“Things are what they are and I take what I take from them.”
That’s one definition of surrender, of accepting that which we cannot change and learning from our experiences.
For people who feel the need to sort the world into opposites — good/bad, happy/sad, black/white, male/female, whatever — this kind of surrender is very hard. The world as it should be, as we would like it to be, as we expect it to be becomes a block to accepting the world as it is.
If all we are doing is surrendering to is the structure of the world and to our own powerlessness to change everything, why is that so hard?
What do we want to hold onto so much that it blocks our way to accepting what is in the world, accepting what is true and letting go of what is false?
I took a shot at this twenty years ago with a session on TG & Recovery at Southern Comfort Conference. How do we recover what we lost, what got hidden under our need for illusions, like the feminine illusions of fairy tale rescues or the masculine illusions of our own swashbuckling agency in the world.
We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.
— Anaïs Nin
We are as we are because we have built ourselves that way. Letting go of the work we did to get here, of the illusions that underpin our choices, the illusions we think give meaning and potency to our life, well, that’s a very hard ask, even if we know that those illusions are blocking us from serenity, bliss and recovery.
“An attraction to death is present in a high percentage of survivors of childhood trauma. These individuals frequently do not want to die but find reassurance in the fact that if emotional pain becomes unbearable they have the power to walk out that door. As they are survivors, often they never choose to do it but are soothed by the reassurance that the powerlessness they experienced as a child is replaced by the power they have as an adult.”
— Dr. Charles Rousell (quoted in “Fosse” by Sam Wasson)
The primary thing we need to recover from are always the scars of trauma. Those scars are the adaptive response to abuse, the armour we built to defend the tender and hurting soul inside of us. We struggle to take our own power in the world, and while we don’t have the power to change reality, we do have the power to build our own illusions of control, do have the power to stuff our pain with the available substitutes for real Eros.
It is amazing how much energy we can expend on the struggle to keep our own illusions even in the face of an universe that is what it is. We struggle not to change, not to heal, not to grow, but rather to avoid surrendering those fairy tale illusions of potency.
We really want to be the knight whose own sword cuts a swath in the world, or the princess who just needs to be rescued by the perfect person who will complete her, really want to be saved without the obligation for vulnerability, without the obligation to transform ourselves by accepting both our spiritual power and our human limits.
Holding onto our habits & defences, refusing to surrender them to what is, even if that will bring us serenity, turns out to be a good way to stay stuck in illusion and avoid healing. the more that we try and turn the clock back, fighting what is, the less we can be in the moment, open and receptive to the lessons and gifts the universe has for us.
Trying to be new in our old fashioned way, refusing to let go of the habits of a lifetime while trying to assert power over what we cannot control, over what we can never control, is a sure way to exhaust ourselves and avoid serenity. This is the success of stigma, leaving us fighting an enemy that we could never defeat, spending our energy trying to prove we were normal rather than connecting with that power to transform beyond expectations.
Our surrender does not change the world, rather it changes our view of it. What were baffling noises turn out to be the chanting of teachers who were in plain sight all the time, and joy is present in the tiniest things, like preparing fruit or opening up to another woman.
When we surrender to what is, the world opens to us in a new way, full of both the unknown & terrifying and the beautiful & affirming. We move on to new roles, new lessons and new possibilities, beyond what we could have imagined while we were stuck in our ancient armour.
“Things are what they are and I take what I take from them.” It’s a simple idea, but when we are stuck in swashbuckling ideas, waiting for rescue or for our sword to work, trapped in the rituals of stuffing our feelings rather than accepting them, it may be the hardest challenge we will ever face.
Until we can accept, though, that things are what they are and all you can do is take what you can take from them, serenity will escape you. Your energy will be spent fighting invisible dragons that can never be conquered.
“Things are what they are and I take what I take from them.” That simple. That hard.