RADICAL ACCEPTANCE & TRAUMA: HOW TO WORK THROUGH ‘BEING STUCK’ Written By: Yakitta Renfroe, LPC, EMDT-T, CCTP
By Lisa Savage | Mar 3, 2023
Throughout the decade, my clinical journey always crossed paths with individuals suffering from childhood trauma that presents in adulthood. Whether by the hands of others, vicarious trauma, or simply “trauma,” I have noticed a specific theme. “Being Stuck”. This notion of being stuck presents itself differently per person; it can look like perfectionism, fear of relationships or failure, depression, anxiety, destructive behaviors, flashbacks, substance abuse, or repeating the cycle.
Fret not, there is a solution, but trust me, it is not an easy path, yet, one of continued perseverance and courage. Let’s talk briefly about trauma and its effects on the brain. When trauma occurs, our brains cannot function as normally, and we begin to navigate life in survival mode.
You may have heard of fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Trauma changes how we think, feel, perceive, and react due to three significant areas of the brain being affected. Get ready for some big terms. The amygdala is where we get our emotions and instinct, the prefrontal cortex regulates
our feelings and impulses, and the hippocampus controls memory. These three areas are disrupted when those flashbacks or familiar situations are triggered. It can feel as though you are right back in that day and time of the event! Your brain cannot distinguish between the
past and what is happening now. All your brain knows is that there is a threat.
As a trauma-focused therapist, I have the privilege of supporting people of different walks and journeys. It goes without fail that they believe they are broken and will never experience life to its fullest. They feel “stuck”. They cannot rid themselves of the intrusive thoughts or hear the harmful words spoken by a mother or father, and now they believe them and repeat them. They can’t stop comparing themselves to others, the panic attacks won’t stop, and for some, they don’t want to exist. I could go on. So, how do I get unstuck? Well, one technique I use starts with a theory of Radical Acceptance.
Radical Acceptance (RA) is the notion that we fully accept something with all our being, without judgment. It does not mean approving, rejecting, or minimizing anything; focusing on the facts and their reality. RA helps us to hone in on learning how to deal or cope with the event to
decrease unhealthy behaviors that would cause us to become avoidant or be in denial. RA does not deny that the event happened but allows us to accept what has occurred. It does not deny the pain or the scars but supports our ability to acknowledge it.
In 2019, I lost my father. He was a legend to me, with all his flaws and shortcomings. But, to me, he was a man honorable before God. He was genuine and supported me through thick and thin. When he passed, I didn’t think I would ever know what normal was; I was in disbelief. I now
had to practice what I preached regarding Radical Acceptance in my grieving and trauma. You better believe it was hard! However, after some time, I realized that I was stuck in that place of asking why, feeling as though no one understood MY pain, and on some days, I felt like a zombie, but the facts and reality never changed. But, as I came to grips with the fact that he was no longer with me and accepted the hard truth that I could never hear his voice, I began to shift. I
wasn’t hitting ground zero as often, and the happy memories no longer stung. I even created a tradition with my sister to go on a yearly trip to celebrate him.
Radical Acceptance can strengthen you by taking back the power and focusing on what you can control vs. allowing the unfortunate pain to control you. When we radically do something, it can sound outrageous, even unimaginable. Yet, when you put your mind, body, and soul into accepting the facts, you can lighten your load of fighting against it to shift into a place of healing.
Radically choose you!
About The Author
Yakitta Renfroe is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado and Air
Force Veteran. She owns a private practice with an all-Black female staff and serves those
struggling with mental health in the area. Her focus of treatment is trauma, and utilizes several
evidence-based techniques to support the BIPOC population. In addition, she is an adjunct
professor for Substance Abuse. Yakitta Renfroe has a heart and passion for providing effective and attainable treatment for underserved populations and was intricate in creating COMBINE. A nonprofit organization focusing on those with Medicaid. She is the Director Chair of the organization that has been intricate in changing/creating legislation in CO. She is currently working on credentialing in EMDR to train fellow Black clinicians. She will be pursuing her Doctor of Theology in Christian Counseling this fall.