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  • Writer's pictureRyan Wilson

Is giving up an option?

“This will either be my demise or it will catapult me towards a new life” – I hear variants of this weekly.

The problem is, the moment we give ourselves the option of the demise, we are setting ourselves up to fail. 

As humans we, take the path of least resistance whenever there is one as our default. It takes conscious effort not to. It is part of how we are built, we want to use the least amount of energy and effort to get what we want.

Suppose I decide I want to cycle from Halifax to Toronto and I’m trying to figure out how to give myself the best chance at success. I come up with two options:

  1. I tell myself, “I AM going to cycle to Toronto”, and I pack only enough supplies for food and camping.

  2. I tell myself, “I will do my best…I will try to ride my bike from Halifax to Toronto…but I will have someone driving a car along side me just in case I run into trouble”.

Under which conditions are do you think I’d be most likely to succeed? In the first instance I’ve really committed to my course of action and I don’t leave myself any safety nets. In the second instance, if I hit a patch of bad weather or get really tired, or any big challenges come up, I would be much more likely to give up on my dream for comfort, rest and ease, even if it is not what I really want.

It is similar with our mental health.

I had someone come in and tell me they only came because they like their Family Doc who wanted them to come, but that they are going to kill themselves on a particular day, at a particular time and there was nothing I could do about it.

I agreed, and explained that I am not actually in the business of stopping people from killing themselves, because no one but the person themself can control that, and when someone is determined to die, they usually find a way despite even being under 24h surveillance. I emphasized, however, that I am in the business of helping people create lives they are excited to live. We talked about why he no longer wanted to live and discovered suicide seemed to be a permanent solution to what may be a temporary problem if he was willing to try therapy and medication, which he had never done before.

We agreed we would work together, but only on one condition…suicide had to be completely off the table for the time we were working together (he decided on 1 yr), so he gave himself an honest chance to really commit to the work we were doing together. He didn’t want to give himself any option to tap out when things got uncomfortable as he faced all the reasons and emotions behind why he was so unhappy in his life.

I am happy to say he is still doing well several years later.

Here is the moral of the story, when we decide there is something worth fighting for, giving up can not be an option.

The example I gave used suicide as the tapping out, but we tap out in many ways: drinking, drugs, excessive working, detaching, isolating, spending all our time wishing for something different and fantasizing and never taking action, avoiding, shopping, eating etc. We all tap out sometimes, the concern is when we are doing it a lot of the time or when it is done at the expense of living the life we want.

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