S1E33 Radical Acceptance Part 2

Dr. Rubin presents how the past 6 months has felt like 60 years, as she discusses the role of acceptance in behaviorism with Dr. Pete.  On the next to last episode in 2020, Dr. Rubin and Dr. Pete address ways to practice acceptance within western behaviorism and eastern philosophy. If you are like most humans in the year 2020, and beyond, you would benefit from learning about ways to practice acceptance.




Nikki: We are going to talk about radical acceptance again, today, even though, some people listening might go like, "Didn't they do an episode of acceptance," which was our second episode actually.

Pete: Episode two, yeah,

Nikki: Yeah, back in July. I...

Pete: Seems like that was July like 1998.

Nikki: Sure does. Actually, not even six months ago, actually. Yeah, I mean, Pete and I thought it'd be really important to talk about acceptance again, because... Well, for a couple reasons, one, it's not a one and done. We talked about it in the first acceptance episode, it's not something you're like, "acceptance, it's over." That's the first reason. The second is, this has been, I mean, for me personally, and on my clinical work, this is coming up a lot. What do you think?

Pete: Yeah, I mean, I think that's why we made the joke about like, 1998. Because it seems like it just never ends. And I have said, I've taught this where, accept is a really easy word to spell, but it's next to impossible to practice. And maybe I said that in episode two, because who know, I don't remember. But here I am again, just saying like, it is hard to practice.

Nikki: It's so hard to practice well, and it's just there's not an end to it. I think what I often encounter, clinically, is that acceptance is something obviously, I talk lot about with people, we do a lot of psycho Ed around it, and we practice it a lot. And there's people I've worked with for years and years that this thing that they've had trouble accepting in their lives. It's like, at some point, they'll fight against reality again, they'll stop accepting, and I'll say, "Hey, we got to bring our minds back to like, 'this is what it is'."

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: And I always find that people get very frustrated with themselves, like, "oh, I thought I accepted it already". And I'm like, "but it's acceptance". It's, again, a behavior. It's like ongoing, it's like mindfulness. Like we don't just like stay in the present moment. We got to keep...

Pete: Wouldn't that be nice.

Nikki: Oh, I mean,  

Pete: Well the one and done, I think is something that a lot of people are looking for, especially like in Western culture. It's just like, if you think about the US, like, "what's the pill I can take? Yeah, it's got to be something to fix it". It's like, "Well, no, that's just not how this works".

Nikki: And I always say, also, we had an episode of this, I think everyone's a perfectionist in some way. It's that too it's like, there's this degree of perfectionism around, "I'm going to accepted the best, I'm going to accept it, and then I'll never have to worry about it again, I'll never struggle and things". Like, it's natural to want to get away from an out of what's uncomfortable, that is just like how we are wired as human beings. And so...

Pete: Yeah,

Nikki: The returning back to accepting what is happening, especially when it's something unpleasant, there's not an end point to that. And I think that's something very difficult for people to accept.

Pete: What also, people keep saying is like, "when we're going to go back to normal?", and I just keep reflecting on like, 'Well, nothing ever is back to normal, because it's always a constant'. And that's what the eastern philosophy is, things are always changing.

Nikki: Yeah,

Pete: Whenever you return back to the next point, that's just the next point, it's not the normal, it's not the new, it's just wherever you have arrived. And that's hard for people. I think that that does take a lot of practice, for sure.

Nikki: So I'm really curious to hear, especially in Buddhism specifically, what did the teachings talk about when somebody is having a hard time accepting that acceptance is something that's ongoing? So I like this thing about like, 'it's just the next point'. I mean, that resonates with me, but I'm wondering when somebody is like, "but I already accepted this", or, "I thought that I was done with this",

Pete: Yeah, I mean, that's rigid, because that rigidity just highlight the one and done. I think this is where Buddhism gets a bit more philosophical. So like, there's a thing called the Diamond Sutra. And I was just talking about that this past week with my community, where one of the sayings, there is no Buddha, no dharma. And it's like this whole idea of like, people are striving for something that isn't. And so oftentimes, if I'm not practicing acceptance, it's because I'm wanting to be somewhere that I'm not, and maybe I'll never be, and that's okay. It's not until I can actually accept where I am, that I can get to where I want to go.

Nikki: I really like that, that really hit a chord with me. As you were saying that people are always kind of wanting to like get to this next point, I can feel in my body that sensation of that wanting to push forward or move through.

Pete: Yeah,

Nikki: And it sounds like what that aspect of the Buddhist philosophy is highlighting is that, when we do that we're, that's something that's not real. Like that doesn't exist yet, again, all roads lead to mindfulness. Like, we got to just be with you ever.

Pete: Yeah, we're just focused on where we're goin, and we're focused on what we're trying to achieve, rather than the process. And that's really hard for a lot of high achievers is to say, "hey, slow down and just appreciate the process". Well, sometimes the process sucks.

Nikki: Yeah, it certainly sucks right now, in this 2020 world that we're living in.

Pete: It does, and so I can't be like, "hey, just enjoy", and I think this is where people come in and they'll be like, "Well, I have it better than other people", or...

Nikki: Right,

Pete: "At least I'm not starving", or "at least I have a roof over my head". And yeah, there's all truth to that. That's all logical truth, it doesn't affect the emotional. And I think that that's also part of where people get stuck in aren't practicing acceptance, where Buddhism is like, 'it's about body and mind, it's sitting in it', and then also, like what I had in the spirit. So really thinking about, 'what am I doing to recharge my spirit'. Now, I'm just going to put this out there for listeners, as good as I can preach this, I don't always practice it. So we just got a puppy, so I'll share that with you. So now we're rolling in a pack of three. And I'm noticing thoughts of like, 'just accept this, this is part of the process', in bed when I'm like waking up, because it's kind of like a new parent.

Nikki: Yes,

Pete: You hear your kid in the crib or in the room next door. And I can notice like, 'Okay, let me practice acceptance. Let me take some big diaphragmatic breaths. Let me just try and get through this. Let me look at the process'. And then I'm like, 'Okay, by March he will be six months, so he can go to dog day care". I'm already planning,

Nikki: Yeah, and problem solving, trying to problem solve.

Pete: Which is taking me out of the emotional now,

Nikki: The moment.

Pete: The moment, because to your point how you started this, we don't always want to be where we are.

Nikki: No, and I think this is also something that just sort of, if we take it up a level here, that we as humans have trouble accepting is that this tendency to continue to try to problem solve our way out of the moment, is inherent to our design, that that's not going anywhere, either. Because I think that's also what I experienced clinically, a lot, is patients will say like, "Well, I know that human brains like to problem solve, and I know that I need to accept what's happening in this moment. Why am I problem solving again?" I'm like, "because you're a human being and that's what your brain is meant to do". Just like your heart pumps blood throughout the body, that's just what it does.

Pete: Yeah,

Nikki: So it's this never ending process experience of...

Pete: The cycle,

Nikki: The cycle of coming back...

Pete: Well the cycle I was just thinking about is like compassion, and we did that episode eight, and I feel like that's linked to this. Because in order for me to have acceptance, I have to have compassion. I have to have compassion for my brain that's going to problem solve and try and organize. And compassion for my suffering.

Nikki: Totally.

Pete: I'm going to feel from time to time. Now, I'm still looking for out, let me just put it that way. I'm still looking for like dog trainers. Anyone listening, let me know. We have one actually, maybe [inaudible 8:20]. But anyway, you're still looking for that stuff, and that's okay.

Nikki: It's just that that's the imperfectness of us. I can't remember if I shared this phrase before, and I can never remember where I read it. It's one of my most favorite sayings is that, 'human imperfections aren't flaws, they're features'.

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: And so our imperfections include this tendency to try to get out of what we don't like in this moment. So can we accept that? Can we bring compassion to that? And then turn our minds back to the moment.

Pete: Yeah. And again, that takes practice. And so that's like, all roads lead to mindfulness. Sometimes clients will say like, "oh, how do I do that?" I'm like, "Well, I guess mindfulness," I mean, we can look up other things. But truthfully, the way that I know more easily to access is through meditation and mindfulness. And that's hard, because...

Nikki: It's not.

Pete: Yeah, I have some athletes this year in particular, where they're like, they want to come to a session, and mostly because they're struggling with practicing on their own, because whatever is happening, life's happening schedules are really intense. And so it's like a safe place, it's a safe space, it's a guided it's like in vivo.

Nikki: Yeah, it's a way to, I don't know, I was thinking the word accountability. Though, it's not always even just accountability. Sometimes it's just support.

Pete: Yeah, totally. I mean, it's easily both of those, there's no doubt about that.

Nikki: Yeah, for sure. And of course, what I'm thinking of as well, is that the reason why all roads lead to mindfulness, and why they're leading to that road in this episode of talking about acceptance again, is that mindfulness is an acceptance practice, like at its core. It's about coming back to, and paying attention to and experiencing whatever is happening in this moment, which is the only moment will ever occupy.

Pete: Without judgment

Nikki: Without judgment. Now...

Pete: I think that that's also key because if I'm not accepting, I'm judging. And whether I'm judging my feelings, my situation, my circumstance. And that, the non judgmental aspect of living is so damn hard, especially in the West.

Nikki: I think, well, go ahead. Sorr.

Pete: Well no, you.

Nikki: I was just going to say also, it's so damn hard, because, again, we're wired for judgment, we're wired to evaluate, it's like, quite...

Pete: I was thing in the east, they do that better, though. Like, I think in Buddhism, there's really like, the judgment is there, because the brain is the brain.

Nikki: Sure.

Pete: However, maybe looking at their brains, say some of those... I mean, I am meditating for life, and that's, like, I wish I had that as a kid, some house...

Nikki: So it's interwoven into the culture, I think that's what's different is that you could hear, we're not practicing, for most of us, definitely, I can speak for myself, I definitely wasn't for more very little to be aware of the tendencies of the brain, and then engage in these practices to come back to being non judgmental and accepting. I actually say to patients a lot of times, I'll say, "Look, the stuff that we practice in CBT comes from a Zen Buddhist tradition", I was like, "the stuffs like 2500 years old, at least probably older, that we know about. It's at least 2500 years old". I was like, "why do you think it still resonates?" I was like, "because human brains had the same problems 2500 years ago, that we have right now, these aren't modern brain problems." So I think those that were raised in communities and cultures and spiritual traditions that emphasize that, they just have more practice, accepting that and learn to work with it.

Pete: And the culture is 100% accurate. And I wonder what our 2500 year ancestors would say about social media and technology.

Nikki: I think they would say, "That's bananas". I think that's the first thing out of their mouth.

Pete: But also, how that has affected our suffering, and I just want to make space for that. Because I do think, and even in a pandemic, like, none of us have gone through a pandemic, we don't have mentors to see how they did it.

Nikki: That's right.

Pete: So I think that that is another area for compassion, and just it create some flexibility around that. And I think that's why we wanted to do a part two of this radical acceptance, or acceptance part two, because we wanted to say like, here we are, X amount of months later, still struggling.

Nikki: Still struggling.

Pete: Clients are struggling, we're struggling.

Nikki: Yeah, no, that's right. And I have to share, and I've been saying this to literally every patient every single session, and this is not an exaggeration.

Pete: Yeah,

Nikki: Every single session, someone says to me something along the lines of, "I just don't know why. I'm so burned out".

Pete: Yeah,

Nikki: "I just don't know why I'm feelings anxious or sad". And I kind of like, facetiously will respond, like, "really, you don't?" And they'll say, "no", and I'll say, "Well okay, Hello, we're like, still in a global pandemic. And we're now like, nine months into it. And that's going to wear on all of us", and I'll share, I'll say, "it's certainly wearing on me".

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: And I think that's the thing, people start to get away from that, they start to lose awareness, and in turn lose acceptance of this, 'we're still struggling', this is still impacting us, even if we've adapted at the same time to it.

Pete: Yeah. So some of the effects, so we're going to have maybe some new sleep issues, this chronic fatigue, we might have changes in our appetite, changes in our exercise, lack of motivation, these are all themes we're going to see. And so to your point, I'm also saying to people, "we are in a pandemic", still sort of reminding that parts of your life might feel normal because of x, y, and z, and the world is still shifting.

Nikki: It's still shifting, and it's still impacting our functioning. I mean, I've been, I've been using the metaphor of, like, smog. I was saying, like, I think Mexico City is like, either the first or second as like the worst air quality, I think in the world. And I said to people, I said, "Look, be like if you lived in Mexico City, and when you first move there, and you're going to notice it. It's really going to impact your breathing, you might feel burning, maybe you kind of feel light-headed, not feel well. After a while you're going to adapt. You're going to kind of get used to it. And you go about your day and maybe you're not having those symptoms anymore. Here is the thing, the poor air quality is still impacting your body".

Pete: Right, just because you've adjusted.

Nikki: Correct. And I keep saying, the pandemic, it's like the emotional smog is still there.

Pete: Yeah. And I think I'm struggling, I don't know about you. I struggle with clients that are like, "well, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel", or "the vaccines coming and I don't want to be a Debbie Downer". I just also want to remain in the moment where I'm like, we have to actually stay with where we are, that's process. I hate bursting people's bubbles of like, how vaccines really don't work for many viruses.

Nikki: [inaudible 15:39] like, we're not out of it yet, we're not there. And it's like, I mean, to me, this is where, again, dialectics are very helpful, that the both. So I'm full of metaphors today.

Pete: Love them.

Nikki: One of my best friends from college, I laughed so hard when she said this, because it was so painfully and horribly true. We were talking about this, like that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and I was like, "yeah, and we're still in the tunnel". And she's like, "yeah, we're still in the tunnel and the car broke down and the headlights are broken, and there's no cell service. Yeah. And there's a light at the end of the tunnel". And I was like, "Oh, so true". It's like so true. We just have to make... they're both true. It's like we're stuck in this tunnel right now, it's dark, the headlights are off. And the light is there. We got to make room for both.

Pete: Like a rainy day, there is still rising of the sun.

Nikki: That's right. So it's like...

Pete: By the way, that tunnel gives me my clusterphobia

Nikki: Oh no.

Pete: I might choose the pandemic over that tunnel, but yeah.

Nikki: It's activating that as well. So how are you, personally then Pete, coming back to accepting without going into the 'Debbie Downer' category? Because that's right, being with what is, isn't going like, 'all is lost', like we've talked about before, acceptance is not resignation, which people often confuse those two things.

Pete: No acceptance is commitment to the next step. And the next step might be a step up, might be a step down.

Nikki: Yeah,

Pete: I'm going to keep committing to step up. So, I mean, this would have been better recorded last week, before the puppy arrived. Really great routine.

Nikki: Or maybe not better recorded, because...

Pete: Well maybe not.

Nikki: Yeah, it's when you're struggling it's like when it's the hardest.

Pete: But I had a good exercise regimen. I mean, my meditation was there. I actually gave a Dharma talk last week, which that felt nice with my community. And just being able to celebrate small victories. I think that's a big thing. I've been saying over and over, and even for myself. I have some big victories coming up. So I have my book will be coming out shortly. I don't think I ever told you this. I have a second one that I have been working on.

Nikki: No, you did not tell me that.

Pete: I didn't think I did.

Nikki: People don't believe it, real time.

Pete: Real time.

Nikki: Real time convos, here.

Pete: So yeah, I think those things, but also just like trying to just breathe and [inaudible 18:21] a little bit from time to time and just do nothing.

Nikki: Yeah, that's what I've been practicing, the being quiet, the stillness, which for those that know me, I'm not the quietest.

Pete: Oh, no. But you've got really good at it.

Nikki: I have. I've gotten more skilled at that. And just sort of in a concrete way, just want to share, if this is helpful to anyone. I try to really tune into when I find myself fighting back at what's happening anyway, like, when I hear my brain kind of going, like, 'what if this happens', or like, 'I'm going to do this', and I've been really trying to just ground myself in the moment. I've been meditating a lot, and even if it's just some times of the day, I take 30 seconds, one minute or something, and I'll just put my feet on the ground, put my palms up in my lap, and just kind of focus on that. And that sort of helps me connect again with that experience of just allowing what is just in this moment.

Pete: Yeah, and deep breaths are really helpful. So I think for listeners too, I mean, pay my children and wrote about like six breaths can change your mood, I also wanted to add like one thing I will say about it, as I know we're wrapping up and out of time. But also like in the Western world like Albert Ellis and just thinking of like a really irrational acceptance of just like, 'you knw what? Things are.'

Nikki: Thing are. Yeah.

Pete: And so Ellis sometimes would just be like, he'd curse and be like, "get over it". And that was some his intervention.

Nikki: Not very compassionate.

Pete: And so we add in the flavor of compassion, for sure.

Nikki: Yeah,

Pete: But really just trying to get to a place o, we have another one that I use with my athletes saying, like, 'f' it,. Like, "I miss a shot, 'f' it",

Nikki: Yeah,

Pete: Move onto the next.

Nikki: Yep, commit to that. Well and commit to the next and by starting with committing to this moment, I would say, we're in this moment right now.

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: So for our listeners out there, we know everybody is struggling, and Pete and I are struggling too, we're in the same soup with you. And we just encourage you again to, while there's see, while there's a light at the end of the tunnel. See if you can be willing to turn your mind back to the moment that you're in with acceptance, kindness and compassion, and that'll help move you to the next one.

Nikki: This has been When East Meets West. I'm Dr. Nikki Rubin,

Pete: And I'm Dr. Pete Economou. Be present. Be brave.

Pete: This has been When East Meets West, all material is based on opinion and educational training of doctors Pete Economou and Nikki Rubin.

Nikki: Content is for informational and educational purposes only.