You can probably tell from my blog post yesterday that I was in a fair amount of distress.
As an act of desperation, I decided to give up fighting all the unpleasant thoughts and emotions running through me. I trusted that my Higher Power would take care of things…
And He did!
I feel so much better today: balanced, calm, happy… sane!
Not only that, but I think I now understand how and why surrendering works.
The key is to stop engaging with the thoughts and feelings. That means simply allowing them to do their own thing, without chasing after them and without suppressing or fighting them. You merely witness them, like clouds in the sky.
What’s In A Name?
If you consider yourself to be a spiritual person, you might call this mindfulness.
If you’re more of a scientific thinker, you might call it metacognitive therapy, which I blogged about yesterday evening.
I’d argue these two ideas are basically the same thing, it just depends on which type of thinking you prefer.
You see, suppression of unhelpful thoughts and feelings doesn’t work. That’s because what you resist, persists.
And the other ineffective approach we use is thinking. It’s dead easy to get obsessed with trying to problem-solve certain situations. But our clever thinking often ends up just going around in circles, without any resolution, leaving us feeling worse.
So, mindfulness is a way of just letting go. It allows our brains to return to a more relaxed state – less stress, less anxiety, less depression. Less addiction.
And then, when your brain’s calm, it tends to do its best work.
If you can’t quite manage to be mindful in the face of unwanted thoughts or feelings, something which works almost as well is distraction.
Basically just engage yourself in some activity which takes your full attention. When your brain is busy, there’s no room for over-analysing your problems!
This is what I did yesterday. I took our dogs for a walk in the woods. Then I used our carpet cleaner to brighten up the carpets throughout our house. Within a few hours, I went from being highly stressed and fed up, to feeling pretty darn good… all thanks to just distracting myself.
Whether distracting myself, or actively engaging in mindfulness, both are like shrugging my shoulders at my problems… a nonchalant “Whatever!”
But Why “Surrender”?
The scientific part of my brain wants to know why exactly the 12 Steps uses the phrase “surrender to your Higher Power”.
Well, I think it’s because phrasing this idea in this way speaks to us on an emotional and spiritual level.
Have you ever found that you understand a concept perfectly well at an intellectual or rational level, but you can’t seem to create the change in behaviour that you want? I think this is common with people attempting to diet. They know perfectly well what they want to do, but making themselves do it is another matter entirely.
I suspect the issue is that we need our emotions to be involved (not just our logical thinking) if we want to maximise our motivation and drive to achieve a certain goal.
I’ll admit, it can be difficult to make yourself take a step back from your thoughts and feelings. You might feel like it’s essential you keep focussed on a problem until you’ve solved it, even if you just keep going around in circles.
But wouldn’t it make it much easier to release our control if we believed that someone else was going to take care of our problems for us?
And what if that “someone else” also happened to be an omnipotent, omniscient, ever-loving father figure – a Higher Power or God?
Well then I guess we’d trust them even more… and find it even easier to release our need for control.
Creating Lasting Change
What I’m saying is…
All of these ideas are basically the same thing…
2) Metacognitive Therapy
3) Surrendering to a Higher Power
They all enable us to release our need to control the outcome of a situation. They reduce obsessive thinking, which in turn reduces stress, anxiety and depression. It also reduces any desire to take drugs to try to change the way we feel.Bollinger, R. (2019)
Not Just a Nice to Have
I used to think of mindfulness and meditation as a “nice to have”.
Dan Harris wrote a book called 10% Happier, which was about the benefits of meditation. In my mind, that book title made meditation feel optional… like having a two spoonfuls of sugar in your tea instead of one.
But hang on a second…
I have depression which occasionally makes me suicidal. I’m kinda lucky to still be alive really. I’m also a drug addict, which is causing me all sorts of other problems.
For me, mindfulness isn’t just some nice-to-have…
It has the potential to create profound, long-lasting improvements to my mental health.
Mindfulness might even be able to permanently cure me of depression and addiction (or at least lessen them significantly).
Why the fuck didn’t I realise this sooner?
I guess it’s easy to under-estimate the power of a simple practice like sitting still and focussing on your breath.
I’m now going to make meditation an essential part of my daily routine. It feels really important, at an intellectual, emotional and spiritual level.
Meditation is like lifting weights for your brain. It helps you practice the skill of mindfulness so that you can use it more effectively in day-to-day life.
God, I wish I’d done it before now!
Nooooow, fiiiiiinally, I get it! Hurrah!
Like what you see? Join my email list and get regular updates.