How to Let Go: The Power of Surrender

What’s the first thing you do when you feel stressed?

Your mind runs through all the possible scenarios and desperately tries to rationalize which one will give you the best chance at not feeling stressed anymore.

This is really helpful when you’re under immediate threat.

Your nervous system will kick in and you’ll have one of 6 innate reactions: fight, flight, freeze, fawn, fatigue, or flood.**

When you’re in fight mode, you’ll witness yourself feeling angry and combative, leading to explosive outbursts and defiance.

Flight mode makes you run away.

This can be physical, for example if a bus is rushing at you.

Or it can be a mental form of running away, where you try to avoid your feelings by overworking or obsessively worrying about the future.

You’ll know that the freeze response is active if you dissociate, feel foggy brained, numb, or everything suddenly feels unreal.

Fawning is at play when you pretend to feel other than you do to try to make the stressor (or stressful person) go away.

This leads to behaviors like people pleasing and loose or non-existent boundaries.

Fatigue is pretty self-explanatory.

Stress can be exhausting! And if you’re tired all the time, it’s possible that you might be responding to an excess of stress.

And flooding is when you’re overwhelmed by emotion.

Now, these are very useful responses when faced with an immediate threat.

But they stop being so useful when an immediate threat isn’t actually present.

By immediate threat I mean something that is currently harming you, either physically or emotionally.

If someone or something is trying to harm you, get out of there and get help if you can.

But if you’re not in immediate danger, or you can’t get out of the situation you’re in, then you’re only left with 2 choices.

Either you can accept your predicament, or you continue to suffer.

This is where most of us are at when it comes to dealing with everyday stress.

Even when everything looks perfect on the outside, at some point we’re going to find ourselves in a stressful situation that we can’t get out of.

This can be as seemingly trivial as a grumpy mood or a minor disappointment, or as serious as discrimination or the loss of a loved one.

Life will always give you something to stress about, it’s guaranteed.

And when it is, most of us turn to our innate reactions of fight, flight, freeze, fawn, fatigue, and/or flood.

But while these reactions manifest in different ways, they have one thing in common.

They are all attempts to “fix” the situation that we find ourselves in.

The issue is, when you’re trying to fix the experience that life is offering you, you’re denying the truth of the situation.

And in this denial, you’re also actively pushing against your emotions, essentially creating a war within yourself.

We know from physics that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

So the harder you push against your emotions, the more embedded they become in the rock bed of your physiology.

We all do it.

We all start out in life trying to manipulate our experience to be easier.

And some people go through their whole life like this, fighting against the Truth, without realizing that it is their unwillingness to accept life as it is that is causing their suffering.

This is perfectly understandable.

Our minds are literally designed to identify problems and try to fix them.

And stress is the alarm system in our body that alerts us to these problems.

There is nothing wrong with any of that.

As humans in physical form, we have been gifted with tremendous abilities to build and improve our lives to our liking, leading to all sorts of wonderful solutions and innovations.

But sometimes the solution can’t be found “out there”.

Sometimes you’ll find yourself stuck in stress mode, clouding your ability to just chill and enjoy the ride for a bit.

And at some point you will have suffered enough, and something inside you will let go.

This moment is pivotal.

This is the moment when your life can transform.

Because when you stop trying to change your experience, you stop pushing against it.

And this means you get to love whatever experience you’re having, even if it’s uncomfortable.

This doesn’t mean you won’t take action.

You’ll still do all the things you do, and you’ll still have tastes of all sorts of emotional flavors.

The difference is that you realize that you don’t have to push so hard.

Things are going to unfold the way they’re going to unfold.

Sometimes you’ll be an active force in that unfolding, and sometimes life will just unfold around you on its own.

But whatever happens, your sense of self and well-being no longer have to be tied up in what happens.

You get to be free.

Now, this sounds great in theory.

But how are you supposed to “just” let go and surrender?

One of the most powerful strategies I know is to allow yourself to feel into uncomfortable emotions.

See, emotions are meant to move.

They are life’s energy in motion.

And they want to be expressed (from Latin, “pressed out”) through the physical body.

Which is why the physical body often moves in response to emotions, by crying, laughing, shouting, moaning, shaking, or other more subtle physiological reactions like changes in breath, sweat, digestion and salivation.

When you allow yourself to feel your emotions, you’re allowing that life force energy to move through your body.

By letting your emotions go and flow, you’re literally restoring life and health to your mind and body.

Because life is synonymous with movement.

And stagnation causes pain.

So when you notice yourself feeling stressed, anxious, angry, sad, lonely, or any other uncomfortable emotion, don’t try to change the way you’re feeling.

Instead, allow yourself to explore those feelings.

Become curious.

Shift your focus from the thoughts in your mind to the sensations in your body.

They’re not going to be comfortable, especially if you’ve been running away from them for a long time.

And your mind is going to keep coming in to try to “fix” the situation.

That’s okay, its what the mind does.

When you notice this happening, just keep shifting your attention back to the sensations in your body, over and over again.

Notice your breath, if it feels good to you.

Deepen it and let your whole belly expand as you breathe in, relaxing as you breathe out.

Press your feet into the ground beneath you, and feel the earth pushing back up against your feet (here’s another example of the equal and opposite reaction in action).

This will help you feel supported as you explore the discomfort you’re feeling.

Keep bringing your attention back, and notice how the feelings shift and change.

Sometimes the sensations will get more intense, sometimes they’ll move to a different part of your body.

Sometimes you’ll feel an expansion or a contraction.

You may feel like the space around your body changes.

And at some point you’ll notice your body wanting to move, by twisting or shaking or stretching, or any of the other reactions I mentioned earlier.

This is the medicine.

This is how you cleanse yourself of that discomfort.

It has to be allowed to move.

This process is very simple, but it’s not easy.

I’ve never seen anyone do it until they’ve suffered enough.

We will try all the other strategies before we finally allow ourselves to surrender to life.

Maybe you’re at this point now, and this is reaching you at just the right moment.

Or maybe you want to keep chasing after the life of your imagination, that’s fine.

But when you finally realize that what you’ve been trying to do isn’t working, this approach will be waiting for you.

And if your experience is anything like mine has been, it will change everything.

I can’t wait to see where it takes you!

**In case you want to learn more, I got the information on the 6 stress responses from and , and some of my biggest teachers on the power of surrender include , , and Lester Levenson.