Surrender.

How do you experience surrender?

On one of my favorite, all be it frequently emotionally difficult, podcasts, Anna Venezuela (@annavisfun) and Dave Yates (@yatescomedy) interview people about recovery. On Spotify, they explain:

12Q Pod is an in depth look at 12 step recovery culture and an exploration of the world outside of the rooms from the 12 Step perspective. We believe that Recovery isn’t just for Clean and Sober people. Each week Anna Valenzuela and Dave Yates ask interesting people 12 questions about their journey through life.

This post will be the first in a series where I will answer the 12 questions posed on this podcast.


The first question they pose to their guest, who is sometimes anonymous, is: “How do you experience surrender?” My first instinct is: “No. I don’t experience surrender because I’m in control all the time!” I’m terrible with surrender. The more thought I’ve given this, the more I realize this is true.

When I think of surrender, I think of “surrendering to…”. What do I need or want to surrender to? In the 12 steps, the first step is about honesty. It says, “We admitted we were powerless over [substance] – that our lives had become unmanageable.” This is acceptance, sure, but it’s also surrender. Surrender to powerlessness. Surrender to the fact of an addiction. Surrender to vulnerability.

For example, I have a terribly difficult time falling asleep whether it’s for a nap or for the night. When I lie down, all I can do is think about how productive I could be if only I got up. I’ve started telling myself: “It’s ok to rest.” This is only partially helpful. The second I’m finished thinking the word “rest,” I immediately go into thoughts of all the other things I need to do. The thing is, to sleep is to be the most vulnerable and powerless a person can be. It’s all about safety when it really comes down to it.

I do think I’ll get better at resting in time. A method in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is to switch the thought. So, when I’m focusing on how much I need to get up when I lie down and switch the thought to it being ok to rest, it should become easier to believe that rest isn’t only fine, but good. The other switch I make is: “I’m safe.” I remind myself where I am and that I’m safe both physically and emotionally. I need to believe that resting is good, yes, but I also need to believe that I’m safe. An animal that doesn’t feel safe from predators in the wild wouldn’t sleep either.

As I’ve been more aware of this, I’ve seen that this resistance to surrender carries over into other parts of my life. I have a very hard time doing something I don’t want to do. Most of the quilts I’ve made I’ve hand quilted and there’s always a point toward the end of the process where I just don’t want to do it anymore. It’s a problem. I just can’t will myself to surrender to the process or the time it takes.

One cannot even mention vulnerability these days without conjuring Brene Brown. If you haven’t watched Brene’s TEDxHouston Talk called The power of vulnerability yet, please do. She is funny and charming and you’ll learn a lot.

In her talk, Brene talks about shame and vulnerability. Basically, everyone experiences shame for what they think are their faults and people who are “wholehearted” and who therefore are more vulnerable feel less shame. She found that these wholehearted people believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful.

People who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging.

Brene Brown

I also highly recommend Brene’s podcast Unlocking Us. At the end, during the rapid-fire questions she asks her guests to finish: “Vulnerability is…” Most people say, “hard.” And damned if I don’t agree.

Vulnerability is hard. Vulnerability is admitting I was wrong and taking criticism. Vulnerability is the lump in the back of my throat and the twist in my stomach. Do I have a difficult time with vulnerability because I’m not wholehearted? Is it because I don’t believe I am worthy?

So, I experience surrender (i.e. vulnerability and powerlessness) with difficulty. I don’t want to surrender and eventually I have no choice. I do think that practicing mindfulness and other skills of DBT will come in handy in this journey, but most importantly is learning to love myself. I think that surrender will become easier for me once I believe that I am worthy of love and belonging and vulnerability will become easier, too.

Comment below on how you experience surrender. Is it as difficult for you as it is for me? What have you done that has helped you experience surrender more easily?

Love, Madeleine

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