Never surrender your best self!!! You may have noticed that in the Preparation for Healing series of posts I have not mentioned the need to surrender, be present in the moment, be vulnerable or forgive.
Many years ago when I began to focus on finding a path to heal, I kept reading that surrender was critical to the process. I simply couldn’t absorb that concept. For me, surrender meant giving up. I had been fighting all of my life to keep the soft, compassionate, loving parts of me from being obliterated by my family environment. To surrender in those surroundings would have cost me myself.
Surrender, being present and vulnerable, and forgiving sound like things an evolved being should embrace. They probably are. They are oft written about and touted by experts. If they don’t sound positive to you, don’t worry. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. In fact, it could make perfect sense.
If you live in a family that punishes you for being your best self and you surrender to them, you need assistance with your judgement. If you allow yourself to be vulnerable with anyone and everyone because you crave connections you missed out on, you do yourself a disservice. To strive for forgiveness without first healing is like pouring salt into an open wound. If you have lived for any period of time in a situation that felt dangerous, cruel, or neglectful, the idea that staying present in the moment is positive may, in fact, sound laughable, uninformed, or stupid.
The wounds of previous trauma can make your present feel the same to you as the traumatic times. For those of us who have had such experiences, this is normal. We hold the emotional memories and psychic wounds in our bodies. Our past is never in our past. It is ever present.
This is not our fault. It does not define us. We are not damaged. We are not mentally ill. We have a wound that was inflicted by someone else. If they had broken our leg instead of our spirit, doctors would put a cast on the leg to support it while it heals and law enforcement would charge the person who injured us with assault.
If medical, mental health, and law enforcement entities viewed traumatic wounds in the manner in which they view a broken leg, they would not treat us as disturbed, weak minded, emotionally deficient, or ill. Instead, they would support the parts of us weakened by our wounds until they have healed and hold our attackers accountable. The lack of this type of support is a reflection of a deficiency (blind spot) in our culture, not in us.
Being present, surrender and forgiveness may not be possible at the beginning of the healing process. Until I have learned to release the muscles in my upper back that stay braced for attack, I cannot be fully present in the moment. Until I let go of the anger that covers my constant fear and find friends who treat me with love and kindness, surrender will only harm me. As long as I feel constantly vulnerable, I cannot determine who or how to ask for help, know whose compliments to absorb, or have any idea how to accept love. Constant vulnerability numbs judgement. All of these things are a barrier to forgiveness.
None of us begin in the same place. Some of us are surrounded by those who mean us harm, do not value us, or are oblivious to our pain. These may include our parents, siblings, teachers, physicians, counselors, and ministers. We often create beautiful, intricate, situationally perfect structures to protect ourselves. It is only when we are free from danger that we can learn to see that those beautiful solutions can also hold us back.
If you can’t surrender yet, don’t worry. You may need to grieve that you have not felt safe enough with anyone to do so. If you cannot stay present in the moment, that’s okay. Try a mindful practice like yoga that encourages breathing in sync with movement. If you feel constantly vulnerable, building better boundaries may help. You can eventually work your way toward forgiveness.
The most brilliant definition of forgiveness I’ve ever heard was uttered by a TV character:
“People generally think of forgiveness as the flip side of contrition, the obligatory response to an apology. It is not. To forgive is to answer the call of our better angels and bear our wounds as the cost of doing business. It is that rarest of things, simple and pure…transcendent… without strings.”
— Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack), In Plain Sight, Season 1: Iris Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Maybe someday I’ll get there.
In the meantime, I keep following the sensations in my body with curiosity. I allow my feelings to bubble up even when they don’t make sense. I let go of my defenses layer by layer. I carefully choose who gets the honor of experiencing my vulnerability. I relish my ability to stay in the moment more often without an emotional flashback. I surrender to the process over and over again, but I never surrender my best self to anyone who does not have my best interest at heart.