The Path from Acquiescence to Surrender

They may be similar in action. But in intent, they could hardly be more distant. An entire life journey can be taken on the road from one to the other.


Acquiescence: Being a victim at the mercy of your environment. Having gone limp and being carried by the tide.

  • powerlessness — unwillingness to acknowledge or exercise power
  • resignation
  • learned helplessness

Boundaries: saying no — the first act of having a defined shape. Other markers:

  • “recovery” programs
  • non-violent communication
  • “self help”
  • “healing” as a focus

Independence: letting go of a dependency. May involve ending, dismantling or severing something, for example:

  • a dead-end or golden-handcuffs job
  • an abusive or codependent relationship
  • a behavior pattern based in powerlessness or dependence
  • emotional addiction

Agency: re-discovering your own capability.

  • personal responsibility replaces blame and victimhood
  • cultivation of self-reliance
  • exercise of power
  • deliberately choosing how to feel and act
  • careful selectivity of engagement

Solidity: confronting that you are still you regardless of which direction you take.

  • A shift from external to internal focus
  • Access to the core part of you that is not changed by circumstances
  • Complete re-evaluation and rewriting of past experiences
  • Reconciliation and re-connection
  • A sense of wholeness / completeness within oneself
  • Emotional freedom
  • A shift from the outcome to the process, from results to ways of being

Play: remembering the game of it — having the freedom to choose any option and take it on as a game to be played.

  • Volitional emotional play replaces triggered reactivity
  • Broad emotional range — intense passionate emotions aren’t harmful and are invited back in
  • Easy connection with a broad range of people
  • Experience of happiness and flow in a broad range of circumstances
  • Ability to switch hats or exchange roles with someone
  • Shift of focus from healing / recovery to potential, possibility, play, and going from good to better
  • Actions are generative, not threat-avoidant
  • Saying Yes
  • Deeper, richer engagement, but less attachment

Surrender: no real need for boundaries. You are not fundamentally at risk in the world.

  • Humble confidence
  • Can concede, apologize, change directions, support others, etc. without any sense of loss
  • Unshakable power, sourced from within
  • The capacity to get behind a leader, to act in a supporting role
  • Allowing someone who’s new or learning to take the lead
  • Recognition of others’ inherent rightness
  • Others’ greatness is not a threat to self
  • Complete surrender to a lover; relinquishing control
  • Devotion as an elevated or sublime state

What is the difference between acquiescence and surrender? And which are you engaged in?

Let’s say that one feels like defeat in a battle with another — like submitting to an opponent in a fighting ring.

The other feels like triumph in an internal struggle — like the dedication of a devout to their practice, beliefs, or God. This is the sense in which I mean the word “surrender.”

They may be similar in action. But in intent, they could hardly be more distant. An entire life journey can be taken on the road from one to the other.

The sequence above is very common. Whole books have been written about each step here. But it can be helpful to zoom out to see your current location in the bigger picture.

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