Radical Acceptance. Do microbes or the zodiac make you depressed?

There was a neat piece on NPR today about gut flora and mental illness which postulated a link between the health of one's inner beasties and one's mind. 


But before you run out and buy an industrial tub of yogurt and a tempeh starter kit, know that something as immutable as your birth month also impacts your risk for many diseases including several mental illnesses. From the Atlantic...

Many contemporary scientists are loath to admit to anything resembling astrology. “It seems absurd that the month you are born/conceived can affect your future life chances,” write neuroscientists Russell G. Foster and Till Roenneberg in a 2008 study. They then go on to then point out no fewer than 24 different health disorders connected to season of birth, and ultimately admit “despite human isolation from season changes in temperature, food, and photoperiod in the industrialized nations, the seasons still appear to have a small, but significant impact upon when individuals are born and many aspects of health.”
— http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/11/your-zodiac-sign-your-health/281358/

Marsha Linehan, the psychologist who developed Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, used for treating substance abuse and borderline personality disorder, among other mental illnesses, talks about the importance radical acceptance

So what’s Radical Acceptance? What do I mean by the word ‘radical’? Radical means complete and total. It’s when you accept something from the depths of your soul. When you accept it in your mind, in your heart, and even with your body. It’s total and complete.
— http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/radical_acceptance_part_1.html

Linehan does not mean that we accept our brokenness, our faults, our failings and stay there.  As Carl Rogers said in On Becoming a Person, "The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change."  Linehan, in a very courageous move, recently talked about her own experiences of mental illness, including many attempts at suicide and her recovery from it which was prompted by a religious vision which included a profound feeling of self-acceptance. 

“I decided to get supersuicidal people, the very worst cases, because I figured these are the most miserable people in the world — they think they’re evil, that they’re bad, bad, bad — and I understood that they weren’t,” she said. “I understood their suffering because I’d been there, in hell, with no idea how to get out.”

In particular she chose to treat people with a diagnosis that she would have given her young self: borderline personality disorder, a poorly understood condition characterized by neediness, outbursts and self-destructive urges, often leading to cutting or burning. In therapy, borderline patients can be terrors — manipulative, hostile, sometimes ominously mute, and notorious for storming out threatening suicide.

Dr. Linehan found that the tension of acceptance could at least keep people in the room: patients accept who they are, that they feel the mental squalls of rage, emptiness and anxiety far more intensely than most people do. In turn, the therapist accepts that given all this, cutting, burning and suicide attempts make some sense.

NYT http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/health/23lives.html?pagewanted=3&_r=0

The idea of radical acceptance, even for the purpose of change, seems profoundly lacking in our thinking about health.  In North America, at any rate, we are meant to view ourselves as our own greatest work of art, as perfectible. 

I am in the change business.  If diet can help people with mental illness then I want to know about it.  But I also believe that sometimes a hyper-developed sense of agency, which is pretty much the modern condition, oddly, keeps people stuck.  Sometimes we have to accept even our darkest feelings, "meet them at the door, laughing, and invite them in" before we can learn what they came to teach us.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
    translation by Coleman Barks