Judith Orloff on The Ecstasy of Surrender (Full Transcript)

Psychiatrist Judith Orloff speaks on The Ecstasy of Surrender at TEDxAmericanRiviera 2012 – Transcript

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Judith Orloff – Psychiatrist & Author

You know, I have a confession to make, I lost control but in the most wonderful way.

Before the sacred hours of seeing patients, before writing, I just put my arms out and danced. My body just moved to Dylan’s Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands, spontaneous joyful movements. No arguing, no resisting, no holding back. I just let go. This is the ecstasy of surrender.

Today, your life is going to get better learning about surrender. As a physician and as a woman, this is so important to me, it’s what I want the most in my life: To be able to flow with things and not fight, not resist, not hold back and not always over think things. It’s such a joy to be able to flow.

Now what is surrender? In Sanskrit, surrender is samprada, the ability to give yourself wholly to something, to flow like water, to not force things. I’m defining it as the grace of letting go at the right moment, of knowing how to let go when the time is right, without torturing yourself with self-doubt or over thinking things.

Here how many of you over think? How many of you torture yourself with self-doubt? That’s very common, but surrender allows you not to do that. Imagine a life where you’re not doing that, and you’re able to flow more with everything, and have more peace in life. You know, that is the great joy of surrender.

Now, how surrendered are you? Let me ask you a few questions. Do you recognize that you cannot control everything? How many of you? I hope you do. If you’ve tried your best with something, and you’ve given a project, let’s say, all of your effort, are you able to back off and not torture yourself with self-doubt and just give the project some breathing room? How many of you are able to do that? All right, wonderful.

Can you admit that you’re not right? You have to be right all the time, or can you apologize, can you compromise, can you let go of the need to be right? Good, I see one hand.

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Can you be spontaneous, and not have to plan every single thing down to the last detail? Can you enjoy life, can you stop long enough to let that enjoyment in and absorb it. Now isn’t that what it’s all about? Isn’t letting that enjoyment in? And that’s the point of surrender, as life goes by so quickly.

Now, you want to take advantage of every single moment, and to do that, you have to be able to let go.

Now, what stands in the way of surrender? In my life, I know this well, it’s when I want something too much. When I’m over invested in it. When I really want something a lot, that can clog the circuits. And so when you want something too much, that’s a sign you need to just back off a little so you don’t get overbearing with it.

Or, another thing is anxiety and fear. When you clench, when you get into fear mode or an anxious mode, that stops you from surrendering.

What fascinates me, is how hard it is for most of us to surrender. Did you realize how hard it is? But when you think about it, you need to surrender to delight in an orgasm. Don’t you? You don’t surrender, not much is going to happen.

Or, a good night’s sleep. Every night, you need to surrender when you go to sleep, otherwise you will be tossing and turning all night.

You need to surrender with a good belly laugh, or a good cry. I love the healing power of tears. When you hold back tears, that’s not good for your system. And so surrendering to tears, just letting it flow, or any emotions, such as grief when you experience loss, that is when you really are flowing with life.

And so what I want to say is that we need to bring surrender into other aspects of our life where the downside isn’t so obvious, such as hijacking pleasure. Because if something immediately hijack pleasure for you, you would think twice about it. Hopefully.

All right. How many types of surrender are there? There are three main types. And the most common type is the trial by fire kind of surrender where everything is going down and you’re forced to surrender because everything is so terrible. A bad relationship, your health is going down, and so you need to surrender. And crisis is an amazing opportunity. It’s how most people use of change. That’s what causes people to change, is crisis, have you ever noticed that in your life? When things really amp up, that’s when you change. And crisis is opportunity, it is opportunity, but it’s not the only opportunity.

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Now another example of surrender, the second type, is learning to surrender anxiety and fear. Now what if you’re in a situation that’s totally outside of your control like flying?

I had a patient who had a terrible fear of flying. And she would get on the plane and have an anxiety attack. So the way I worked with her on surrender, was to really have her focus on positive thoughts. The great news is that we have control of our minds. Did you know that? We do. We have control of our thoughts. Just because you think something or feel something doesn’t mean you need to go in that direction.

And so I worked with her on focusing on the positive images in her life. The family, the children, beautiful images of nature which is so common, a sunset, a beautiful flower. And so she was focusing on all of this positivity rather than going towards a negative, and this helped her to gain more serenity in her life. And so that’s important for you to have some positive images, and some things that really move you.

For me, the image that moves me and centers me is looking at the night sky in a body of water. It’s so beautiful to me seeing the stars in the water, that that’s very calming. You see, so you have all of these ready for yourself.

Now the third type of surrender, and this is so essential, is accepting what is, instead of trying to fit things or people into some preconceived notion of how you think things should be. All right. This is not always easy, because you have your visions of things, you see, and then you have reality.

So, you have your choice again with that. I want to emphasize, this is a choice, and surrender means flowing with what is. I learned this early on as a psychiatrist.