Family caregivers often are desperately searching for support when a loved one’s eating disorder and co-occurring diagnoses bring; sadness, crises, disappointment and a litany of other painful emotions to the family. Our natural inclination is to try and fix things, stop the behaviors and do something to stop this. 

The solution of radically accepting whatever YUCK is coming their way isn’t usually received well at first. Often we interpret radical acceptance as condoning and/or approving of, the dangerous behaviors. It is not. 

Today I’m sharing information from two leading experts on this topic. First I’ll introduce you to the work of Marsha Linehan by looking at this question:

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, 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. 

The next expert I’d like to share with you on this topic is Tara Brach, PhD, the author of, “Radical Acceptance; Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha” in which she shares her tools for reducing shame and fear so we can be more fully alive. You can read more about Tara Brach and her teachings of mindfulness and self compassion here on her website. There are classes, free downloads, links to many resources in so many formats. 

When things are really rough, and there is not much, if anything that I can do to change the situation,  I like using her simple tool for practicing mindfulness and self compassion that she calls RAIN:

  • Recognize what is happening;
  • Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
  • Investigate with interest and care;
  • Nurture with self-compassion.

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 click this link for a free consultation. While I am not trained to teach DBT skills, I am trained to help shift perspectives.