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The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life

Surrendering to a simpler life can be frightening or stressful — even inconceivable. 

Consider an average day. Multitasking and over-performing are more a requisite than an ideal, as is maintaining competitive advantages just so you can pay your rent. Competition is everywhere we look, in fact, making it seem almost reckless, at least counter-intuitive, to stop trying. Happiness, wealth, success. How can you even consider slowing down? 

Yet according to doctor Judith Orloff, we must step back and acknowledge the value of emotional freedom. Then we can start to see surrendering as the route to a more meaningful life.

No matter how you get through the 432 pages of Orloff’s Ecstasy of Surrender — reading word for word, flipping through chapters, or skimming until some idea stops you in your tracks — you’ll learn new, hopefully life-changing ways to revel in moments that used to seem mere flights of fancy.

First, Orloff’s interpretation of surrender:

Contrary to common stereotypes that equate surrender with weakness, I’m presenting it as a way to gain mastery of your life, not give up power. Surrender doesn’t mean always saying yes to everything — this can be danger and unwise — but it does mean going fully with a decision even if it makes you withdraw from someone or say no to an anger or fear.

She continues, explaining that by “knowing when to assert yourself and when to let go, you’re actually taking back control of your life. Plus you get more of your needs met by being a smarter communicator.”

In other words, to surrender is to gain, not lose, power. 

Because we are such a high-performing, success-conditioned work force, Orloff posits, the idea of letting go occurs to us slowly over time, and in four different ways. According to Orloff, there is intellectual surrender, where we learn to not fight our own mind; emotional surrender, where we allow ourselves to feel and observe our emotions and release any resentments; physical or sensual surrender, where we breathe to counteract stiffness and stress, or walk or just gaze at the moon to remember that we are “surrounded by a natural universe;” and spiritual surrender, where we know we’re not alone and start to open up to a “compassion force” greater than ourselves.

Orloff’s own motivation for surrendering, she writes, was her mother’s imminent death. “Acknowledging death lets you live fully in every moment and love every person as if each encounter were your last,” she writes, echoing what many others have said before her. “Then there won’t always be a part of us holding back with our intimates, with our work, or with ourselves.”

Crises, or big steps, are also fierce motivators. “Changing jobs, beginning a new relationship, and simply remembering to exhale before a meeting are all chance to let go and surrender to new adventures,” Orloff writes.

Here is a how-to book about making your journey as life-affirming, realistic, grounded, and meaningful as is possible. Orloff gives the kind of helpful strategies you can underline or pin to your mirror. And even when she doesn’t have the answers, she provides satisfying comfort.

Finally, while the goals of empowerment and surrender may sound incongruent, Orloff makes them a natural combination. Letting go is indeed gaining power and the ability to enjoy life. This is a book I know I will keep coming back to — and that can help you redefine success on your terms.

The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life

Harmony Books (an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group), April 2014

Hardcover, 432 pages


The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life

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Jan Stone

APA Reference
Stone, J. (2016). The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 May 2016
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 May 2016
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