Bert on surrender

(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is his control-addicted inner monkey.

For this post,  Steve interviewed Bert.)

Steve:  So I’ve been writing about peace of mind and how control addiction makes it impossible, and how practicing alternatives to control make it easier to find.  And I wanted to ask you about surrender.

Bert:  What about surrender?

Steve:  How you practice it, mainly.

Bert:  Oh.  Sure this is a good idea?

Steve:  Why not?

Bert:   People will know how lousy I am at it.

Steve:  That’s okay.  They know it isn’t easy.

Bert:  I never use that word, by the way.

Steve:  No?

Bert:  No, that’s one of your writer’s words.

Steve:  You don’t like it.

Bert:  Not really.  Sounds too much like helplessness.

Steve:  That’s not what it means.  It….

Bert:  I know, I know.  Surrender means winning, not losing.  Letting go of what you can’t control represents the victory of awareness over denial, growth over habit, and faith over fear.  Right?

Steve:  Something like that.  What word do you prefer?

Bert:   Depends.  Sometimes I think of surrender as detaching.  

Steve:  Meaning?

Bert:  Taking a step back emotionally.  Like when that client cursed at us in session yesterday.

Steve:  And I told you to not take it personally. 

Bert:  Right.  That it was just transference.  And then other times I think of surrender as accepting. 

Steve:  “It is what it is.”

Bert:  Yes.  Though I hate that expression.

Steve:  Why?

Bert:  It’s like Have a nice day.  Everyone says it, then go right back to being raging control freaks. 

Steve:  Any other words for surrender?

Bert:  Let’s see.  Sometimes I do it by consciously reframing a situation instead of trying to control it.  Remember how mad I used to get at little old lady drivers?

Steve:  Anyone driving at the speed limit, you mean.   

Bert:  Right.  Well, now when I find myself behind one I just tell myself This is God reminding you to slow the fuck down.  And I slow down, and I’m okay with it.

Steve:  Very spiritual of you.

Bert:  I think so.  I use slogans too.

Steve:  Which slogans?

Bert:  Well, there’s the one you wrote on a Post-it and taped to your PC monitor:

99% of what we worry about never happens. 

That got us through some rough times.

Steve:  It did.

Bert:  And the one you kept in the little plastic frame in your office.  The one that made clients think you’re a little nuts: 

Everything’s perfect.

Steve:  I can’t count the times I tried to explain that.

Bert:  Anyone ever buy it?

Steve:  No.  Easier to sell Everything happens for a reason.

But back to you.  It sounds like you do a lot of surrendering, in one way or another.  Why do you say you’re lousy at it?

Bert:  Because of all the times I can’t.

Steve:  Explain.

Bert:  You know how we live.  Rushing from chore to chore, worry to worry.  Working down the To Do list with no end in sight.  Feeling like everything is urgent.  Lying in bed at night and trying to decide if you got enough stuff done to feel okay about yourself.

Then there’s the problem of people.  All the times I just can’t be myself. 

Steve:  Can’t tell the truth, you mean?

Bert:  Yes, but more than that.  All the times I can’t just relax and stop worrying about how someone’s going to react to me.   

But it’s more than that, too. 

It’s all the times I can’t just relax.  Can’t take, even, a really deep breath.  

You know?

Steve:  I know.  Can’t relax if you can’t surrender.  It’s a stubborn addiction. 

Bert:  Sometimes I’m sorry you told me I’m addicted.

Steve:  Do you mean that?

Bert:  No.  No, I guess not.

Steve:  What’s good about knowing?

Bert:  Well, it does clarify things.  When I feel angry or frustrated or crazy it’s usually because I’m trying to control something I shouldn’t.  Calms me down, just seeing that. 

Steve:  Another surrender?

Bert:  I suppose it is.  And then, remembering I’m addicted gives me more choices than I used to have. 

Steve:  More choices?

Bert:  Sure.  Before I knew, I never even thought of surrender as an option.  Now I know, even when I can’t do it.  It’s something to work towards.  Something to practice and get better at.  And that gives me hope.    

Steve:  Hope’s good.

Bert:  It is.  It even lets you breathe a little bit deeper.

* * *






3 responses to “Bert on surrender

  • Clare Flourish

    All is for the best, in the best of all possible worlds- everything perfect? Well, the good stuff comes slower than one might wish, and the bad stuff is still there, and- this, this is good enough. That is a big surrender, of all the things one would like to be otherwise, all at once.

    • fritzfreud

      Yikes. You’re the first to confuse me with Dr. Pangloss.

      (For those unfamiliar with this character in Candide, here’s an explanation:

      Then again, I did admit that "Everything's perfect" takes some explaining.

      Okay, here goes. It's basically a therapeutic reframing, combining two ideas:

      (a) The first is that there's a reason we are wherever we are (emotionally) at any given time, and that reason can be uncovered. This idea is comforting for someone bewildered by unpredictable events and their own reactions. Placing events and reactions in a larger context (like how childhood shaped their personality and coping) can help you feel less confused, helpless and/or crazy.

      (b) The second idea is akin to what Buddhists mean when they say everything is food for practice. It means we're not helpless in the face of childhood conditioning, that we retain the ability to learn a healthier Plan B, and (most hopeful of all) even the most difficult problems we face now can be used as a springboard to new growth.

      ~ Steve

      • Clare Flourish

        Thank you. You put it into words beautifully. I think Dr Pangloss is wrong in an interesting way. I think it possible to make that reframing, particularly in shedding the fear of my own emotions- it is what I am doing at the moment.

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