No, I don’t mean that kind of giving up.
As hopeless as you may feel right now, suicide is never the answer. It’s a waste of precious human potential and leaves a legacy of scars for those left behind.
I’m talking about surrender. I’m talking about yielding the ego’s vain attempts to control every piece and parcel of your existence. I’m talking about giving up the exhausting effort to fix what you believe is wrong with you. All of that work is only making things worse.
Give it up, let it all go, and feel the power of surrender.
I speak from experience. In 2005 I was at the end of my rope. I had been majorly depressed for four long, grueling years. I dwelled in a daily darkness in which no light, no ray of pleasure could penetrate. No one ever worked harder at getting better than I did. I was the Jack Lalanne of self-improvement. You name it, I had tried it. More than twenty different psychotropic meds. Twice-weekly cognitive behavioral therapy sessions with my therapist. Dozens of books. Expensive self-help programs bought over the Internet.
When traditional approaches didn’t work, I tried alternative therapies. Meditation. Hypnosis. Reiki. Massage. Homeopathic medicines. I signed up for an experimental depression trial at the University of Pennsylvania. Twice a week I went into Philadelphia to sit in a chair while magnetic pulses were delivered to my brain.
Nada. Nothing broke through the mile-deep wall of my agitated depression.
This was my second bout of major depression, and after twenty-plus years of wrestling with the beast of anxiety and depression, I was utterly consumed with ridding myself of my demons once and for all. At work, I spent hours searching the deep Web for some new program or approach that could help me. It had to be out there. It had to be.
The more I worked at getting better, the worse I felt. I didn’t understand, at the time, the way the mind works. Whatever you focus on grows.
If you remember nothing else right now, remember that. Whatever you focus on grows, and whatever you resist persists.
The human brain is an incredibly powerful problem-solving computer, but it is unable to process negatives in its command strings. So when you tell it that you do not want something, it filters out the word “not” and magically delivers to your inbox more of the thing that you don’t want.
How much you get of what you don’t want is a function of the intensity and urgency of your requests to your brain. The more you focus on what you don’t want, the more you get what you don’t want.
So by spending my waking hours searching for a solution to not being depressed and anxious, I was actually making myself worse. Every shovel full of dirt I dug in the pit of my despair was only burying me deeper, because I was focusing on what I did not want.
I remember the moment I started my recovery. It was a winter evening, dark and cold outside. I had just left work after somehow surviving another grueling day at the office and I was sitting in my car, thinking about headlong into a local quarry.
The prospect of killing myself terrified me. I did not want to die. I wanted nothing more than to live, but it seemed there was no alternative now. My exhausted brain was spent. It had tried literally everything over the past four years to solve this problem for me and now the only solution it could come up with was self-annihilation.
I sat in that cold car, imagining myself driving to the quarry, busting through the fence, and plunging headlong to oblivion. All I needed to do was start the car and go over there. But I couldn’t do it.
So I gave up. I laid back on the headrest and yielded the struggle. Take me God, I remember thinking. You’ll have to take me because I can’t do it myself.
I felt at that moment an immense relief, as if a burden of responsibility had been lifted from me. I didn’t have to work at this anymore. I didn’t have to try, because there was nothing left to try.
When you’ve been experiencing nothing but mental agony for four years, relief feels wonderful. In surrendering, I had opened up a tiny window of light in my inner darkness.
Without trying (of course!), I had discovered the first key to peace: acceptance. The other two keys, understanding and gratitude, would soon follow.
I was on the road to peace.
You can start back on that road too. Today. Give up trying to fix yourself. Give up thinking that there is something wrong with you, because there isn’t. You don’t need to change a thing about yourself other than where you place your focus.
Give it over. Raise the white flag. Decide, right now, to accept yourself, unconditionally, just as you are.
Give up the fight and feel the power of surrender.