Practicing surrender

Sixth in the series
Notes on Recovery
Surrender means being able to stop controlling stuff and still believe things will be okay.
It means the ability, when facing some reality we can’t dictate, to accept it with grace and patience.
Some people dislike the word surrender.  To them it connotes defeat, failure or weakness.
Fine.  Call it something else.
Call it detachment, as they do in Al-Anon.  Or acceptance.  Or trust.  Or faith.
Call it what you like.  But notice how essential it is to not losing your marbles.
Surrender is the spiritual alternative to control.  Here spiritual refers to the part of us that acknowledges something bigger than we are — bigger than mind, willpower or ego.
I believe we can’t survive without that part.
Nor can we function without surrender.
Think about it.  Imagine someone unable or unwilling to ever surrender control.  How could they drive on a freeway?  Fly in an airplane?  Eat in a restaurant?  Let their kid ride a schoolbus?  Let a surgeon remove their tonsils?  Trust a therapist with their secrets? Stay sane during a hurricane?
We surrender control hundreds of times daily.  We have to. Without surrender life would be a paranoid nightmare, and peace of mind would be impossible.
So practicing surrender in recovery doesn’t necessarily mean learning something new.
What it usually means is putting surrender to new use – extending it to new parts of our emotional life, or applying it in new situations.
Thus I may practice surrender by expressing my feelings more freely, even when it scares me, because I trust that expression is ultimately healthier and safer than suppression.
I may practice by not controlling the people around me, despite the urge to, because I believe that less controlling tends to make relationships stronger.
I may practice by using the sort of mantra 12-Step programs teach – One day at a time, Let go and let God, Go with the flow, Turn it over – as a way of calming myself while developing a more flexible response to frustration and worry.  (My own favorite, scribbled on an sticky note taped to my monitor: 95% of what we worry about never happens.) 
Or I may practice by choosing consciously, when trapped behind a slow driver, to breathe deep and practice surrender instead of wishing I had a loaded weapon.
Next: Practicing responsibility


4 responses to “Practicing surrender

  • Angie H.

    Hi Steve. I am most definatley a control addict. I am learning just how much. But i have a couple of questions. ‘95% of the time everything we worry about does not happen”….what if it does happen, what if it was your fault, something you can never take back, what if you had such faith it would not happen and it did…..i seriously do not know how to let go of that, to surrender to something i believed in so strongly, it would not happen and then it did.

    • Steve Hauptman

      Sounds like you’re talking about guilt, and the difficulty of self-forgiveness. It also sounds like you have something specific in mind, some sin you can’t forgive yourself.

      I can’t really speak to that, of course, except to note that most of us have at least one of those.

      Guilt is a problem for control addicts mainly because we’re so isolated. We’re scared of coming out of hiding and being ourselves with other people, so we rarely get a chance to find out (a) how much like other people we really are, and (b) how forgivable our “unforgivable” sins are. We need other people for that, to forgive and accept us so we can forgive and accept ourselves.

      That’s why support is so essential to recovery from control addiction, and why group therapy and fellowships like Al-Anon have such healing power. You can spend your life thinking of yourself as this terminally awful person, then go to a meeting and be stunned to hear that other people have felt or thought or done what you have. Changes everything.

  • Clare Flourish

    Some fail to surrender control.

    I met a man who was agoraphobic. He had to go to a meeting, and I drove him there. Driving home, a woman with a push-chair crossed the road in front of us- on a suburban street, where I was driving slowly, so I had to slow down to let her cross, but not a great deal. He was black affronted. She should not have crossed the road in front of us like that.

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