Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

self-help-book-review

Tara Brach’s work is new to me, having discovered her only in the last year. But the discovery felt serendipitous, as her work has helped me bridge the gap between spirituality and psychology, a gap that has felt very wide and ever-widening to me in recent years. As a marriage and family therapist, I diagnosis and treat mental illness across a large spectrum, and yet at the same time my training has me focused on systems. Looking at individuals for diagnosis and considering the greater whole simultaneously feels akin to trying to merge the scientific with the spiritual. A church-and-state-like separation of the two is impossible to attempt let alone achieve, while the blending of the two has always felt messy yet necessary. As a clinician, I wasn’t sure how to help clients through their own mergers. Which naturally reveals that as a human, I had more to learn about balancing myself between the two worlds.

Radical Acceptance offers a path to just that. Brach beautifully integrates her psychology doctorate with her Buddhist beliefs to present a clear guide away from chaos and toward peace. She clearly defines what radical acceptance is (and is not), generously shares her own personal stories, enlightens the reader with case studies and research, and offers relentless hope and groundedness. Section titles like “Meditation and Medication” reveal her dogged determination to find the overlap between the extremes of spiritual traditions and scientific advances.

Brach’s writing voice is entrancing; she writes the way she speaks (find her podcast if you haven’t already). Her tone is steady and peaceful, serious with just enough humor. Her story-telling feels natural and engaging. She provides both psychoeducation and spiritual education hand-in-hand, providing new language as well as other tools to address and engage suffering and transformation.

Perhaps the most unique tool Radical Acceptance offers are built-in meditations. Like the worksheets or journaling exercises of other self-help or psychoeducational books, Brach’s meditations are meant to be done alongside the reading. It’s her way of putting into action what her book’s purpose seems to be: blending the scientific (the reading and learning) with the spiritual (the practicing and shifting). I’ve never experienced an attempt to bridge the research-practice gap as effective as this. Nor, quite frankly, as sneaky – it’s all so seamless that the reader is likely unaware of their participation in her book’s desired outcome as its actually happening. I know I was.

Radical Acceptance has become recommended reading for all of my clients, especially those who are far along in their clinical work and looking to build a bridge between their lives with active therapy and their lives without, a life that balances both psychological experience and spiritual intuition.

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