I remember sitting across from him, he’d been holding my gaze for a while now, neither of us saying anything as I’d been crying. Finally, I said, “I feel like I have done everything in my power to move on from this.” My therapist then looked at me intently and said “It’s usually when we are resisting something that it continues to appear for us.” Shocked and infuriated I just sat there. I couldn’t believe he’d dare say I was resisting anything. I’d been working through this for nearly a year and had made so many changes. Since the day I walked in his room we’d been talking about this relationship and I’d been working diligently on focusing my attention, embracing my feelings, and allowing myself to deal with whatever emotion may arise. “I’ve done anything but resist this whole process,” I told him, “If I was I would have never come to see you in the first place.”
I’ve spent years going to therapy on and off for everything from dealing with my parent’s divorce, to the death of my step-mom, intimate relationships and dealing with an illness. There’s a certain amount of courage and a strength it takes to deal with things that we’d rather sweep under the rug. We all go to therapy with the knowledge that the process is going to hurt, you’re going to rip open some wounds, see what’s really inside and hopefully let them heal naturally instead of putting on a bandage and trying to forget about it. Over and over again we choose to experience the pain because we know the reward of that effort in the end. This time was no different for me. I knew suffering alone was no longer an option, so I went. I was intentional in my decision to confront much of myself on deeper levels than I had in the past.
I left our session that day. With the bitter taste in my mouth of the words he’d said. Words I’d rather not here. The thing is, we were both right. I’d been doing everything possible to get past this relationship I couldn’t let go of, and at the same time I couldn’t admit to myself that I didn’t want to let go of it. I was resisting. Steven Pressfield in his book the War of Art, says “Resistance is experienced as fear: the degree of fear equated to strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise the more certain we can be that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul that’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance. Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. “
As much as I wanted to relinquish it all, there were other parts of me that still had hard and fast grips on this particular story and how it would play out in my life. I couldn’t go any further in my personal growth because I’d not surrendered fully to the process. I had to let go, because in the end it was one of my biggest fears, and at the same time the only way to liberate myself. By surrendering we venture into an exploration rather than desperation. Resistance in a mental state is fear and anxiety. Surrendering is strength and clarity.
Yesterday I took a yoga class that pushed me to my limits. Both physically and mentally the flow was challenging, I truly believe it was meant to break us. The room was heated and in a fast paced class you pretty much leave everything you have on the mat. As I breathed through the sequence I knew there was no way I was getting through it by simply forcing myself. Resistance is never where change happens. You are weaker before you get stronger. By surrendering, you win. You can be liberated. You get to choose then how you perceive the process. With anything in your life, it is no longer able to control you because you’ve chosen to open your perception of the experience.
With most any kind of growth process, you get weaker before you get stronger. When you’re hiking or doing any physical activity, you’re making tiny tears in your muscles for them to expand contract and pump out energy. For those moments and right after your workout, you’re weaker than when you started. Most of the days after I go hiking are some of the hardest recovery days.
Often times we see the act of surrendering as accepting our weakness, being defeated. You only gain strength by exploring your weakness. Surrendering is actually investing your strength.
If you are healing and breaking at the same time, that is where change is happening. That is growth. You’re more vulnerable, you’ve done the work to get the growth but the change isn’t instantaneous. You have to heal, your muscles have to repair so they can form strength. It is no different for your spirit.
By surrendering it opened up the possibility for my practice to be an exploration of my strength. I mean this both with therapy and on my mat. As I continued to accept that there was a part of me that didn’t want to let go of that relationship, the more I did. Once I embraced this part of myself with kindness and curiosity instead of resistance and judgment I took my power back, and simultaneously gave it less importance. On my mat I was able to explore the challenge of yoga poses, my weakness in certain areas and possibilities to go deeper in the exploration of my physical and mental strength. But this only happened through surrendering. In a moment it suddenly had a different feeling to it, it was fun. Through the surrender I was able to find joy in the freedom of getting to choose how the experience was going to make me feel. I chose strength.
Surrendering doesn’t always have to look like complete depletion of strength or weakness to begin with. We always have this choice to surrender in our lives to whatever we need it to be. Remember that surrendering is an exploration of your own. It is not meant to be easy, but it is meant to show you your strength.