THE ART OF SURRENDER
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
The concept of surrender has been on the periphery of my experience until quite recently. Within the past year, surrender has revealed itself as the only option. I must admit that it has been and still is quite the let-down when my vices or other avenues of distraction don't do a damn thing. Not only do I fail to receive the desired outcome of distraction or numbing, but I also feel immense guilt and at times shame for engaging in these said acts knowingly. Fear not readers, I will eventually illuminate the gifts of patterns, but not without ranting first. Thank-you to Rick Mercer for notarizing the rant, as it just so happens it is one of my favourite states of expression.
On the daily, I am bombarded with positive psychology and enlightenment movements that speak to the necessity of staying in the hope and light. I am certain each one of you has witnessed this newfound self-improvement revolution that claims by following "ten simple steps" we can completely heal ourselves. I must note here that my rants can be a tad dramatic, and if positive psychology speaks to you and helps you on your journey, I am pleased. My distaste for these notions stems from my own experiences. Much of my life challenges have not landed me in a place of hope and light. With my affinity for depression, I find notions of positivity damaging as they contribute to my feelings of unworthiness and my sickness script. When my world feels hopeless, it is likely because hopeless situations have been mirrored to me, which means my responses are actually quite practical and logical. The most common phrases I hear when I am in this state are to "have hope" or remember that "tomorrow will be better." Although I recognize these sentiments come from a caring place, they leave me feeling even more disconnected and invalidated. So world, I say with confidence that often when people are in pain, they are in the darkness of hopelessness. This is completely okay. What if instead of pushing away our own fear and discomfort of the darkness by encouraging others to feel differently, we allow others to be in their darkness with complete acceptance, without judgement? From my perspective, we have a pain and death phobic culture, which encourages clinging to one of infinite behaviours or thoughts in the avoidance of anything that is deemed as NEGATIVE. My question is, who defines what is negative and positive? I try to view all emotional states as energy, which helps in the realm of acceptance. When we attach to labels or perceptions of states, we split from our lived experience and enter the tumultuous world of the mind.
This brings me to the next component of my rant. Via my line of work, it has been evident that the members of our society who are in the most pain receive the most criticism, which just so happens to be substance users and those with mental health diagnoses. The most intolerable component being the hypocrisy in peoples' judgements. These vulnerable members of our society are doing exactly what is encouraged of them: to find avenues of coping and escape with and from their pain. Somehow these peoples become disrespected and devalued because of the visibility of their challenges and the "inconveniences" to our systems. Even though all humans experience substance use, behavioural addiction, and/or mental health concerns to some degree, there exists this strange hierarchy of acceptability. Just because one's vices are legal, it does not make them any more morally pure than another whose vices are illegal. I cannot stress enough that the underlying motivations are the same. I am unable to recall the source of this phrase, but it is one that has stuck with me: "To judge someone is to say that if we endured their exact life circumstances, we could do a better job than them." I have had the privilege of hearing many life stories in my career, and the atrocities that people have endured and survived speaks to the tenacity of the human spirit.
Circling back to the art of surrender, surrender for me emerges through complete acceptance of what is. More often than not, my "what is" is rooted in darkness. Commonly, I have to dive into what hurts the most which is undoubtedly not a pleasant or pretty surrender. If you haven't noticed, words and phrases are powerful for me. I have found it helpful to sift through a list of words and phrases until I stumble across one that stings and elicits a deep emotional response. As was mentioned in my previous blog, pain that is not transformed is transmitted. Transformation is born out of the radical acceptance of our pain. Unfortunately, to be human is to encounter struggle. Thus, we are on this constant journey of navigating and evaluating ourselves and our circumstances. Our vices, distractions, and challenges serve us in some way. Once a pattern no longer serves us, it loses its role in our lives and often drops away rather effortlessly. As a reminder to myself and an invitation to you, try to refrain from judging yourself in a pattern and instead approach it with curiosity. How does this behaviour, pattern, etc. serve you?
As I have been writing this post, the concept of surrender as an art has been fully elucidated. The path to surrender is a uniquely individual experience; the way through is intimate to your own quirks and preferences. It is my hope that this resonates with others that are desiring an alternative path or approach, much like I have been.
Keep fighting the good fight,