By surrendering, I mean allowing yourself to feel what you feel. Stop trying to control or prevent. Stop fighting against yourself. Stop struggling and pressuring yourself to feel differently from the way you feel. Stop the judgment of what you are going through and the comparison with others. Stop feeling shameful and weak for your own experience.
Allow yourself to just feel…
To just welcome whatever emotions you are feeling. To allow your mind and your body to acknowledge those physical feelings. To allow the discharge in the form of grunting, crying, or even cursing to yourself.
It makes sense to feel frustrated when dealing with frustrating people. It is natural to feel sad when you are missing your loved ones and longing to be reunited with them. It is organic to feel anxiety when dealing with a stressful situation or with uncertainty.
Those emotions are not proof of weaknesses or a mental health disorder. It is proof that you are alive, that you are a human being, and that you are facing adversity.
We tend to put pressure on ourselves to feel cheerful all the time and rush to wrestle and fix anything that feels “negative” and uncomfortable, in us or others. We can even feel shame or guilt when we experience unpleasant feelings such as anger or fear which result in negativity piling up. Yes, feeling bad about feeling bad makes us feel even worse! Your judgment and expectation on how you “should” feel or not feel create more pain than the feelings you are experiencing in the first place.
Based on her research, Doctor Maya Tamir points out that, “People want to feel very good all the time. Even if they feel good most of the time, they may still think that they should feel even better, which might make them less happy overall.” On the subject of happiness, she also discusses that, “It is more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness is about having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think, are the right ones to have,” the ones that seem appropriate at the time, even if those emotions are negative or unpleasant.
Researchers also found that people who were open to experiencing both positive and negative emotions reported greater life satisfaction and fewer symptoms of depression. It suggests that being aware of and accepting your uncomfortable emotions without judging or trying to change can help you cope more effectively with stressors.
Judging, resisting, or trying to remove your emotional experience won’t help you recover, grow or even feel better. On the contrary, resistance prolongs your pain and may amplify the emotions that you are trying to get rid of. It also delays dealing effectively with the situation that causes pain. Repressed emotions may accumulate and wind up creeping up on you when you feel the most vulnerable and don’t have the resources to chase them away anymore.
Emotions are not good or bad in themselves; however, they can be pleasant or unpleasant. They are an important source of information that are useful to be acknowledged. Unpleasant emotions often arise from an unsatisfied need. For example, you can feel frustrated and sad with work if your need for recognition and respect is not satisfied; you can feel anxious when your need for security (emotional, financial…) is challenged.
Surrendering and accepting is not the same as resignation. It doesn’t mean giving up all hopes that things will get better and it doesn’t mean dwelling in your pain either. It means accepting and acknowledging that for now, this is what is happening at the moment. It is accepting that there are things you cannot control. If you are unhappy in your relationship, you can work with your partner on changing the dynamic, communicating better, and so on… while at the same time allowing the facts that right now, the situation is complicated, that this is a frustrating and tiring process and even maybe that “it sucks!”
Practicing acceptance and welcoming your emotions are about meeting you where you are in life and moving forward from there.
When you open up to a friend about something you are struggling with, before looking for their advice or opinion, don’t you appreciate it when they truly listen to you? When they validate your feelings and experience? And if they move on to problem-solving too quickly or suggest that you “just relax” or “snap out of it” you may end up feeling not understood and “wrong”. Then don’t do that to yourself! Give yourself that space and time to feel what you feel. You deserve to give yourself that much compassion.
Brett Q. Ford, Phoebe Lam, Oliver P. John, Iris B. Mauss. “The Psychological Health Benefits of Accepting Negative Emotions and Thoughts: Laboratory, Diary, and Longitudinal Evidence.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2017; DOI: 10.1037/pspp0000157
Maya Tamir, Shalom H. Schwartz, Shige Oishi and Min Y. Kim. “The Secret to Happiness: Feeling Good or Feeling Right?” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (Online first publication, August 14, 2017) DOI: 10.1037/xge0000303
Christine Carter’s article “How to stop being a control freak” in the Greater Good Magazine https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_stop_being_a_control_freak