Acceptance in the Time of Coronavirus

Reality is tough to face right now.

It feels like our lives have been flipped upside down and torn apart from the inside.

Most of us are still adjusting to a new normal. This new homestay situation that we’re facing has disrupted our routines, our lifestyles, and our finances. Our children have had to adjust en masse to online education, and many of us have had to figure out a way of living that includes intense isolation from our support system.

Daily, I see people who are standing too close to others, kids playing together in close proximity, and large gatherings of people at parks. All while the numbers of people who are contracting COVID-19 are growing steadily. From what I can tell, there are a lot of people who are having a difficult time with a sheltering-in-place reality. These people may be experiencing denial of our current situation.

There are also people who are staying in their homes, limiting contact with everyone, including close friends and family, and wearing masks out in public.

In all these people, there may be a variety of levels of acceptance of reality. When we fail to accept the current moment as being exactly what it is without adding to or subtracting from it, we find ourselves experiencing unending suffering. Now, life has suffering from time to time. That’s a harsh reality. And, we’re currently in a situation that can cause suffering. However, we don’t have to experience unending suffering right now.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) says that we have four choices when we’re experiencing suffering:

  1. Change the situation
  2. Change how we perceive the situation
  3. Accept the situation
  4. Stay stuck in our suffering

As I said earlier, when we attempt to avoid reality, we can increase our suffering, or cause unending suffering. When we practice Radical Acceptance, we reduce the suffering to pain that is more manageable. In addition, when we practice Radical Acceptance, we can make choices about how we respond and make changes to our thoughts and emotions regarding our situation. This allows us to move forward more effectively.

When we practice Radical Acceptance, we are saying that we understand these three concepts:

  1. Reality is exactly what it is
  2. Everything has a cause (even if we don’t know exactly what that is)
  3. Life can be worth living, even when there is pain

How Do We Practice Radical Acceptance?

Before we answer this question, let’s look at what Radical Acceptance is not, and what it is. Radical Acceptance is not resignation. When we choose to radically accept our situation, we are not suddenly saying that we like the situation, nor are we showing any form of approval– that would be invalidating. Instead, we are choosing to accept reality in the moment with our entire being—with our minds, and our hearts, and our bodies. That’s why we call it “radical”– it takes our entire being, and not only a part of us.

And we do this by following these steps:

  1. Observe that you are not accepting reality
  2. Gently remind yourself that the reality is exactly as it is and no different
  3. Describe what you are having a difficult time accepting
  4. Identify changes that you can realistically make to the situation or to your perception of the situation
  5. Describe how your life will be different after you Radically Accept this situation
  6. Describe how you will celebrate your freedom from suffering
  7. Turn your mind toward Radical Acceptance over and over again

Some Things to Remember

This list sounds easy, right? Well, if acceptance of uncomfortable realities was easy, then we wouldn’t have to talk about this skill at all. We would simply accept all situations that come our way, without avoidance and without suffering. This is not what we usually do, and we have good reasons.

It’s important to note that while we are in the process of accepting reality, we will find ourselves experiencing difficult emotions—sadness, anger, fear, regret, disappointment, frustration. We will find ourselves, most likely, somewhere in Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, or depression. There may be parts of the situation that are easier to accept than others. That’s why it’s important to sit down and create awareness around what we are having a difficult time accepting.

In short, Radical Acceptance requires mindfulness of painful emotions that we have been attempting to avoid experiencing. When we begin the process of Radical Acceptance, we will need to feel these negative emotions in order to reach acceptance. When we do this, we find that these emotions don’t last in a single moment for as long as we expect them to, nor for as long as they do when we attempt to avoid them.

Lastly, Radical Acceptance is not a one-time deal. It’s necessary to practice over and over. We do not wake up each morning and face each moment with Radical Acceptance. Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves to turn our minds toward acceptance of a painful situation over and over again.

When we do this, we find that the situation that was once intolerable is now tolerable, and we may even be able to find some meaning in it.

This is a difficult skill to use, and it is worth the work. I promise.




Setting boundaries is a way of caring for myself. It doesn’t make me mean, selfish, or uncaring (just) because I don’t do things your way. I care about me, too.

 – Christine Morgan

Boundaries are important. Ultimately, they help keep us safe. Most people, though, are really taught about only one kind of boundary—physical. Is this you? Thinking back, I know it was me. But, boundaries are much more complex and much more important than just protecting us physically.

Over the years, I’ve had experiences which have left me feeling uncomfortable that had little to nothing to do with physical boundaries. Maybe you can relate to some or all of these experiences:

  • At times in my childhood, I was told, “Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry for!”
  • During my teens, I was told things akin to, “You would if you loved me.”
  • People I knew have shared something publicly about me that I didn’t really want a large number of people to know;
  • Over the phone, someone tried to urge me to espouse their spiritual beliefs;
  • There were even times when I heard people make negative comments about a whole race or other groups of people.

Looking back, I can see one commonality to all of these situations for me. They all left me feeling uncomfortable in a way that physical boundary transgressions have felt uncomfortable to me as well. In the above experiences, though, I didn’t have a word for what was happening, because, well, no one was entering my “personal space” in any observable way. So, I often dismissed the discomfort at hand, in spite of having thoughts like, “Well, it seems I already have something to cry for, or else I wouldn’t be crying,” or “I’ve given a lot of thought to my spiritual beliefs, and it’s really none of your business,” or “Really? Every single person in _________ group is like this?”

Maybe you can relate to that feeling of exposure that happens when someone shares something intimate about you that you didn’t want shared. For me, it’s like being caught with my clothes off in public. Yikes! It’s also something that I see happening on social media frequently.

Now, I can look back at these experiences and see that they felt uncomfortable in a way similar to physical boundary transgressions because they were all examples of others crossing my boundaries, only boundaries I hadn’t been taught about and so didn’t know how to set.

Lane Pederson, PsyD, LP, DBTC defines six different types of boundaries in his book The Expanded Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training Manual: DBT for Self-Help, and Individual and Group Treatment Settings, 2nd Edition that we need to be aware of. Six! Most of us are taught one, in potentially awkward demonstrations, maybe two. Maybe if we want to be really persnickety, we could find even more than six.

The important message here is that there are quite a few ways that we can keep ourselves safe, and we first need to be aware of these so that we can be pro-active—sort of like participating in one of those special self-defense classes designed for women when existing in public.

Boundaries Defined

I will briefly define the boundaries that Lane Pederson discusses so that you, too, can have a place to start from when you’re thinking about your own safety—all aspects of it.


  • frequently referred to as “personal space”—individual to each person;
  • different kinds of touch and how people shouldn’t touch our “private places” without permission;
  • what you eat and drink—anything that affects your physical being.

For me, the last one calls to mind those times if we are pressured to drink alcohol or try mood-altering substances when we’d really rather not. And, it’s more than that, too.


  • what you feel;
  • how you are able to be manipulated by others through gas-lighting, guilt-trips, and the like;
  • whether or not you take on the emotional distress of others, or expect them to take on your distress;
  • what and how you share about your feelings to others, as well as to whom you share.


  • related to thoughts, beliefs, and values;
  • how you share about your internal life to others.


  • related to your choice of religion and the extent to which you are free to choose;
  • the people with whom you share your spiritual life and how you share it.


  • your history and life;
  • shares common ground with the above boundaries;
  • how and to whom your life story is shared.

This can also be an easily overlooked boundary, especially when we meet someone with whom we believe we immediately “click”; after spending a few hours sharing as much as we possibly can about ourselves to a stranger, we can walk away thinking, “I feel like I’ve known them all my life.” Definitely, an important boundary to be aware of.


  • any boundaries that are not listed above;
  • geographical boundaries like where you live and work;
  • who your family and friends are;
  • all those things that set you apart from the “people that you meet when you’re walking down the street, the people that you meet each day!” (Sesame Street shout-out!).

What’s Next

Now that you’re aware of all these boundaries that you never knew existed, you can become aware of how they work for you in interpersonal relationships.

Practice awareness of the number of times in a week or a month, for instance:

  • You walk away from a conversation and think: “Man! I wish I hadn’t said that! I don’t even know that person.” (psychological or biographical.)
  • You walk away from an outing with friends and say, “I wish I hadn’t had that drink.” (physical)
  • You share something that a friend told you in confidence, and they become upset when you share it. (psychological or biographical)
  • You find yourself feeling “crazy” because you know that what you’re feeling is valid and someone else has told you it’s wrong. (emotional)
  • You try to convince someone that they need to help you by attempting to appeal to their fears in some way. (emotional)

I think it’s important to note that if you’re noticing that you are making boundary transgressions, it’s more than likely because you weren’t taught about boundaries, and maybe you were taught how to make these particular transgressions (usually unwittingly on the part of the environment). While we need to have healthy boundaries modeled for us in order to learn them, we can also be taught in other ways, like having them defined for us. Also, awareness is a pretty powerful tool, as anyone who practices mindfulness regularly can attest. Once we become aware of a particular problematic behavior, it makes it difficult to continue engaging in it, especially when we can make a different choice about it.

There’s hope for us all! Whew!

Let me know what you think about boundaries. I’d love to hear from you!

IMPROVE the Moment Over the Holidays

Dialectical Behavior Therapy focuses on the teaching and reinforcing of four major areas of skills: Mindfulness Practice, Distress Tolerance, Interpersonal Effectiveness, and Emotion Regulation.

I happen to believe that these skills are helpful for everyone. I mean, most of us have had moments — and sometimes longer — that can feel intolerable and during which we can find ourselves saying, “I can’t stand this.” It’s during a time like this that DBT skills can be very helpful, particularly Mindfulness (awareness that we are experiencing distress) and Distress Tolerance (skills meant to help us move effectively from this moment to the next). Anyone can use them to make a current situation better.

On November 20, 2016, I had the honor of speaking at Sunday Assembly Atlanta. My topic was using the DBT skill “IMPROVE the Moment” during the Holiday season. Here’s a link to this speech. I hope you find something in it for you this season.


It seems as though I’ve been on quite a few simultaneous journeys for sometime now— adulthood, marriage, step-parenting, motherhood, career change from teacher to therapist, and now private practice. This space represents the latter journey, although parts of my other adventures will inevitably show up here as they frequently do in my therapy with clients. Even my office is a reflection of my past and my present, previous aspects of my life experience holding space with representations of my current self and the selves of those I’m closest to. I share all of these in the space I hold with my clients.

I have frequently not known the path given journeys would take and have frequently been surprised by the turns. My plans for becoming a teacher, for instance, initially included returning to my hometown and giving back in the school system that nourished my early life experience. Instead, I found myself moving overseas to spend most of my career exploring other countries and cultures and seeing places I had only read about previously—Australia (a potential visit here was my reason for moving overseas in the first place), Paris, France, and Egypt, just to name a few. When I decided to change careers, my plan for my counseling practice were very different from what they’ve become, and I’m happy that they’ve led me here to Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and to you, and an office of my own, that I seek to share with you.

I’m nervous and excited about this journey, and I’m happy to have you along with me! Please stay tuned as I continue to update this site with information that I have found to be important for myself and family, as well as for my clients.

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass