The power of surrender

The power of surrender

Recently I was at a gathering where people were discussing Christmas, and the difficult feelings that are often associated with it. It seems like that time of year has the ability to highlight so many hurts in our lives, and it takes a lot of strength not to spiral out of control emotionally.

What struck me as I listened was how many of us struggle to get our needs met by people who aren’t willing or able to meet them.

Sometimes this can mean our relationship with our spouse. Sometimes with our families of origin. Sometimes with friends, or people we are in love with.

We keep hoping, even against hope, that those things we so desperately need – love, attention, caring, whatever – will at last be forthcoming from the person, or people, in question. And we keep doing it even though there is nothing to indicate that anything has changed.

Some of us remain stuck in the same pattern for years and years. It becomes like a magnet that draws us back again and again. We feel like we are stuck. Trapped by something beyond our control. Unable to stop going back for more, even when it means more hurt or disappointment.

Even when other people tell us to stop, to find something else, to move on, it seems like we can’t. The lure of possibly, maybe being able to change things THIS TIME becomes irresistible.

I believe there are a couple of major obstacles to changing and moving on when we find ourselves in this situation. One is shame. The other is resistance to grief.

Shame, because every time we go crawling back for more and are knocked down, our self-esteem sinks a little further, and it becomes harder and harder to get back on our feet.

Grief, because at the core of our behavior is the inability to grieve for the loss of the dream we had – the dream we are still trying so hard to realize. Very often it is something that stems from our childhoods, and that at the time we were unable to grieve for and subsequently let go because the feelings were too overwhelming.

And so, we invest a massive amount of energy trying to recreate a situation we so desperately wanted back then. It may be our childhood dream of a happy family, or the love of a parent who neglected us. That dream may have become transposed onto our present as a dream of a perfect home, family or mate – which often stems  from a childhood disappointment, and the refusal to accept what is – or was.

We are trying to change the past. And that is always doomed to failure.

If we are lucky we eventually hit bottom and realize that the things we have been trying so frantically to manage, are unmanageable. It can take a long time to get to that point, and by that time it may have cost us an enormous amount, in every possible way. We see that we are trapped, and we accept defeat. We surrender.

It may feel like a weakness to accept defeat, but if we keep an open mind we soon come to see that it is a great strength. Surrendering and accepting what is opens up the possibility for a new way of living. In accepting the doors that are closed, we suddenly see new ones that are open. We move forward into a new and healthy way of being.

The essential thing to remember is that support is always available. Even if it feels like we are alone, we are not. Help is out there. And reaching out for help is a strength – not a weakness.

  • rod
    Posted at 13:40h, 08 January Reply

    ‘I believe there are a couple of major obstacles to changing and moving on when we find ourselves in this situation. One is shame. The other is resistance to grief.’

    A third is that the situation suits us in some way. For example, a person may derive satisfaction from complaining – difficult if there is nothing to complain about. So that person, despite protestations to the contrary, may not really want to move on at all. (See, for example, Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy)

    I can think of other explanations.

  • alda
    Posted at 17:31h, 08 January Reply

    I personally don’t believe that endless complaining provides satisfaction. It may provide temporary respite from whatever it is that ails that person, but it cannot provide lasting satisfaction. I think that martyrdom (complaining) springs from an unfulfilled need somewhere in the person’s past or present – possibly one that the person is unaware of. Chronic complaining is an attempt to change something that the person has no control over. So I still posit that underlying the behavior is something that the person is unable to let go of.

  • Susan
    Posted at 16:38h, 09 January Reply

    Very perceptive post and I agree wholeheartedly, having lived that whole thing for a lot of years. My feeling is that fear of loss and grief underlies just about every addiction and addictive/codependent behavior. It’s the same thing, that fear, in a bunch of different disguises. I still trip up over it on occasion but the difference now is that I can see that’s what I’m doing and so there’s less time wasted being stuck in that vicious cycle of needing something and not getting it and then doing crazy things as a result.
    Thanks for your insights on what I believe is a nearly universal problem.

  • Erika molnar
    Posted at 06:29h, 05 February Reply

    How profoundly true this all is Alda. I think everybody ‘knows’ this somewhere deep down – but for some reason (sometimes) refuses to see it – because it is so obvious once it is consciously understood.
    Another reason why on occasion one might refuse to accept ‘reality’ could be too much optimism, when there is really no real ground for it in the light of experience. Actually you did touch on that – about hoping when there is really no gound for hope.
    I really like your writing – I have enjoyed the deep insights and the thoughtfulness of all of your articles and because of that I would be also very much interested to read your books.
    I am going to Europe again sometime this year and I am hoping to get hold of them then. I am greatly looking forward to it. 🙂 Erika

  • alda
    Posted at 11:00h, 05 February Reply

    Thank you Erika – I appreciate it! – Unfortunately, though, only one of my books has been released in hard copy, and it is only available in Iceland. Should you have an eReader, though, you can get them all instantly! (Well, my novel when it’s out sometime within the next few weeks.)

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