Judith Orloff on The Ecstasy of Surrender (Full Transcript)

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.

Or I had a patient, Eve, who was 92 years old, and her daughter was dying. When her daughter died, she called me to be by her side in the hospital and see her [inaudible]. And as I was going down the hall, I heard her wailing and screaming. The nurses came up to me and they were very concerned with it, that she would collapse, she was a little old lady, very frail, and she was really making a lot of noise.

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And in my psychiatric training at USC and UCLA, I was trained to treat patients at a kind of distance, and certainly to never touch them. You know, we’re never trained to even put a hand or pat them on the back, you know, keep a safe distance, but the minute I walked into that room, this little lady jumped into my arms, and wrapped her body around mine in the fetal position, and was wailing and crying and her tears were all over me, and the newly minted psychiatrist in me was in total shock, but I knew that I had to surrender to that moment, because it’s what Eve needed, and it’s what was right.

And so she spent about an hour crying, and then she detached herself from me, basically, and we talked, and then that was the beginning of her grieving process. So I learned how important it is to trust the moment to be there with people. It might not be what you thought — might not be what you thought but it is what it is. So you flow with that and you trust the integrity of that. You know, that’s trusting life.

I’m so passionate about surrender, because I learned about it from my mother, in terms of how she didn’t surrender. At age 70, she was a family practitioner in Beverly Hills, and she decided to take her national board exams. And for those of you who know what this is, it’s as intense as the bar exams is for lawyers. It’s so intense, and she felt that she needed to do this in order to keep up with the younger doctors.

And at that point, she was about the best healer I’ve ever met. She had a huge practice, she had all these patients who loved her. And in fact, when I was a little girl I used to go on house calls with her, and she even took me to the hospital when she made chicken soup for Mick Jagger when I was a teenager. So I got to meet him, and you could imagine what a thrill that was.

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And I used to go with her in her pink Cadillac up into the hills of Bel Air, and I would watch her with patients. She would listen with a stethoscope, she had a bag, you know the old time family doctor, and she would listen to her patients. She was truly so gifted.

But the thing about my mother was that a million people could tell her how wonderful she was, and she would only look at her negative points and her self-doubt. And that’s not unlike a lot of people, that you could have so much going for, yet a small percentage, somebody says one little thing and you’re off and running.

And so she took this exam and put herself through so much stress. And 20 years before that, she had been diagnosed with a pretty benign lymphoma, but while she was taking the test, the month she took studying and beating herself up and not feeling she was enough, the cell type changed to a malignant leukemia.

And although my mother heroically passed the test, soon after, she died. And as she was dying, she said to me that she felt the stress of the test was what caused the cell type to change. And so, as her daughter, I was really standing there helpless. There was nothing I could do to intervene. I was there supporting her, but I watched my mother do this, and it was through losing the dearest person to me that I gained a very hard lesson on surrender.

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