It’s especially difficult to accept what is when we don’t like what the reality is. Our world is currently giving us plenty of examples every day of difficult realities to accept. 

Dozens of opportunities arise to practice this acceptance when we are the family member caring for someone with an eating disorder. Here are a few examples of situations that often arise for family caregivers to practice accepting when a family member/child:

  • Has an eating disorder and that it’s serious.
  • Does not acknowledge they are sick and that they need treatment.
  • Cannot eat or cannot stop bingeing.
  • Uses behaviors that are dangerous/destructive
  • Is mean/rude/disrespectful to you. 

Those are just a few that I regularly hear from my 1:1 coaching clients and parents in my group support. So what exactly is Radical Acceptance? It is a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Distress Tolerance skill developed by Marsha Linehan. It’s designed to help us reduce our suffering from our overwhelming emotions. This is a distraction tool that can allow us to make a decision that serves us much better than fretting, being scared, angry or frustrated. 

We only have to accept the moment we are in and the past, we can still try to change things going forward. It does not mean we have to like the situation, stop trying to change it or give up. 

“We have to radically accept that we want something we don’t have and it’s not a catastrophe.” Marsha Linehan

Some Radical Acceptance Tools to try for accepting events that are very distressing:

  1. Think of the event and acknowledge the facts of the situation. 
  2. Notice, name and allow all the feelings about the event/situation.
  3. Notice where you feel the emotions in your body. 
  4. Using mantras to state what is true.
  5. Using mindfulness skills.

These are but a few of the tools and skills that one can learn from DBT to help reduce suffering, worry, ruminating and anxiety about painful situations. 

Reducing suffering, worry, rumination and anxiety seem like worthwhile goals. It has been my experience that when parents and other family caregivers get the support they need, they’re able to be more effective caregivers for their loved one with an eating disorder. And, the treatment outcomes improve. 

If a parent you know is looking to shift perspectives on how they’re approaching this crisis in their family, feel free to have them call me for a free consultation. While I am not trained to teach DBT skills, I am trained to help shift perspectives. 

This September I’ll begin training clinicians and other parents to use the coaching model I’ve been using with parents for over 17 years. You can learn more here.