Life is spinning and with it so are your emotions. Sometimes the whirlwind lasts for hours, months, or even years. It’s frightening, unpleasant, and you want it to stop. Your instinct might be to take control and wrestle the situation back into line, or perhaps look away and pretend it’s not happening. When that doesn’t work, you may be left feeling discouraged and helpless. So what does work in these crazy times? The answer will surprise you…surrender.
Before you hit “close page” I suggest you read this post all the way to the end.
I’m not talking about waving a white flag. Instead I’m talking about letting go in a way that frees you and shedding the defenses put in place by your ego to “protect” you. While defenses can sometimes help initially, left unchecked, they interfere with your ability to accurately access current circumstances and heal. They isolate you, reflecting back what the ego thinks you need to see using denial, projection, blame, or others.
Surrender means completely accepting what is already here and letting go of control. You can’t worry away problems, and no amount of sleepless nights spent looking for a solution will solve anything. Pretending that everything is okay won’t help, nor will attempting to force things to be as they “should be.”
The act of surrendering has two general parts, accepting current circumstances and letting go.
Take a clear look at what is already is. By this I mean the facts. Avoid including fears about what could happen or assumptions about why they did. Only look for what is happening now and accept it at face value. Additionally don’t apply past hurts or negative experiences to the issue. Ask yourself, “Am I afraid, hurt, or in need? Is something happening that I don’t want? Or is something not happening that I do want? Am I scared that people will judge me?” Define what doesn’t feel right, and in the process, carve away any fears or assumptions you may have added.
A dad finds a failing test grade in his son’s backpack (a fact). He thinks the child isn’t taking school seriously (an assumption) and won’t get accepted into a good college, the same path as his older brother (a fear based on a past experience). If that happens, he’ll have a harder time finding a good career and may struggle to support a family (more fear). Waves of emotions hit the dad, including feeling like a failure and a desire to fix the problem (control). By the time the boy walks in, he’s blasted with a 10-minute lecture on responsibility…never getting a chance to inform his parent that he’d come down with a severe headache but has already made arrangements to retake the test. Now his feelings are hurt and he retreats to his room.
The above example is a simple, but common scenario of fear and assumptions making a difficult situation worse. Often problems are bigger and more complex, turning into a completely tangled mess. Perhaps the son really has given up on school. Maybe he’s on drugs. All of these possibilities are real, but resisting reality (current circumstances), making assumptions or responding from fear won’t help.
Here is an example of a better outcome where the dad accurately assesses the situation without letting fear or assumptions take over: The same situation, but this time the dad accepts the facts, acknowledges his fear, yet realizes he doesn’t know why his son’s grade is so low. He decides to gather more information rather than letting fear and assumptions take over. The son shares what happened and his dad praises him for acting proactively to resolve his own problem. Wow, what a difference!
Let go of expectations for a solution, perfection, or fairness
Drop the defenses, but hold tight to hope. Until you let go, you’ll waste energy wrestling with circumstances that you may not be able to change. Instead see circumstances for what they are, and hope to feel better. Notice I didn’t say, “hope for things to go your way,” that would exclude new ideas and possibilities. It would be forcing an outcome, which rarely works.
Recognizing that life isn’t how it “should be” right now and it may never be is scary, but it’s already here. By fighting reality, we’re delaying our ability to find peace, grow, learn, and move forward.
Looking at our example again from another angle: The son is struggling emotionally due to his parents divorce and can’t concentrate on his work. He really is failing. The dad could choose to accept this truth, and help his son through his struggle. Or he could respond from fear or denial, completely missing a chance to connect with his son in the space where he is now.
One route could make the problem worse; while the other could build a relationship better than if the difficulty never happened. It might be scary and difficult for the dad to accept that his son is failing because of his decision to divorce his mom. But surrendering to reality offers a chance to connect authentically with his son.
Surrendering to where your life is today promotes growth and progress. As you hope for things to feel better, open yourself to all outcomes. The answer already is, but you’ll need to let go of your expectations to find it. Life may surprise you.
A woman entering middle age finds herself single after a series of unhealthy relationships (a fact). This was not the plan she had as a young woman, newly married to a successful professor and with a house full of kids. She hoped to have a loving partner someday, but accepted that it may, or may, not happen (surrender with hope). Instead of trying to make not-quite-right relationships work, she focused on the beauty in her life as it was, staying active, fit, and following other dreams. Sometimes she was lonely, but accepted that as part of life rather than trying to bury it. She remained open to love, but didn’t try to force the outcome (letting go of control). She accepted her perfectly imperfect life with hopeful peace and in that found happiness. Perhaps I’ll share the rest of her story in a future post.
Once you surrender yourself to the reality of your circumstances, you see life with added clarity and calm. When you let go of control, you open yourself to new ideas and surprising outcomes. Choose to live a life based truth and acceptance, and the way things “should be” looses its power. Recognize that your ego may be fearfully blocking you from seeing and connecting to reality, and you regain your strength.