“Gift of Desperation or G.O.D.” A guest blog by Janet Surrey, PhD

Janet Surrey is a clinical psychologist and lecturer at the Harvard Medical School, she is a founding scholar and board member at the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, in Massachusetts. Dr. Surrey is a co-author of Women’s Growth in Connection and the Psychology of Peacemaking. She is co-editor of Mothering Against the Odds: Diverse Voices of Contemporary Mothers. Along with her husband, Stephen Bergman and Samuel Shem, she has co-authored the book “We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues between Men and Women”. Dr. Surrey is the author of numerous articles and papers. She has written and spoken widely on many topics, including gender issues, mother-daughter relationships, addictions, couples therapy, empathy, adoption, and peacemaking.

Janet was interviewed by Christopher Kennedy Lawford for Mr Lawford’s book “Moment of Clarity”. In this book Janet describes her moment of clarity and calls it her “gift of desperation” or G.O.D.

Who knows why those moments come when they do? Or why they come at all? It’s a mystery. I remember seeing this with an anorexic I was treating. She’d look in the mirror a billion times and saw herself as fat, and suddenly she looked in the mirror and saw she was thin, and everything changed. I’ll never forget that. I saw before me the mystery of that moment when something important gets reorganized, and it’s not under our control. It’s just a complete mystery, and it’s transformative. And it’s also truth.

That’s the gift of desperation. Where you are is so bad, you have nothing left to loose, so why not try recovery? People tell that it will be hard, but you can get through it. People try by their human example to show you that you can lose and you gain things beyond your wildest dreams.

When someone needs help, I tell them my story. I try to get them to talk with someone. If not me, then someone else. And I try to carry the message in a quiet way. It doesn’t always work, so I have to be very humble and not push. I have to find the right way to share and try to be sensitive, but not to expect much. Just trust you don’t know where the seeds are going.

And if it helps, I tell people not to worry about “God.” I mean I have so much trouble with the word God. So I think of it as G.O.D., the gift of desperation, because desperation brings us to the point where we can relate to the universe in a different way. It pushes us out of ourselves, makes us ask for help in a really fundamental way. Ask for help, and have something answer you. I don’t believe it’s a being, but I think you experience the aliveness of the universe in that moment.


Reprinted from:  Christopher Kennedy Lawford’s 2009 book, Moments of Clarity, published by Harper Collins Books, NYC, NY, this excerpt is found on page 97

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