Sunday, 10 November 2013

Surrender and resistance .. what is your pain threshold?

Over the last few months, I have become very aware of the topics of surrender and resistance, which more or less fall under the same umbrella even though they are opposites. There can be different interpretations of the two words, and maybe the biggest misunderstanding about the word 'surrender' when used in a spiritual context is that it can be thought of as - giving up, allowing something to get the better of you, saying 'yes' to anything. And some dictionary definitions make 'surrender' out to be a form of resignation.

To me, surrender is not necessarily surrendering to the situation that you might be resisting. It's more an allowance of whatever is happening at this moment - 'okay, I might not like this situation, it's unpleasant, maybe scary, I feel like fighting against it, but I choose to say 'yes' to life itself.'

To expand on this, let's have a look at resistance. This is what most of us do when faced with a difficult situation. What I have done (and still sometimes do) is lose control of my emotions and think or say to myself things like:
'I've f***ing had enough of this shit'
'I want to die'
'I always have to pay a high price for my mistakes'
'I cannot go on like this'

That's just to give you an example. I think we can all agree that these kinds of reactions are saying 'no' to whatever is happening in this moment, fighting and resisting it, wishing with all your might that things were different.

The much said phrase 'what you resist persists' is cheesy and cliched, but it is true. I doubt I could find an example of when I fought against a situation and it made things better. Usually, I have to cool down and gain a better perspective on things, speak to friends and do some meditation before things start to get a bit better.

So back to my example of resisting a situation. Let's just talk about my own life again, because of course I like to talk about myself. As you may know, work has been really hard in the last two years, and also I have spent time prior to that in long term unemployment. So I've probably built up quite a few emotions when it comes to the work world over the last three to four years.

To cut a long story short, this week I lost it. The planetary energies (Jupiter in retrograde) were particularly intense for me on Wednesday and Thursday, I had other hassles during the week, two or three things went wrong at work, and I snapped. I'm not particularly proud of myself for my reactions, but I'm not going to beat myself up for them either. Interestingly, after I was starting to become a bit more open hearted towards my whole work situation, things started to get more difficult. This is the Law of Opposites at work - almost every time I make some sort of breakthrough or commitment to do something better, a challenge comes up very quickly. Maybe this happens to test how open our hearts are to life itself.

So anyhow, on Thursday night I was at a very low point. I was ranting to the universe and saying something along the lines of 'I wish it could be easier to get out of this horrible situation'. And it made me wonder - how can we truly surrender to a situation which sometimes seems intolerable? Or should we do as much as we can to change it?
Photo courtesy of Maria Ly

The topic of 'pain threshold' came back to me. I read about this a few years back in a book written by a Christian leader I used to know. It said, basically, that some people have a higher tolerance level for pain, both physical and emotional, than others. And I think this is true. I have a low tolerance level to emotional pain. Maybe it's because I've been through two breakdowns which could easily have finished me off, maybe it's because I'm sensitive. But when something triggers me or things are going wrong, I get easily rattled. And, when you're at work, it's hard to take the time out that really you need, when things are a bit stressful. If things really get on top of me, I react. And generally, I initially resist a difficult situation until I manage to calm down a little.

So, recognising that I have a low pain threshold is important. It sure is not easy for me to accept the work situation at the moment. My heart is saying 'I cannot do this any more' and really, I feel like this. But when there is no immediate alternative that is not even more difficult, sometimes all you can do is say 'yes' to life. Recognise your tendency to fight undesirable situations. Be easy on yourself and do your best.

If you are like me and have a low tolerance level for stressful situations, there is nothing wrong with you, despite what other people might think. And it certainly is not healthy to hide your emotions. I absolutely believe that it is better for me to rant, even though it may not be the most sensible thing, than to pretend that everything is okay and let raging emotions bubble inside of me. What tolerance level do you have? What situations can really trigger you? It is important and good to recognise your limits. And if, like me, you sometimes lose your rag, it's important to take time to regroup and say to yourself:
- I am a work in progress
- I am learning to say 'yes' to life more and more
- It's okay not to have it all together
- The Universe continues to support me
- Suffering can teach us so much and lead us to a greater understanding of ourselves and others

What does the word 'surrender' mean for me right now? It means ...
- Sometimes I don't know what's going on, or why. I would definitely like things to be different. Sometimes I mess up. But the important thing is to keep my heart as open as possible.

If you're a human being, you'll have some pain stored in your heart. Opening your heart to life is hard, for sure. Sometimes you can feel in so much pain that the only option seems to be to close down and put barriers around your heart for protection. I always say that you can only do your best. Don't force yourself to open your heart just because you think you should. Life will unfold and gradually you will be able to become more open.

Surrender always takes you back to the present moment. At work, it is not easy to be present, because, generally speaking, work environments are very ego driven and focused on getting things done and meeting targets. Many people can relate that work environments push people into a box and make them play roles that do not fit their authentic selves. It would be lovely if I could magically change my life straight away, but it's not practical to ignore the material world. I will be looking for other jobs but that is one thing I really struggle with too, so I need to be patient with myself and with life. So what I can say is 'This is how it is, I am doing my best, I will do as best a job I can, I will stand up for myself if things get too much, it may be bloody difficult but I will do my best to accept the situation as it is now'.

Even if you do not like your current situation, if you mentally say no to it, you are fighting against life itself. Sometimes it feels like I go into work to get myself mentally beaten up. Surrendering to the actual situation does not make a lot of sense. But embracing life in all its fullness, acknowledging where you are right now and accepting it, however hard it may be .. maybe that is one of the many keys to life :)

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. I doubtless have more to learn about this whole topic. Any thoughts and opinions would be welcome.



  1. Brilliant post Andy, really insightful. You are growing a lot. Its lovely to read.

  2. I loved reading your post; it really resonated. Resistance to whatever we are facing is what causes us pain; if we can truly surrender to what is, then the pain goes. Easier said than done of course, but as you asked for our opinions I will share what I feel my experience is. When I make a statement, for example, I want to be more open-hearted, then immediately I will be given situations where I am shown where I am not being open-hearted. I don't think this is a punishment, or something to be endured, rather I am being shown where I am resisting, and unconsciously preventing myself from receiving whatever it is I am asking for. It can't come until I let go of the resistance. Once I clear, embrace, love & surrender, what I am seeking comes to me. Love is all there is, anything else we experience is just our resistance to it. I think you're doing an awesome job, Andy. Allowing and surrendering when you can; it's all any of us can do. Love to you on your journey.

  3. Thanks Andrea. I get what you're saying, good points made :)


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