Obstacles to Radical Acceptance: How Can I Let My Loved One Remain Paralyzed?

Questions: How can I let my loved one just remain paralyzed? How can I just radically accept that?


(1) Remember that you are radically accepting the reality in the moment and the fact that right now you can’t change it. (See below—“How Can I Know When It is the Right Time to Push”—for how you know when it might be an auspicious moment for change.) RA is not resignation or a statement about the future. It is a technique for helping you cope by not fighting reality.  It has two major dividends: (A) it is certainly going to be more successful (both in the short and long term) than constantly and ineffectively fighting with your loved one to change. (B) Having accepted reality, you will be able to envision future paths to change and, when the time is right, propose and/or implement them.

(2) Don’t forget that just being there for your loved one—bringing a drink or a plate of fruit to her room and just leaving it there—or just popping your head in and saying, I’m just checking in, show that you care and can have incremental impact. Taking small, effective steps is not the equivalent of just giving up or resigning yourself to a situation you deem hopeless.

(3) In some cases, your loved one might feel that life is passing her by (all her friends have moved on), but still remain paralyzed. From a more mature perspective you can validate her feelings and share that the important thing is ultimately reaching your goals, not getting there first. You can normalize the situation and be genuinely empathetic (validation levels six and seven). Explain that there are times in life when it seems as if time is being “wasted” (for example: a dead-end job, a relationship that goes nowhere, graduate school taking longer than expected). This is a very frustrating experience, and, at the same time, it is normal. It is part of life. You too have experienced a similar sense of frustration and you feel her pain.

(4) Remember that if your loved one is not yet ready to effect change, focusing on the fact that nothing is happening right now is self-defeating for both you and her. It is neither effective—because she really is not able to move on yet—nor really valid—because cajoling her to move on now is not in sync with reality. The trick is to help her live mindfully in the present moment, so that each moment counts. Then, when she is ready, she can move on.

How can you know when is the right time to push?

Answers: 1) Effectivity is the test: if you gently push and that works than you know you are on the right track. (Therapists constantly suggest change and if rebuffed regroup and move on or try a different angle. Sometimes a therapy session is 99% validation and 1% change.)

(2) If you have completed the Family Connections program and you really still think that if you just push right now, your daughter may jump up and start moving forward again than you need to ask yourself why you still feel that way. Is there something in her unique situation that makes you feel that way or are you still unable to accept the reality of the situation? If the former, explore what that is. If the latter, ask yourself again: Is it really fair to expect our loved one to jump over her long standing hurdles and resolve her issues immediately, especially if she has not yet received proper treatment? As we have mentioned in class, change is a step-by-step process and it will only begin when your loved one really is ready to begin the journey.

(3) While you may wish and even choose to push for change, your primary job as a parent is to love and validate your suffering relative. Don’t let “pushing for change” get in the way of this. Pushing may be more effectively left to a therapist.

(4) That having been said, if you still feel the need to “push” couch it as a matter of your limitations, not as boundaries you are erecting for your loved one: “I really feel uncomfortable with you living at home, since you are 28. And the time has come for me to start a new stage in my own life. I want to have that sowing room that I always dreamed of, so I can move forward with my plans for my design business…. That does not mean that I don’t love you and support you, and it does not mean that you can’t visit on the weekend, but I need to move on with my plans for the future too…”