Ask Golden Willow

Surrender: An important and difficult task in healing


Dear Ted: The other day you gave a talk about addiction and grief pertaining to the loved ones within the family. I have been thinking about this topic as the family members are rarely discussed when someone is talking about addiction. Usually only the addict is discussed which negates so many factors within the wild ride of addiction. I also saw how this might not only fit to addiction, but many areas of life where someone does not have the control over something or someone. What are your thoughts? Thanks, Tony

Dear Tony: Your comments are accurate and the topic you bring up is multi-faceted and complex but needs to be discussed more often. When you feel that someone is behaving in a way that causes you stress or discomfort, it is easy to become angry and demand that they change so that your emotional world can settle and feel at ease. A lot of focus can go towards the behaviors of others that you feel are detrimental to themselves or to you. It can be difficult that you do not get to change the behaviors of others and lack power over their behaviors. What you do have power over is what boundaries you set for yourself in what is allowable for your well-being.

If behaviors of others are abusive to you, you can empower yourself to decide what you can live with and what you cannot, rather than demanding the other person change. Al-Anon has a saying that can be very helpful when trying to run someone else's life. This saying is rather simple: "I can't cure it. I can't control it. And I didn't cause it." This may allow you to surrender to the fact that each person is responsible for their own emotions and behaviors.

If you find you are spending more time and energy worrying about someone, or trying to control them, rather than your health, you are caught in a co-dependent trap from which only you can free yourself. Learning how to surrender to the fact that people are not going to behave the way you want them to can free up enormous amounts of energy and free yourself from irritation and frustration. When you feel this irritation, usually you are caught in that place where you are demanding someone change so that you can feel better. The key is communication, being clear and consistent with your own boundaries, and stating your needs, wants and concerns while not demanding that someone else change.

You have the power to work on your own emotional well-being and in surrendering from trying to change others, your clarity and consistency with healthy boundaries may allow others around you to interact with you in a way that serves you as well as others. Even though this is so difficult, remembering that your well-being comes first will help you navigate what actions to take as well as surrendering and letting go of the anger at someone not doing things your way.

Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Ted Wiard, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat at (575) 776-2024 or

This column strives to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.