Most of us want to give up on something we hold deeply important. We’ve tried to “follow our dreams” and have fallen short one too many times. We want to turn to a boring but safe job. We tried to get sober for the tenth time and have given in again to the voice that says, “You’re never gonna get it, go get a fifth of vodka.” We have tried to get the weight off but keep finding ourselves eating at midnight. We have tried to write the book, the song, the play - but can’t get past our “writers block.” Someone is on their second divorce and has decided Netflix and beer are a better alternative than trying to be with someone again. We could have tried to invest but kept losing money so we became tight fisted and small with our dollars. I once talked to a man at a garage sale about how I was learning to meditate. He smiled and said, “Yeah, I used to meditate. I like TV now.” Then there’s suicide - the ultimate giving up.
A voice in our head rings with some version of the same refrain in these situations - “Give up, you’re damaged: not good enough, not smart enough, not good looking enough, not educated enough, not loved enough . . . . It’s not worth it anymore.”
In our right mind we know giving up is playing small but that voice can be pretty convincing when we are down for the count. It’s not nearly as romantic to overcome self-doubt as it looks in the movies - it can be down right grueling. When we give up we are listening to a false, conditioned voice that pretends to be us, that pretends to know what it’s talking about, but that is actually a self-destructive voice we must all contend with in some area of our lives. Where did this voice come from? In psychology we talk about the conditioned, shadow voice as a result of childhood trauma, in the Bhagavad Gita its taught that we are all fighting a great internal battle, Christians say “the devil made me do it,” in Judaism its the Yetzer Hara, for some its simply “the ego.” However we want to view this voice of self- doubt we have to contend with it. No one gets through Earth school without it.
How to contend with the voice has many faces. We might just need someone to look us in the eyes and say, “I know how you feel, I feel the same way.” We might need someone to say, “You’re great. You can do it. I’ll hold your hand until you get there.” Anger can sometimes be helpful as a counter to the desire to give up. “I won’t live like this anymore!,” can take someone a long way. Medication can be in order if someone is on the precipice of doing harm to themselves. We might need to leverage the voice utilizing techniques such as Emotional Freedom Technique, Self-Compassion, Inner Child work, or Mindfulness.
When an author gets stuck and the voice of giving up is chanting, “This is the worse piece of crap anyone has ever written, you should just shelf it,” she can use the method of, “doing a pass.” That is, she can answer the voice with, “I’m just doing a pass on this book. This is far from the finished product, it's supposed to be bad in the beginning. I’ll do a lot of passes on it before its done.” Her answer to the voice of doubt can relieve her of the idea that the book needs to be perfect out of the gate - and thus give her the creative bandwidth to get on with it. Movie scripts can famously have twenty or thirty passes done on them before they are ready to shoot.
What if you were to use this method of giving it a pass when you were wanting to give up? “I did my first pass at sobriety, I have to do another one, and another until it sticks.” “I did my first pass at running a business. I might have to do a few more passes before one succeeds.” “I did my first pass on this song, it needs a lot more passes before it’s ready to record.” “I did my first pass at investing. I have more passes to go before an investment pays off.” Even, “I did my first pass at marriage, I’m ready for another one.”
If you’re really stuck and ready to give up, try saying to yourself, “I’m just doing a pass at this. I have all the passes I need to get it right.”
Click the picture below to see Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush give us some encouragement with their song, Don’t Give Up. (Elton John credits this song with helping him get through sobriety from drugs and alcohol. He had to do many passes at sobriety before he got clean.)