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  • Derek Carlson

It's OK to Give Up

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

I feel the urge to write this for all those who have given up and may be in a state of hopelessness and despair because they have given up.


Let me declare this:


It’s OK to have given up, to be in a state of being "given up".


And this:


All is not lost because you have given up.


And this:

Being given up, hopeless, and despairing is a sacred part of the path.


I say this not to get you to give up having given up.


I say this because it is the truth.


And this is how I came to this understanding…


I have been in a state of “given up” for months or years at a time, with no hope inside and none on the horizon. This has actually happened over and over on my five decade journey along a path of emotional, and therefore spiritual, healing.


I want to provide an alternative perspective of acceptance on having given up because there are quite a few well known aphorisms about the virtues not giving up, but far fewer about the virtues of giving up; and the virtues of giving up are often exactly what’s needed.


But first, let’s take a moment to beat the “never give up” drum:


Never give up!

You can always give up, so why give up now?

The only time failure matters is the last time you try.

Don’t give up before the miracle occurs.

You’re only 3 feet from gold.

You’re always falling forwards.

It’s always darkest before the dawn. Don’t give up.


And of course this one that everyone’s seen and probably chuckled at:



These “never give up” adages clearly are intended to encourage and strengthen, to fan the fires of perseverance and determination. And they are powerful and effective tools – when those are the tools for the job.


But when I’ve been in a hopeless “given up” state, I just have used those concepts, those phrases, those ideas – those tools – to further destroy myself, gut my hope, invalidate my will, and plummet my self-esteem.


They’ve been the wrong tools for the wrong job, wielded foolishly against me in my ignorance, and to great detriment.


So here are some alternative ideas, some additional tools that might help instead of hurt.


It’s OK to give up.

You’re going to give up over and over again. Welcome it as part of the journey.


A lot of these ideas dovetail with and complement the idea of surrender. Plenty of stories exist where famous authors (Ayn Rand and Henry David Thorough are two that come to mind) have shopped their manuscript to umpteen publishers for years before they finally got their now famous work published.


And that’s great, in that realm and in those situations.


But there are many situations, especially along the path of spiritual evolution – the evolution of ideas and beliefs – where force, perseverance, determination, stick-to-it-iveness, and being-your-word-no-excuses are not the answer, not the useful mindset, not the key-that-cracks-the-code, and not the tool for the job.


Many times, Love in the forms of surrender, listening, exploration, honoring, and allowing are the tools for the job.


So if you’ve given up and have no hope, it might be time to just honor that psychological state and allow it to be (which isn’t easy, because it’s so dark and painful that the last thing you want to do is allow it to be).


But, paradoxically, infinite patience leads to instantaneous change. Put another way, allowing an energetic state to be, which means surrounding it with love, infuses it with the Light that dissolves it.


It is not: “If you love it, let it go.”


It is: “Loving it lets it go.”


And conversely, the cliché self-development phrase “what you resist persists” also pertains to resisting having given up.


Tell this state of "hopelessness and having given up" that you see it, that you love it, that it’s OK to be. Ask it to really tell you what it’s feeling, and listen with love to what it says.

Many of you know this, but it was news to me: Yes, you can literally communicate with and talk to “things” like an emotional state of “having given up” as if they were separate personalities, like scared and wounded children that need love and acceptance. There are a handful of techniques for this type of Gestalt therapy.


One that I like is writing my question down in a journal with my dominant hand (the right one for me), and then allowing the “state” to respond to me by writing with my left hand whatever answers and thoughts pop into my mind in response. An even more powerful process is known as Identity Development Sessions, where other people literally embody disowned aspects of your psyche and you can see how those aspects are feeling and talk to them directly.


Ultimately, it’s all about loving communication.


There definitely is an art to healing and art to progressing along the path. There’s the time for male energy that may include doing, perhaps even forcing and aggression; and then there’s the time for feminine energy of surrender, allowing, accepting, nurturing.

If you’ve given up, it’s quite possible that the chord to play at this place in the composition is loving acceptance.


As a bit of an aside, for 18 years I’ve been trying to learn the art of forgiveness using a spiritual guidebook known as A Course In Miracles. Along with a lengthy text, it contains 365 spiritual mind-training lessons, one to be taken on each day for a year. I’ve tried to complete the course 4 times now over those 18 years. The first time I got 35 lessons in and gave up. The second time I got 63 lessons in. The third time I got 67 lessons in. This fourth time I got 120 lessons in. And I have given up every time, sometimes for years at a time.


But I’m realizing that there’s an art to this, a timing, and an ebb and flow. The Course even says on page 625: “And if you find resistance strong and dedication weak, you are not ready. Do not fight yourself.”


Some of my giving up has also been in situations far more serious than just trying to learn a new way of thinking.


A while back I had a psychotic break which rendered me completely incapable of functioning. I was in such a psychological state of pain, fear, and madness that there was no hope at all. Only terror. And there was no question of “giving up or not giving up” – I was so overwhelmed that there was no way I could have tried to help myself. I felt as if I was thrown into torrential rapids in a river headed straight to hell; and I mean literal, eternal, psychological hell. Like stuck in one of the levels of hell in Dante’s inferno. Like lost soul hell.


The whole time this was going on, I was further tormented by this piece of new-age metaphysical information: The Law of Attraction: you get what you focus on; what you envision and imbue with emotion gets created in the ethers and then gets manifested in form later in time.


Or as Abraham Hicks would put it, “The better it gets, the better it gets; the worse it gets, the worse it gets.” It’s either an upward or downward spiral.


This was a horrific piece of information for me to be aware of in my state. Because I was unable to do anything but envision pain and torture and homelessness and hell, and because my emotional state was of such a low and dark vibration, I was clear that all of this was rocket-fuel for manifesting the hell that I was envisioning and fearing. I was certain I was on a steep downward spiral and terrified of how much worse things were going to get.


If any of you are in a similar state, let me give you some new information that will provide hope.


While we have all been taught this “boilerplate” understanding of The Law of Attraction, the way things work is actually far more complex and far more nuanced than we have been taught.


Here’s the nuance that I learned that saved my life:


Miracles do not honor the laws of physics, the laws of the Universe, and not even the Law of Attraction.


I have no idea how I survived in my tormented psychological state for a year and a half, but having lost everything, on the cusp of homelessness due to having no money, and still in quite the messed up psychological state, I stumbled upon a miracle job. Even though there were 50+ applicants, somehow I nailed the interview and somehow I got the job.


And here’s the thing: Not only did I get the job, but the environment was totally clean, healthy, and loving, and all the people I was working with were nice, loving, high-vibration people. It was the best work environment I had ever been a part of.


Now there’s simply no way, given my understanding of The Law of Attraction, that I could have been a vibrational match for this job, this environment, these people. No way in hell. They were such a high vibration. And I was such a deep, dark, tormented vibration. And I had been vibrating at that hellish level for a year and a half, 24/7/365. Surely, based on my understanding of The Law of Attraction, I must have been creating a horrible, homeless, painful future; there’s no way I could possibly have been creating this blessed situation.


So they say, “Don’t give up before the miracle happens.” But I completely and totally gave up before the miracle happened. And had been in a given up state for over a year.


And yet the miracle happened anyway.


How did such a positive turn of events get created if I didn’t create them consciously? How did I attract this when my vibrational point of attraction was that of death? I do not know. I do not yet have a model of metaphysical understanding that explains what happened.


But it did teach me this, and this I offer to all those who are reading this who are in a given up state of hopelessness and despair:


It’s OK to be given up. Miracles happen anyway, regardless of your emotional state or level of vibration. So take heart.


In this situation, as it turned out, I was still in a state of extreme psychological pain for another six months after I got the job. I have no idea how I did not get fired, as I couldn’t function while at work. And the pain got so bad that two years after the initial psychotic break I tried to commit suicide. Not because I hated myself, but because the pain was too great to endure.


Again, from my state of "given up" I attempted the ultimate “give up” in leaving this realm. Once again, my vibration was one of torment, pain, and death. Absolutely zero hope.


Then another miracle happened.


One Saturday morning shortly after my attempt I was just sitting on my couch and an odd energy swept over me. I got the intuitive hit to go find my A Course In Miracles book that was on a shelf in the closet that I hadn’t looked at in two years. So I did. And I started doing the exercises again. And as of that day, the particular horrific quality of experience – the dark energy that I was psychically swimming in that had led me to suicide – just went away.


And it’s been gone since then, which has been 10 months thus far.


Not only did it go away; in addition, the experience appears to have cracked through an invisible ceiling that was blocking tremendous creativity, as I’ve now become more creative than I ever have been in my entire life.


So for those dealing with the worst psychological pain imaginable, know that miracles – unexplained beneficial turns of events – still can and do happen, even if they’re not a vibrational match – especially if they’re not a vibrational match.


It’s OK to have given up. It’s OK to be in a state of given up.


It does not mean you are screwed. It does not mean you have to do better or try harder.


Hopelessness and despair are a part of the path, and it’s a sacred honor to work with them.


Paradoxically, there’s nothing hopeless about being hopeless. But you think there is.


Paradoxically, there’s nothing despairing about being in despair. But you think there is.


Do your best to be with, embrace, and accept those states.


Allow them to be as long as they want and need to be.


Know that being “given up,” despairing, and hopeless are just part of the process.


Learning to love and accept them is the key, ultimately.


But you don’t even need to learn any of that, either. If you had told me any of this while I was in the throes of pain, I doubt the information would have helped at all.


But miracles come upon you when you least expect them, when you least deserve them, and when you certainly haven’t created them.


So take heart in that too.

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