Week 1: Understanding irritable bowel syndrome

Week 4: Healthy thinking, healthy self

Week 5: Balancing activity and reclaiming your life

Week 6: Maintaining your gains and staying well

Radical acceptance for irritable bowel syndrome

Regarding your irritable bowel syndrome, how many times have you thought to yourself “why is this happening to me?” or “this is so unfair!”. Questions and statements like this are often valid, but are they really helping you? Dwelling on ‘why’ questions and the unfairness of your life probably won’t get you very far. Chances are, it just leaves you feeling more depressed, frustrated and stuck. Radical acceptance offers you an alternative approach to struggling with your reality.

Radical acceptance is the ability to wholeheartedly accept your life as it is. It involves accepting the things we dislike and have little control over. For most of us, this is a completely new way of living. When something isn’t how we want it to be, we usually look for someone or something to blame. We get caught up in thinking this shouldn’t be happening or that we should be doing more. As such, we miss the point that it is happening and that we must deal with it. 

Radical acceptance offers another stance. It suggests that we acknowledge our situation, without judgement, blame, or criticism. Instead of fighting, we accept our reality, whether we like it or not. This allows us to work out what we can do now to cope.  Radical acceptance definitely does not mean that you approve of, want, agree with or condone the situation. It also does not mean that you are passive or against change. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Once you can see your problems clearly, you are in a better position to solve them.  

Here are some statements you can say to yourself to build radical acceptance:

  • “I can’t change my reality, but I can choose how to respond”
  • “This is how it is, even if it’s not what I want”
  • “Struggling with this will only keep me stuck”
  • “I can accept things as they are for now”
  • “How can I make the most of what I’ve got”

Before moving on, think about how radical acceptance might help you with your irritable bowel syndrome. Imagine the amount of time and energy you could save if you were no longer trying to wish away your symptoms. Could you focus more on finding helpful solutions to your problems?  Could it prevent self-criticism, resentment and hopelessness? Could it allow you to do what needs to be done, instead of being paralysed by fear? List the potential benefits of this concept in your life.