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Radical Acceptance

There are a lot of uncomfortable realities that we face when coping with Migraine. Often our instinct is to resist, fight against, or try to change these realities. While there’s nothing wrong with trying to change our circumstances, some of the ugly truths we face are not within our power to change. When faced with situations beyond our control, how we respond can make the difference between enjoying life and suffering endlessly.

One of the skills we can use to cope with difficult realities that are out of our control is to use Radical Acceptance. In fact, we can even use this skill when faced with problems that are difficult (but possible) to change.

Radical Acceptance involves three simple (but challenging) steps:

  1. Acknowledge the situation for what it is without judgment or wishing it were different
  2. Connect with and experience any emotions that are triggered by the situation
  3. Let go of the desire to resist, fight, or change the situation

So how might this work with Migraine? Obviously we are not going to just sit silently accepting the reality of an attack without using treatments to abort or cope with it. Individual attacks are something that most of us have the ability to do something about.

There are many situations that are much more challenging:

  • Enduring the pain of an attack while we wait for meds to kick in
  • Emergency room doctors who treat us like drug addicts
  • Getting hit with a surprise trigger we are unable to avoid
  • Being told that the doctor has run out of options for us
  • The pharmacy running out of our medication
  • Loved ones who are not supportive or understanding
  • Bosses who refuse to accommodate our disability needs
  • Can you think of any others?

Sure, there may be solutions to all of these problems, but not necessarily in the moment. Many times we have to endure the difficult situation before we can find or enact a solution. Sometimes we feel trapped in a never-ending cycle of bad Migraine luck. Getting through the untenable with our sanity intact may require some radical steps that go against our instincts.

That’s where Radical Acceptance comes in. It doesn’t change the situation. It simply gives us the emotional strength to endure it until circumstances change or we gain the strength and insight to make a change. Radical Acceptance is seeing the situation clearly for what it is without the filter of emotion or judgment. Only when we embrace reality without trying to change it can we see clearly enough to find the solution to our unsolvable problems.

Who’s ready to try some Radical Acceptance on one of those hard-to-solve Migraine problems?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. DBT Self-Help, Linehan, Marsha M. PhD, DBT® Skills Training Manual: Second Edition, Guilford Press, ISBN: 978-1-4625-1699-5
  2. Linehan, Marsha M. PhD, Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorders, Guilford Press, ISBN: 0898620341


  • Ellen H
    5 years ago

    Mine has been a lifetime of Radical Acceptance. Thank you for those Words.

  • Paulaff
    5 years ago

    Thanks for the reminders. I tend to feel guilty when I can’t do what I was supposed to do, which is never helpful.

  • Dianza
    5 years ago

    Thank you for the interesting perspective on migraine and radical acceptance. I just wanted to post a link to a discussion about this term by Tara Brach who wrote a book on this subject:

  • Luna
    5 years ago

    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

  • venus45
    5 years ago

    Thank you for the reminder. DBT is amazing for so many things and radical acceptance has helped me learn how to live in acceptance. Just because I accept a condition doesn’t mean I have to like it, more like it is what it is.
    Again, Thank you

  • USMCwife
    5 years ago

    I try to practice this because it is helpful not only with chronic migraine and a variety of other chronic illnesses, but also because it is an emotionally less draining way to live. However, when I recently was let go from a position due to my disability (yes, that’s being addressed through the proper channels) and I’m now facing the possibility that I may no longer be able to work, it has gotten VERY difficult.

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