Do you ever feel like you want to give up, like you are waging an uphill battle that you cannot win? Sometimes I do. Sometimes the world seems so dark and hopeless. It can feel like whatever I am facing is insurmountable and I am all alone.
Feelings like this can be scary. What can we possibly do when we feel hopeless? It can feel like nothing makes a difference and nothing matters.
In my experience, my body reflects what I am feeling. When I want to give up, my body feels heavy and weighed down, every small movement takes incredible effort and I have no energy for anything.
What can we do?
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the first thing we can do is to make room for our feelings. What does it mean "to make room" for what we're feeling? Well, to start, we can acknowledge that we feel like giving up. Once we notice those feelings are present, we can say to ourselves, "oh, I feel like giving up right now."
Part of making room for our feelings is to greet them in a gentle way, as if we are speaking to a small child who needs tenderness and care. This can take practice, especially if that is not the way we were treated as children. I encourage you to give it try and see how it feels.
Getting to know our "unwanted feelings"
The next thing we can do is to take the time to sit with our feelings. I mean this on an intimate and body level. Can you feel in your body where hopelessness lives? Where are the edges? Does it have a sound? A color? What would it be like to sit with the physical sensations that are present? Can you bring an energy of curiosity to your exploration?
If this seems silly to you, no big deal. If you want, you can suspend judgement for a few minutes and simply notice what you feel as you explore your experience. Alternatively, notice the part of you that feels silly or does not want to try this.
If you are feeling open and interested, you could even have a dialogue with your experience. You may be surprised by what comes up. Ask a question right into a feeling state, such as "wanting to give up," or into a physical sensation in your body. The question could be "do you have a message for me?" or "what do you need?" or whatever else you feel compelled to ask.
The idea is not to try to come up with an answer. Rather, sit and wait and listen and see what comes to you. For example, you may receive an answer in the form of an image, words, or a sensation. You may also receive no answer or it may come to you at some later point. This is an experiment and an exploration. There is no right or wrong answer. It is an opportunity to be with yourself in an intimate way and see what is there.
Feelings vs truth
Whatever you are feeling is simply that, a feeling. The nature of feelings is that they appear for a while and disappear again, flowing from one to the next. As adults, we often interrupt this process. We have learned that some feelings are better than others (and more socially acceptable) and we have all kinds of ways to hold on to what feels good and avoid what feels bad. The practice of befriending all of our feelings helps them move more freely within us.
Think of a small child who is upset and angry one minute and happy and playing the next. That is what it looks like when we let our emotions flow. I am not necessarily suggesting we as adults should throw tantrums in the supermarket. However, can you sense how free you might feel if you did? To me, it feels incredibly liberating. It can be enough to imagine the kid in you throwing a tantrum without having to actually do it outwardly.
In the case of feeling hopeless or like you want to give up, there may be an inner voice contributing to that feeling. I like to call this voice "The Defeater." It says things like, "What's the point? It's not going to work, anyway. You can't do it."
It is important to identify this voice. As convincing as it may seem and as tied to it as we may be, it does not speak the truth. It has an agenda that is all about bringing us down and defeating us. Being able to see and know it, helps us to detangle ourselves from it. We do not have to believe it.
Bringing love in
Remember when I said part of making room for our feelings is to greet them with care and tenderness? This is perhaps the single most important thing we can do. When we feel hopeless, we can imagine ourselves wrapped in a blanket of love. When we want to give up, we can picture ourselves resting in a meadow of wildflowers or floating in a stream, held by the earth or held by the water.