When I hear people express a chronic frustration with a situation, I get a sense that something needs to be let go: There is a lack of patience or unwillingness to accept what is. They are full of demands. There is a frenetic, forcing, holding, or push/pull quality to their energy. They aren’t breathing—at least not deeply. They may describe tension in their jaw, back, and shoulders. There is intensity in their eyes. When they stand, they may lock their knees. All their energy may be in their upper body, reflecting their unwillingness to let go and feel the support of the ground beneath them. You can also sense it in their thinking, which is fixed or narrow: Talking in absolutes is a good indicator that something has to give.
What are practical ways to prepare to surrender?
We cannot will, or force ourselves, to surrender—which is just another form of control. A better option is to give ourselves the time and space to understand and feel what stands in the way of letting go.
A word of caution: Letting go can elicit fear, terror, rage, and pain—it can unground us. We need to go slow, be kind and patient with ourselves as we let go. We need to establish a sense of safety, practice self-care, and rely on the support of trusted others.
Uncovering Distorted Thoughts and Images
Surrender requires a certain level of consciousness. At lower levels of consciousness, we are bound to the limitations of our ego and self-will. (A note on ego: A healthy ego is what allows us to survive loss, disappointment, and so on. It’s the distortion of our ego in the form of self will, control, pride, idealized self image, lack of humility that prohibits surrender.) As we expand our consciousness, we create energetic spaciousness and mental flexibility—things we need to be able to surrender. We expand our consciousness by examining our beliefs and the images we hold, discerning what is truth and what is distortion. Start this process by asking the following questions, and seeing what you discover:
What is it that I want? Why do I want it? What would it mean if I didn’t get it? What do I believe I have to do to get what I want? Do I believe that if I don’t vigilantly steer the ship I will never get it? What are my images of others, God, or the universe in relationship to this thing? Do I feel supported or do I feel like it’s all on me? What do I get from not surrendering? How does it serve me? What would I have to feel or experience if I let go?
Exploring Our Inner Negativity
As we begin to explore our belief system and uncover our distortions, we can go into deeper levels of our defenses and connect with the negativity of our inner will—what houses what I call The Big No (or the lower self). The Big No is the part of us that won’t—won’t surrender, won’t trust, won’t connect, won’t live fully.
I encourage clients to explore this inner no through their bodies and specifically through sound or movement, to vocalize their “no.” Whisper it, say it, scream it. Move the body. Have a tantrum. Own the no that lives inside. Clients often describe this as liberating and even pleasurable, for it’s a hidden truth that lives in them but never gets to be revealed because the outer will is so busy saying yes.
When we make contact with this inner no, we may discover things like our laziness—the part of us that doesn’t want to do the work. Or we may discover that we won’t trust others, God, or the universe. Maybe we find we won’t surrender because we want to punish or make others suffer. Maybe, like the client I mentioned, we feel powerful in not “giving in.” Whatever you discover, understand that this inner no thinks it is protecting us from pain, which at one point in our life it actually did. As we become aware of this inner negativity and see how it no longer serves us, we can begin to release it from its duties and transform it into higher-self energy.
Building Our Container and Learning to Contain
As we work through the layers of our ego and our inner negativity, we will most definitely come into contact with deep feelings that are different from the ones we feel in the more superficial layers of our personality. These deeper feelings can be incredibly intense and painful, but it’s important to trust them, to become familiar with our feelings, and comfortable expressing them. This process is called “building our container”—think of it as creating the space within yourself to have your feelings and to hold the energetic charge of your feelings. As we build our container and our capacity to tolerate our own feelings expands, we no longer need to quickly discharge energy through reaction, acting out, or withdrawal. We are now able to contain our feelings and ourselves, to consciously choose where, when, or if expression feels necessary. All of this impacts our ability to surrender.
How does this work change us?
These reparative experiences transform our energy and expand our consciousness, and in time we begin to see the shift in our energy: We may find ourselves walking away from arguments and choosing our battles more consciously. Our mind may be more flexible about that thing we’ve been wanting. We may be less attached and more open to different outcomes. We may feel less of a need to stand in our pride or self-will. Our breath is deeper and our body feels more relaxed and free. Our movements may feel more spontaneous and less controlled. We may find more pleasure and gratitude in life. These are signs that we are in the process of surrender. At first, this shift of energy may leave you feeling empty. Trust that it is okay. Recognize that so much of your identity has been tied up in fighting the good fight and that giving up that identity can be disorienting and a feeling of nothingness is normal. Trust that this place of nothingness is perhaps the beginning of something new.
Can we get away with not surrendering?
Surrender is often forced upon us in crisis. The Pathwork Lectures, the spiritual lectures associated with my work, note that crisis occurs to make structural change possible and that “crisis is necessary because human negativity is a stagnant mass that needs to be shaken up in order to be let go of.” I take crisis as an invitation to address the negativity of our individual and collective distortions—our fear, pride, and self-will, our closed hearts and minds. When we don’t surrender, when we stay in distortion, we perpetuate and pass on this negativity.
I have learned that when I resist surrender I am trying to cheat life. I can impose my will on life and force my way through, but doing so skips over the necessary life lessons of patience, acceptance, faith, and humility. On some level, I suppose we can be successful in life if we skip over these experiences, but I think our higher self knows that we pay the price of that success somehow, be it through shame, or guilt, or low self-esteem. More importantly, we miss the opportunity for real growth.
We can’t really escape that which life asks of us. Life wants us to heal and evolve and that can be hard at times—very hard. But if we do it, if we do the work to be able to surrender to that deep knowing place in us, and partner with those greater energies that surround us, our experience of life deepens in ways we could have never imagined.
Aimee Falchuk, MPH, M.Ed, CCEP is the co-founder of Core Boston where she has a private practice. Aimee is also an emergency services clinician, and facilitates workshops around the country. She will be one of the speakers at the Great Jane conference in Austin, Texas in December 2016.
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