Book review: Fight fear with radical acceptance

Fight Fear with Radical Acceptance

BOOK REVIEW: Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, by Tara Brach

Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance offers helpful tips on staying balanced in the moment, adjusting to new realities and moving on. This feels particularly timely as we live with COVID-19 in our midst. The mental health of many people has been affected by fear, social isolation and constant change.

“The emotion of fear often works overtime,” writes Brach. She continues:

Even when there is no immediate threat, our body may remain tight and on guard, our mind narrowed to focus on what might go wrong. When this happens, fear is no longer functioning to secure our survival. We are caught in the trance of fear and our moment-to-moment experience becomes bound in reactivity. We spend our time and energy defending our life rather than living it fully.

Brach is suggesting that fear can quietly go too far. We do need to assess threats and decide how to protect ourselves. Beyond that, endlessly obsessing can do more harm than good. Multiple studies show that prolonged stress, worry and fear can impair the immune system—our main defense against illnesses, including COVID-19.

Endlessly obsessing over news or imagining the worst can be a way of pushing away the present reality. “Fear is the anticipation of future pain,” Brach writes. Fear can make us forget what we have to be grateful for—like moments we are safe, healthy and have enough food, supplies and friends. “By running from what we fear, we feed the inner darkness,” says Brach; it’s a way of “manipulating my inner experience rather than being with what [is] actually happening.”

Of course, we all are living with loss these days, such when we experience shortages of supplies or money, canceled events, limited social connection, a health crisis or even the loss of a loved one. Facing the reality inside ourselves with radical acceptance at those times is equally powerful: “The instant we agree to feel fear or vulnerability, greed or agitation, we are holding our life with an unconditionally friendly heart.”

Brach’s advice of facing each moment with radical acceptance can help us balance our physical and mental health, protecting us from both real external threats and the damage our minds can do worrying too much about them.


Let us know if these tips helped you at Read more about PacMed’s response to COVID-19.