As a teenager in the 1990’s, Alanis Morissette’s wonderfully angsty music was definitely a staple of my music library. Before the advent of downloadable music (boy that makes me sound old), we teens would go to the music store and buy a CD (records effectively were no longer being sold by this time, much to my chagrin) and we would listen over and over and over again. A few years after the smashing success of 1995’s Jagged Little Pill, Morisette released a single called “Thank U” from her fourth album “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie”. Here are some of the lyrics if you have not heard them or do not remember them:
"The moment I let go of it
Was the moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it,
Was the moment I touched down."
I remember liking the song but by this time I had a one-year-old baby that I was taking care of, and I wasn’t paying as much attention to music as I once did. The other day I heard it on the radio while driving to work. I really paid attention to the lyrics of the song this time and I was struck with how much the song related to the DBT skill of ‘Radical Acceptance’. Allow me to explain.
Radical Acceptance, in a nutshell, is accepting what has happened, especially when painful or traumatic. It does not mean we have to like it, embrace it, or approve of it, but we must accept it. (Elon Musk has yet to invent a time machine so there’s no time traveling available to change events that have already happened). This can be especially hard when this involves trauma, the loss of a loved one, a huge disappointment, or the ending of a career for one reason or another. When we resist reality, the “it shouldn’t be this way” thoughts actually increase our suffering. The saying “Whatever you resist, persists” applies here. The acceptance of what we have suffered allows us to start the healing process.
At the time ‘Thank U’ was released by Morissette, my son was one years old (he is now 24!) and was eventually diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Severe Mental Retardation (now called Cognitive Impairment) at age 4. For many years I resisted this diagnosis, wanting to believe that somehow my son would wake up one day and suddenly no longer be on the spectrum. That my son would talk, no longer need pull-ups, would be able to be in unfamiliar situations without having a tantrum. It took me some time to come to peace with who my son is. More importantly, I came to appreciate all those things that made him atypical and beautiful. My son will never get married or have a job, but he is a simple individual who has so much appreciation for small things. He claps when he gets his favorite dinner. He watched Veggie Tales and listens to Christmas music all year long on his tablet and dances with delight. He has made me a better human being for having been his mother. It changed our family forever and at times could be very hard, but I have accepted it and have even found some meaning in those hard times. That is the essence of Radical Acceptance. This happened, I wish it didn’t, but I can make peace with it and move on. Morissette states this beautifully in last the chorus of the song:
"Thank you India
Thank you providence
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness
Thank you clarity
Thank you thank you silence"
Morissette, Alanis. Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. Maverick-Reprise Records, 1998. CD.
Radical Acceptance is not an instant thing. It is going to take time to come to terms with what has happened. Pain is a part of living but we do not need to suffer. Learning to stop resisting what you cannot change is the start. Thank you, Alanis Morissette, for reminding us of this.