This is a great time to give up hope. So many things are in such dire straits in the world.
I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this, and as I start to write I hesitate, because they are half formed, too broad, not quite ready yet.
I can only write this piece in the spirit of someone who gave up- giving up trying to get better, smarter, clearer. Here, this is it, what I have got, now, raw, unpolished. It is a mix of the personal and the general. And there is only one message: give up. Giving up is like giving in is like letting go. No more trying. No more working so hard. No more fighting against the heaviness, the discomfort, the fear. Give up. Give in.
Giving up was the best thing I ever did in my marriage. For years and years we fought about this one thing. I tried everything. Eventually, after ten years of trying everything I could think of, I gave up. I lost hope. I knew it was never going to change. That was the moment that transformed our relationship. When I genuinely gave up. A space opened. I was not prodding anymore. There was a quiet where before I had desperately argued, pleaded, begged, fought, shouted, cried. And in that quiet something shifted.
There are a few central moments in my life when, against my best efforts, I was forced by external circumstances to give up. And each time it led to me having to confront very unpleasant, uncomfortable truths about myself. When I was 29 I broke my leg. It happened on a holiday, a honeymoon gift. It took months to heal. That was one of the hardest times in my life because I could not rush about, get things done. I was forced to slow down. To sit with my feelings. Especially the first couple of weeks, I was reliant on support. I hated it. I never felt so vulnerable in my life. And being witnessed and held and helped in that space created an intimacy between me and my husband that I had never before known. It was excruciating- and beautiful.
The first time I went for my final exams to become a psychotherapist I failed. I failed spectacularly. I failed thinking I was doing great. That was the problem. I was so good at doing and saying the right things, but part of me wasn’t there with it. I followed the shiny surface and avoided the discomfort. Not a great tendency in a psychotherapist. Failing doing the very thing I loved so deeply and had worked so hard to become proficient at was devastating. It tore me open and forced me to sit with the discomfort. It changed me, not just as a psychotherapist, but as a human being. I can’t think of any other way that would have led to me going to the places I went. Only failure got me there. I had to give up trying to 'pass', to get things right, in order to really become a facilitator.
Im still learning how to fail. Ironically part of me wants to fail better. I’m being more familiar with these parts, which means I don’t get stuck with them for as long.
I love supporting my clients to fail. To give up. To invite them to go to the very thing they may desperately want to run from; or to fix. It is like magic each time- I don’t know what will happen, but I do know that there are incredible gifts to be found in the very things we try desperately to cure or fix about ourselves. The heaviness. The stiffness. The rigidity. The brittleness. The hopelessness. The weakness. The death wish. In a session we can let go together. We die then and there. And notice what happens next. We discover what is so liberating in the space that it opens up. With a death wish, something does need to die. It might be the internalised harsh critic. Or the part that forces us to always push and never rest. It’s not a formula, it’s different each time. There is magic in the letting go. So much of the energy is often spent on avoiding, that the actual experience itself tends to be much smaller than assumed.
As activists we need this too I feel. It is such an engrained trope that we should “never give up”. We fear everything will fall apart if we do. Yet when individuals hit rock bottom, something new can happen. Heck we even do this with our computers- turn it off when it doesn’t work, and restart. I think collectively we require the same thing. How we live and what we do is not working. What would happen if we actually gave up? Gave in? Let go of an idea that we can fix this. And show up to the possibility that maybe we can’t. What if we allowed ourselves to feel the feelings, and slow down? I don’t know exactly what would happen but I do know that whatever would happen would be very different. Let’s give up. Let’s do it together.