Is giving up on somebody the essence of human cowardice?

I am angry and I have an hour only. Let’s see if I can vent my anger with some speedblogging. What am I angry about? Today I met a young girl from the south of Holland, around 25. We got into a conversation and I explained a little bit about what I do for a living. Helping people finding their path, executive coaching, life coaching, whatever you want to call it. Then she tells me that she is a lost case. She has been given up by her psychiatrist. (Pause here…). Now continue reading…


I don’t even know where to start. What kind of professional can deny her the possibility of healing? This can only be somebody who has lost hope herself (the psychiatrist was a female in this case). It is sad enough that there are so many people stuck in depressing mind spaces but it seems to be part of the human deal and we have to move through them. But at least the psychiatrist should know what devastating effect her projections of her personal sense of inadequacy can have on her patients.

The idea that we are inadequate is a myth. But it is an extremely effective story that we keep telling each other. It is not true. We are already ok. As Marianne Williamson puts it:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

On the top of this screen you see a tickertape with cool spiritual quotes. They come from a book that I love, Shambala – the sacred path of the Warrior by the Tibetan master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Some people think they are pretentious but I love them, they are very true to me, they are guidelines. This is one of them:

“The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything.”

I know that I’m being naive when I secretly hold it for self evident that all psychiatrists, counselors, therapists and coaches know this. Every time I’m confronted with the opposite I feel huge indignation. I feels like having traitors amongst us, as if the nurse who is supposed to take care of you is feeding you poison instead of medicine. No bigger crime than to breach the trust of somebody who come to you with their hearts in their hands.

If you are a coach or a shrink or whatever and you want to give up on somebody because you are in over your head tell your client or patient: “I give up”. Be honest. You have reached your limits. So what, we are all human and I guess it will happen to many of us. But don’t pass your own perceived inadequacy on to the one who has placed trust in you because you prefer to protect your self image. That makes you not only a coward, it makes you cruel.


  1. Marianne Young says

    I Know!! would you believe i’ve heard a story like this twice before??? it pisses me off totally, for if a therapist is unable to help a person, isn’t it his/her job to find someone who can? the two women who told me similar stories were desperate and thought they were not worth anything, which this st*pid therapist only confirmed!? I hope i made any sense to them when I expressed my anger and told them that at least they had had the courage to seek help, something these therapists clearly had not.

  2. JayT says

    My husband gave up on me, our marriage, and ultimately, his own integrity, when he left me while I was beginning to return to health after a long, wasting illness. For me it was a most cruel experience. For him, I am sure, some of his distress and agony lie in this choice he made.

    When I was a therapist, I ‘gave up’ on one potential client … because I did not have the clinical skills to safely mentor this person, who had a serious personality disorder. I referred this person on to someone I knew could expertly nagivate the therapeutic process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *