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What Hides in "Surrender"

jordan myska allen personal growth relatefulness stayinlove Jul 11, 2022


Surrender is a critical element of Circling, well-being, and spiritual growth. Most trainings underemphasize it, so there's not as much cultural wisdom around shadows and misapplications. Here are some things you may want to consider, that I keep an eye out for when I train under someone teaching surrender, interdependence, mystery, etc (also good to look out for in my own role as teacher, considering pedagogy, etc):


Power games: varieties of disowning authority/power in the name of "surrender" or "collective intelligence" or "ego-less-ness":

  • "No one's in charge here" or "there are no rules", but actually the person who says that and maintains that/enforces that, is in charge. 
    • The 'Green' version usually looks like "let's do community/self-organize", when there's actually a pocket dictator that everyone defers to. 
    • A sneakier version involves the secret dictator being ‘led by surrender’, and claiming its not them that’s in charge, but God/the collective intelligence nominating them “through their intuition”, to more often be the one everyone listens to.

  • 'No one's in charge', but because we're secretly in a consensus structure (even though we're calling it surrender). Whoever is the most disagreeable ends up having the most power. The more willing you are to say "no", the more you get to determine what doesn't happen, since everyone has to agree. If you're super agreeable, you'll have the least amount of power. This is on purpose by the disagreeable person (although it may not be conscious).

  • "I as a leader am no different from a participant", as a way to deny/avoid the truth that people treat them differently, and thereby feel like they're better.

  • “You can't argue with surrender…” so if the action, no matter how reprehensible, unfair, unconscious, etc “comes from surrender,” it's good (and better than the standard/mainstream interpretation). And conveniently as the leader I'm the one who most can recognize what is surrender/presence and what isn't.

  • The leader always takes the default position—demanding that others justify themselves, and whenever one asks them to justify/explain they turn the tables on them. One way to think of this is a kind of misuse/abuse of the socratic method.

  • The rules of engagement are unclear. The criteria for good/bad, acceptance or non-acceptance, certification or promotion, are unclear, and the leader gets to simply decide. Putting the rules onto paper would mean the leader has to submit to the rules, or be seen in their absolute power (and therefore vulnerable to legitimate challenge).
    • If the rules are "I'm in charge, everyone has to do what I say", this is very clear and doesn't fall into this category.

Illusions of empathy (especially in the face of feedback):

  • "That really impacts me. I'll really have to feel into that" —but actually there's no real understanding, no real change or updating. This is often only visible over time and repeated exposure.

  • 'Empathy' intended to put the attention back on the feedback giver's problems, and why it's secretly about them (of course it is, but that doesn't mean it isn't also true).

Illusions of ownership (especially in the face of feedback):

  • Sharing bodily sensations/impact but not directly facing the feedback, eg: "I feel pain and sadness hearing that", but not taking responsibility for actions.

  • Feelings intended to manipulate and put the attention back on the feedbacker; "I'm so angry when you say that, I feel betrayed" (without any real interest in investigating the anger or betrayal and taking more responsibility for it.

  • Upon being told they have no clothes, the emperor 'surrenders' to their impulse to shame, sarcasm, or other forms of aggression.

Putting down all other (or most) other practices and communities for not being "quite" as developed/surrendered/mysterious:

  • Subtly (or overtly).

  • Again usually the leader/org is the one who gets to determine what the metrics and signs of surrender are in these other orgs.

  • One tricky way this is done is by the opposite: Compliments that indicate the leader being one of the few people who can evaluate goodness.

  • Using vulnerability (such as 'jealousy') to undermine/undercut new ideas, initiatives from others who are less powerful (eg in a circle), etc, or to protect from honest feedback (eg: I'm really vulnerable owning how I think I'm a better composer than Bach).

Using mystery/surrender to avoid taking responsibility for things:

  • Including avoiding making sense of stuff in order to avoid responsibility.

Declaring the mind, meaning-making, understanding, structure, or teaching, wrong or less-advanced than body, silence, immediacy, chaos, etc. A baby is in complete immediacy and absence of mental-symbolic-interpretations; this doesn't mean that they're more advanced spiritual practitioners or more alive or more real.

Refusing to teach overtly, bc 'surrender':

  • "Unable to teach surrender, because it's so personal/unique to each person and so mysterious. So instead you've just got to soak it up by osmosis". This is a performative contradiction that is as false as 'you can't surrender, because you're already surrendered always'. Experientially you can tell the difference between resisting and letting happen; experientially you can teach people to recognize the difference. It's completely consistent to notice when someone is not expressing their unique gift. It happens in music/art for example all the time: We absolutely can teach people to be creative, non-derivative; and it almost universally is more creative when they learn from the masters first/simultaneously. This is also a pre/trans fallacy.

Co-dependence in the name of interdependence, in the name of staying connected to discomfort one should defer one’s autonomous impulses to… the ideology of the organization:

  • This one is truly tricky because one does have to defer to something to transcend one’s autonomous limits, but for it to truly be a transcendence the deferral has to come from your own autonomous self not being in contradistinction to you. Beware paying lip service to including your autonomy as an input to surrender, when in practice the ideology/leader of the group is the one who gets to determine what’s beyond you.

Surrendering to your ego:

  • Impulses or shadow etc, whether your own, someone else’s, a society or ideologies, rather than love. Intuition. Higher purpose. God’s Will. Happening/truth. 


I understand that the ego can use anything to self-perpetuate, I know that insecurity and pain drive these. Whether these patterns are conscious or unconscious, my current best response is love with a firm “no.” 


With love, Jordan


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