Finding Love

A new map of the path to intimacy

An Interview with Judith Orloff, MD: The Power of Surrender

How surrender can lead us to deeper intimacy, joy and meaning.

Judith Orloff, M.D. is a psychiatrist, intuitive healer, and NY Times bestselling author. Her most recent book is the national bestseller The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life (Harmony Books, 2014). Dr. Orloff's other books are Emotional Freedom, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Intuitive Healing. Dr. Orloff synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. She passionately believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness.

Ken: Judith, I’m honored and delighted to interview you and to have you share your insights on the subject of surrender. What is surrender? How can it lead us to deeper intimacy and meaning in our lives?

Judith: I'll start with what surrender is not. It is not failure, defeat, holding up the white flag, or weakness, as it is traditionally defined. I define surrender as being able to give yourself wholly to something, in a flow that's intuitively attuned. That means you make choices of what you want to flow with and what flow does not feel good. It's basically listening to your inner voice about the direction the flow of life is taking you in, and making decisions in sync with that. For example, let’s say you meet somebody who doesn’t fit your picture. But yet there's a flow and a connection there. Surrender might mean letting go of any previous ideas you had about who the “perfect person” might be.

Ken: That's really an important point for people seeking love.

Judith: Yes, and when you're in a relationship with somebody that you want to love... when you decide, “I really want to go with this", that's where the surrender comes in, in terms of letting go more and more with your heart. Not being guarded, not just keeping your foot on the brakes. Surrender means going with the flow of that relationship as best you can and not guarding your heart. At the same time the person has to prove to you that they're trustworthy.

Ken: Right. So, surrender must also involve real discrimination.

Judith: Yes, and that's where intuition comes in. You can't surrender with your head or your ego. The surrender comes from your heart. And that's an evolution in human consciousness, making decisions that are in synch with the heart and intuition rather than just the linear mind. And so it's about sensing where there's a connection and not forcing things. And also there's a chapter in the book on removing barriers that keep you from love, rather than just searching for love.

Love is ever-present, but we have to remove the barriers that keep us from love. And one of those patterns is being attracted to unavailable people. Or confusing lust with love. Or trying to “fix” somebody into your own image. Those are patterns that don't work. So the surrender process is identifying those patterns; letting go of them and healing them so that you can be ready for love.

Ken: How do you know the difference between healthy and unhealthy pulls toward surrender? What about when it feels like love and every part of you wants to surrender, but it's not a healthy relationship?

Judith: I think it's simple; if someone's unavailable, it's unhealthy. And there are signs of unavailability I describe in the book that people need to look for, such as being in a relationship with somebody else, not introducing you to their friends and family, or only being there intermittently for you. That's not a healthy love, that's dysfunctional love. I don't mean that judgmentally, but it happens all the time.

People are always wanting to surrender to things that are bad for them. It's just natural, the bad-boy, bad-girl syndrome. And the work I suggest with that is to own the bad boy or bad girl in yourself so you don't have to have your partner act it out for you.

People are always attracted to what's not good for them. But this book is about making a discriminating choice. For instance, are you attracted to unavailable people? Look for the signs of unavailable people and begin to heal the pattern. Often single people want to find a partner who is unavailable so they can reform them and subconsciously that means they’re healing the pattern with their parents. But it almost never works, you can't reform an unavailable person. I wouldn't go in with any expectation it's going to happen. And it won't heal your primary relationship with your parents. Maybe finding a surrogate parent would. That's one thing I suggest as a solution to this dilemma. This is what I did; I found three surrogate mothers for myself, because I needed a different kind of maternal nurturing than my mother gave me. And so I got that energy through different women in my life, older women who were maternal and were able to accept me unconditionally. There is a section in the book on surrogate parenting, where you find adults who love to nurture and are capable of it. You just find them and you can be re-parented by them.

Ken: So, through these healthy, safe relationships, we can build and strengthen our capacity to surrender.

Judith: Yes, when you find somebody's who's capable of loving, you want to gradually surrender to them. You want to go with that and play with that energy and notice where you're holding back or guarding, or afraid. And together heal and enjoy and connect and play and go deep.

Ken: So we can practice for a romantic relationship by learning to surrender to the healthy relationships in our current life.

Judith: It's not just about surrendering to romantic relationships, it's a whole attitude of living in terms of letting go to the flow of life instead of over-thinking, second-guessing, fighting or controlling. The way I define surrender in the book is knowing when to go out and assert yourself and make your goals happen, and knowing when to let go. It's a twofold process. It's not that you sit around passively and wait for life to happen. That's not what surrender is.

Ken: Right, the surrender you describe is dynamic. It involves discriminating; saying "no" as well as saying "yes".

Judith: Sometimes you say no and you surrender to the no. But it's the giving yourself wholly to something. That's what surrender means in Sanskrit; giving yourself wholly instead of vacillating. When you say no, do you punish yourself and second guess it? No, surrendering is, "Ah, no", and letting it go.

Ken: How can you tell the difference between resistance to surrender that's based on old fears and a resistance to surrender that's based on a healthy sense of discrimination?

Judith: In the book I talk about how to find an intuitive yes and an intuitive no. You have to listen to how your gut is responding to somebody. If your sex hormones are totally taking over and you're really attracted to someone but your gut is saying, "Be careful, this is bad news", then you're discriminating. Hopefully you listen to your gut. Or if your energy gets sapped around somebody, versus if your energy goes up around somebody you have to honor that, that you don't want to marry that person who's draining you. It's an energetic compatibility that your intuition can relay.

Ken: So you learn to listen to that, the intuitive yes and the intuitive no. That's great.

Judith: Your head isn't going to help you here.

Ken: There is a certain quality of grace in the pages of this book. One of the book’s themes is that there's a piece of work we don't have to do. That there's a flow we can rest in, or rest on, instead of creating unnecessary work for ourselves.

Judith: Yeah, life's not out to get you. But it's extremely strenuous, and relationships are mirrors so they're initiation by fire, because you’re raw, you're open, all your stuff is there if you really surrendered in the relationship. It can be intense, it's not always easy, because it's spiritual growth. In relationships, each person is a spiritual teacher for the other. And you have to hang in there, you can't just leave every time something comes up that's uncomfortable. And you have to be able to honor the emotional expression of each other.

About a month ago I was going through a lot. Along with the book tour, I had a house remodeled. I had to move out of my office. I just had tons of stuff. I was trying to handle it all and I had incredible frustrations. So one night in the middle of the night I just started weeping and sobbing. And the man I'm with, he didn't say anything, he just wrapped his legs around me and held me, but I went on for a while. It was nice that he didn't say anything. But the next day he said, "You were crying for a really long time." And I said, "Well how long was it?" He said, "Twenty minutes." And he said, "In man time that's a long time." He was fine with it because he's comfortable with my emotions. But I think for some men, and some women it's uncomfortable to surrender to that intensity of emotion and sob and heave and wail and cry, the whole thing that goes along with really getting into it. But it's important for each person to become less and less afraid of the other's emotions. And also if someone starts crying during lovemaking, the partner often thinks he or she has done something wrong. And that's the exact opposite, he (or she) has done something right. If we are able to drop into our passion or tears that's a great thing.

Ken: It's such a powerful thing and it shocks people when it happens.

My last question is: In your book you teach that joy and ecstasy are within our reach, that these currents of connectedness are within us and around us and that when we surrender we find healing, adventure and fullness of heart. Can you share a process readers can use to deepen into surrender?

Judith: Take a deep breath, breath slowly, try and bring yourself to the moment. Because when you're fully present in the moment, that's where the ecstasy is, but what keeps you from feeling is your mind and your ego. But if you take a deep breath and begin to breathe in the ecstasy and not project into the future or be in the past and just try and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you, you could begin to let the ecstasy in. And you could even drink water very slowly and savor each drop. There’s a way of slowing down an action. And when you slow everything down you can feel the ecstasy. But if you're rushed you become numb, you can't feel it. When you're thinking, or in your ego, you can't feel it, it just doesn't come through. The ecstasy comes through the sensation of the heart. And when you slow everything down in the moment and feel through your heart wherever you are, whatever you're doing, it's there. That's the great mystery, it's always there. It's just people don't know it because they're not sensing with their heart.

 Ken: That's inspiring. Is there anything else that you would like to say or add?

Judith: Just that writing this book has changed me so thoroughly and so positively in terms of my lightness of being and my happiness level and my health, my attractiveness, my everything, just by virtue of letting go what doesn't work for me. And not fighting so much with everything.

I can't predict what your readers will have to let go of but what I do know is that it will exceed their wildest expectations in terms of positive results.

Ken: Thanks so much, Judith.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Orloff’s work, and for her free newsletter, videos and articles. Dr, Orloff will also offer an upcoming workshop at the Esalen Institute entitled “Surrendering to Your Intuition” Or join her mailing list or follow her on Facebook or Twitter

© 2014 Ken Page, LCSW. All Rights Reserved

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Ken Page, L.C.S.W., is a New York based psychotherapist, author and lecturer specializing in the search for intimacy. His insights about the search for love have been featured frequently in the media. more...

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