One of the most important things I have learned thus far in my internship is the power of surrender. Sounds contradictory, right? Usually, when we think of surrendering, we think of being powerless and that we’ve given in. However, in the sense I am speaking of, surrendering is not waving a white flag or calling it quits. It is radically accepting everything or situations that cross our path. It is radically accepting how physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual reality.
This concept of radical acceptance is one of the base principles of Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy. It is a tool that helps us from allowing the pain we feel to turn into suffering. In a way, this is a very Christian concept. St. Paul speaks extensively in his letters of the trials he is going through; yet, is joyful. This concept also applies to ourselves and our character defects. One of the most important things I work with in therapy with men who struggle with compulsive sexual behavior is accepting the fact that we have character defects. This concept does not mean we become indifferent to our situation or approve. Radical acceptance is when we recognize with our mind, body, and spirit that we cannot change the present facts, even if we do not like them. It is drawing the line of knowing what we can control and what we cannot. By choosing to acknowledge the things that are out of our control, we recognize our anger, fear, hurt, loneliness, sadness, guilt, and shame, but we can limit suffering.
When we let go of our compulsive need to control things, we can radically accept that we have needs. Contrary to Western culture, our needs cannot be met in and of themselves entirely by ourselves. We are emotional and spiritual beings created for connection with ourselves, others, and God. God, others, and ourselves dynamically meet our needs of belonging, mattering, security, touch, grief, attention, sexuality, guidance, accomplishment, support, listening & trust, freedom, and fun.
The more we push against reality, the more we are going to suffer. Again, this doesn’t mean we become apathetic or despondent. If anything, this paves the way for change. Carl Rogers wisely said, “the curious paradox is that when I can accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Let me use the following personal example to help illustrate. For about a year or so, I have worked out pretty consistently and lost a decent amount of weight. The thing is, this change would not have come if I hadn’t accepted the fact that I was overweight. If we don’t acknowledge and accept something as reality, how do we expect to change it? As I learn to work with sex addicts, the most prominent struggle I see is denial. However, it is one thing for a person to know they have an issue with compulsive sexual behavior and another to accept it. Most people know when they’re doing something unhealthy. The most helpful thing I’ve seen is when my clients accept their addiction while simultaneously not allowing it to decrease their self-worth.
So yes, I give up. I give up trying to control things that are out of my control. I give up the desire to control things to be sure of things only to tame feeling anxious or nervous. Giving up is not giving in. Giving in is succumbing to whatever is. Giving up is giving up the compulsivity of what I think “should” be or happen. Ultimately, giving up is the acceptance that comes from surrendering. Completing the previous quote from Carl Rogers, he says, “we cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.”
Dodd, C. (2014). The Voice of the Heart: A Call to Full Living. BookBaby.
Dodd, C. (2016). The Needs of the Hear. Sage Hill, LLC.
Rogers, C. (1969). On Becoming a Person A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. Houghton Mifflin Company.
Harris, A. (2020, April 7). #stayhomestayhopeful—Radical Acceptance in a Time of Uncertainty. https://hopeway.org/blog/radical-acceptance