
Radical acceptance does not relieve suffering, but it allows one to move past the suffering treadmill as a defining aspect of life. It provides breathing room for a situation where there are no good options. The effect is that you can accept what “is” as what is, suddenly making a life under the shadow of debilitation—or any potentially difficult situation—a wonderful thing.
Deep into my 17th year since PD diagnosis, I strongly recommend radical acceptance as a beginning point to learning to live fulfilled while suffering. It need not supplant any beliefs you currently practice: it is likely to be in your spiritual or religious belief system in some fashion already. Try it—what do you have to lose?