The art of surrender 

Dr Harry Tiebout wrote extensively about the therapeutic effects of surrender. In particular, while working with clients with addiction, he emphasized the role of surrender to bring about change. 

”With respect to the act of surrender,  it is an unconscious event, which cannot be defined in direct conscious terminology but must be understood in all its unconscious ramifications before its true inner meaning can be glimpsed." (Harry M Tiebout, MD (The Act of Surrender in the Therapeutic Process). Like acceptance and grace, surrender is a word that most of us intuitively understand but find it difficult to articulate.

Submission versus surrender
I believe that the reason surrender has such a bad rap is that a lot of people confuse surrender with submission and believe that surrender means giving up or being defeated in some way. To give a personal example, I have a member of my family with a serious illness and the news of it made me feel sad and overwhelmed. Though I want to be there and support her, I feel powerless and doubt that my efforts can really have lasting effect on the situation. In submission, the feelings of powerlessness and overwhelm take over which leads me to believe that I cannot change the situation, I give up or submit to what I believe to be the inevitability of the situation and I stop trying.  Tiebout explains that,  “In submission, there is at best a superficial yielding, but tension continues”. 

Surrender in this particular case means that I accept the gravity of the situation while at the same time doing all I can to gather information about treatment options, offering physical and emotional support to my family but ultimately, accepting that though I have little control over the final outcome, I am empowered to be present and assist in the situation as much as possible. I want my family member to make a full recovery and intend to do all that I can to assist her to this end but not knowing her soul’s purpose, I surrender the final outcome. Dr Tiebout says: ”When an individual surrenders, the ability to accept reality functions on the unconscious level, and there is no residual of battle; relaxation with freedom from strain and conflict ensues. In fact, it is perfectly possible to ascertain how much acceptance of reality is on the unconscious level by the degree of relaxation that develops. The greater the relaxation, the greater the surrender”.

Dr Tiebout and many other teachers and professionals agree that surrender is the bridge between acceptance and real change.