Learning to Give In (But Not Give Up) | The BridgeMaker

Learning to Give In (But Not Give Up)

By on Apr 04, 2012

Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. – Lao Tzu

Have you ever played with a Chinese finger puzzle?

You stick your index fingers into the ends of the little, paper-made accordion-like contraption and then the real puzzle begins – how do you get your fingers back out?

If you’re like most people, you begin to pull your fingers out of the openings only to find that the puzzle grips you even tighter.

“More force,” you naturally think to yourself and you pull harder. Now it has a strangle-hold on your fingers.

At this point, you’re thinking how ridiculous this is. It’s just a little tube made out of paper; how can it hold you so tight? Yet all of your struggling and resisting is in vain. The Chinese finger puzzle has you as its prisoner.

Finally, the person who handed you the puzzle smiles, approaches you and gently pushes your fingers in toward each other. The ends of the tube widen and you are free.

Life in a Chinese Finger Puzzle

Isn’t this how life feels sometimes?

You find yourself in a tough situation and what do you do? You work against it, trying to get out. But the more you struggle to get yourself out of your predicament, the more entangled you get and the tighter it grabs you.

The problem?


You are stuck in an old pattern of fighting against your problem, resisting it and all it stands for. But what else is there to do when facing the puzzle of adversity?

The Chinese finger Puzzle gives us the answer: Give in.

Let’s be clear about one thing: giving in is not the same as giving up. To give up is to become a victim and feel powerless. Giving in is about going with the flow of events in your life, rather than struggling against them.

Let me give you an example: When my late partner, Ruth, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, we initially spent a lot of time and energy fighting against it. We resisted the idea that she had it, how serious it was, and the treatments that were meant to help her.

Finally, with the help of her wise, spiritual oncologist, we saw how resistance wasn’t getting either of us anywhere – we were still stuck in the puzzle. In fact, resistance was depleting the energy we needed to travel on this journey with cancer.

We made a conscious decision to not resist.

We did not give up and stop her treatment and wait for her to die. Instead, we gave in to the process. We envisioned the chemotherapy as healing drops entering her body. We began to look for the lessons along our path with cancer and soon saw them: the tremendous love surrounding us from friends, the new understanding of how old stressors really were small stuff, and the immense richness of living in the present moment.

Ruth was supposed to live for nine months after her diagnosis, statistics said. By learning to give in and not resist, she lived an astounding four years after the cancer was discovered.

But it wasn’t just the extra years that we valued. It was the joy, laughter, and peace which filled those years that made them full of meaning and love.

And we only experienced those years through not resisting where cancer was taking us.

3 Steps to Non-Resistance

We live in a society that promotes fighting your problems and resisting adversity. How can you learn the art of non-resistance? It may begin with becoming aware of the three steps to non-resistance:
1. Notice your own resistance
Oftentimes, you can feel resistance in your body. Are your shoulders tight? Your jaw clenched? Is your stomach upset? Become aware of how your body feels when it is relaxed and how it feels when you tighten up due to resistance and stress.

You might also notice emotions such as frustration, irritability, anxiety, and anger when you are resisting something. Learn to notice both how your body feels, and what your emotions are doing when you resist. Let those be markers for you to realize that you are struggling against of one life’s puzzles.

2. Give in
Just like moving your fingers toward each other in the Chinese finger puzzle, give in to the situation you are struggling with. Remember, this doesn’t mean to give up.

Open yourself to new opportunities that may be presenting themselves because of the problem you face. What lessons do you see that this problem is teaching you? While still addressing the problem, release your emotional resistance to it and see where it takes you.

One person I spoke with who had lost her job told me that she chose to take the opportunity to expand rather than contract and ended up learning a set of new life skills that were immensely rewarding for her.

What will your choice be?

3. Give thanks
Although your problem may still be in your life, notice the difference between resistance and non-resistance. See how easy it was to get out of the puzzle merely by giving in, rather than pulling and struggling so hard to get out.

Notice the energy you were losing through resistance and how much more life and vitality you have now.

Express gratitude to yourself and your higher being.

Congratulations, you are free from your puzzle-prison!

Bobbi Emel is a psychotherapist and writer. She blogs about resiliency and bouncing back in life at http://www.thebounceblog.com. Download her FREE ebook “Bounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs.”