Orloff, a board-certified psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, explores the transformative powers of letting go in The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life.
How did you come to this idea of “surrender”?
I tend to be a control freak and workaholic; I wanted to find a balance so I could have more joy in my life. There’s more to life than just pushing, working, and taking care of your to-do list; a sense of bliss and ecstasy that can be part of everyday life. Surrender is a way to drop into the moment, to savor and appreciate what you have. In the process of writing this book, I had to evaluate my entire life. I opened myself up to the experience at every level, so things started to change. I had to give up the place I loved so much and begin a journey elsewhere. It’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I felt stuck in a very big comfort zone. It was the start of many changes in my life.
What do you believe keeps most people from surrendering?
People think surrender won’t work because they feel that if they’re not pushing, controlling, and taking charge that everything will fall apart. Or they think that surrender is a sign of weakness, of defeat. But it’s not. It’s like a secret weapon. Simply surrendering the need to be right all the time can save a relationship. The bottom line is that you can’t control everything—and that’s hard for people. The balance is knowing what you can control and knowing when to let go. It’s not just surrendering all the time. It’s understanding when to go back and forth between surrender and control.
How did you choose the 12 surrenders that you cover in your book?
What I’m trying to get across is that the priorities are love, service, fun, and health. You can have all the money in the world and it’s not going to make you happy. That’s what’s so mind-boggling to people, because they think it will. They have to surrender the old ideas that x, y, or z on the outside is going to make them happy.
Which type of surrender do you think people have the most problems with?
Illness, because there’s so much pain and discomfort and torment that can happen. It’s very hard for people to relax through it. But any kind of resistance to pain will only make it worse. Any kind of self-loathing for the body will only make it worse. It’s really a radical surrender when people are initiated into illness.
Do you feel that people are more open to intuition and complementary medicine today?
It’s a different world. Now, complementary medicine is so prevalent. The people who might have the most resistance to this are people who feel that letting go of anything is purposeless. But I would hope that they would give it a try. They don’t know that spirit of ecstasy, and they don’t think they’re capable of it. But they are. When you sleep, you have to surrender. When you have a big belly laugh, you surrender. You have to let go when you have an orgasm, or it won’t work. And the same is true of life.