Willing Hands

Willing Hands

Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”
– Sonia Ricotti


We sit with our legs crossed on the couch, our forearms resting on our knees, palms up. We look like we are meditating with our eyes closed, but in actuality, we’re practicing a radical acceptance skill in DBT called “willing hands.”

My therapist calls out to me. “What do you notice?” I take a peek at her, making sure my position mirrors hers. 

I begin to search for what I notice, but all I hear is deafening silence. In silence I am most vulnerable. In silence, intrusive voices begin to take over in my head — voices telling me I’m no good, that I can’t do anything right, that I should end my life. The voices are hard for me to ignore. It’s too close to home; too vivid a memory. The movie breaks out in my head and the infighting begins. It’s a battle I’ve yet to lose, but there have been times I’ve been dangerously close to annihilation.

That’s why I’m usually sitting across my therapist tapping my feet and wringing my hands. It’s not easy to talk about difficult, vulnerable things. “The fidgeting keeps me in control,” I say to her. “It keeps me from getting too anxious or from shutting down. If I just sat there without doing anything, I’d be very afraid of slipping away… of losing it.” 

But this time, I’m not panicking nor shutting down. In fact, with my palms facing up, my hands stop fidgeting. They stay open, ready to receive whatever arose — even the hard stuff. I started to feel. To notice. Most of all I felt safe.

“I feel acceptance with this posture.” I finally told her. I surrendered to where I was at that very moment, with all my insecurities and vulnerabilities. I allowed myself to let go to somewhere, something, someone safe. WIth that simple gesture and a genuine intention, I understood what for that moment could only be described as freedom. 


I know that willing hands might not sound like much, but it was a huge step for me. When you spend most of your life trying to block out the chaos in your head and finally allow room for it to arise — and it doesn’t overwhelm you — it’s something to celebrate. It’s a first step towards radical acceptance. In radical acceptance, we accept what is and we are open to discomfort — all in a nonjudgmental manner. Willing hands opens the door towards this. It aligns the mind, body and spirit into receiving reality for what it is. 


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