To Quit or Not to Quit

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There are times when giving up seems to be the most sensible option. Smoking is known to be bad for your health, so it’s a good idea to stop. There’s no argument there.

Even so, deciding to quit may just be the start of a difficult time and all of us who have embarked on a plan involving any of the above know it’s not an easy task.

People who give up smoking sometimes complain of withdrawal effects, and it may take more than one or two attempts to abandon the nicotine habit even when we are fully aware of what it does to us. As Mark Twain pithily put it: “It’s easy to give up smoking, I’ve done it dozens of times.”

But, if we persevere, we know our health and bank balances will benefit so that’s an incentive to keep us going.

Similarly, those of us who decide we are eating or drinking too much may experience both physical and mental discomfort when first we decide to cut back. It’s all very well recognising what is the health option, but food and drink bring us pleasure, so we may argue against our better instincts, even when the experts advise us it’s for our own good.

But what about when the distinctions are not quite so clear cut? What about when we’ve agreed to do something and then decided it’s not for us after all? And what about if such a decision takes place in the glare of public interest – how does that work then?

The nights are drawing in and increased television viewing beckons – for me at any rate. There are the long pre-Christmas Saturday night dance viewings that I look forward to and the occasional round-the-world treats where I get to explore exotic locations from the comfort of my own sitting room.

I get invested – as do all of us who watch – in these series. I begin to connect with the characters, some of whom I don’t know at all, and I develop an interest in them individually, caring how they perform and how they get on with the process itself. The journey matters to me, as does the outcome. I urge them on with admiration and I enjoy the entertainment.

The problem comes when there’s an unexpected departure of a contender and there’s no explanation about what’s happened. Did they hurt themselves? Did they find it all too much? What went wrong? I may not have a right to know the finer details but I feel I have a right to be given more information than I am. If TV shows sell themselves to me as wanting to be part of my happy space, surely part of their contract is to keep me in the loop.

It’s November and this has happened twice already since the start of September. Two groups from two different shows – both of which I looked forward to – have disappeared from view, without any explanation. Not quite silence, but almost. It’s very discombobulating.

I wonder how carefully the pickers for these programmes check and prepare the contestants ahead of their signing. Is the person sufficiently committed to the process and do they suit the professional partner who is picked for them?

Or, if a member of another team bravely agrees to take part in a show involving strenuous physical exertion having sustained life-changing injuries, maybe someone should question whether too much is being asked of that person at the start. I, watching the show, learned at the beginning of the final part of the show that he and his partner had left because of a family emergency. Nothing more was said.

Both times, I felt confused, disappointed (and a little angry)  and worried for the physical – and mental – wellbeing of those who had vanished.

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Something similar sometimes happens when a client comes to see a therapist. They may have considered the decision thoughtfully, weighing up the pros and cons and concluding that is what would be good for them. Others are more impulsive and take the plunge quickly, not really having an idea of how the process might work and how they will react to it.

An experienced counsellor needs to talk through why a potential client wants to come and see you, to ensure it’s the right decision for them. The counsellor is likely to point out it is not an easy process and there may be some times when the client feels like giving up. They may feel it’s just too painful to bear.

Ironically, it’s during this time that so much of the progress within the counselling room can be made. If we can help our clients to dig that bit deeper and to stay and examine what’s behind the level of discomfort or pain, things do get better.

Returning to my TV conundrum, I feel doubly sad when contestants drop out of “entertainment” shows with no real explanation. I hope those who have abruptly disappeared from my screen are okay and managing and I feel sorry that I don’t know the end of that story.

Singer Gareth Gates has recently come out on top of the reality show Who Dares Win (can’t watch it, it’s too grim for me) and told of his delight that he had come first, after losing out to Will Young in the Pop Idol final of 2002. He’s had – and is having – a very successful career but it seems that loss has almost haunted him from the beginning. Twenty-one years later, he’s finally let it go.

As a fan of the 90s sitcom Friends, I am mourning the sad death of Matthew Perry who knocked a bit of the saccharine out of the series with his sarcastic and witty performance as Chandler Bing.

He openly talked about the troubles and turmoil of his life and how he continued to work to overcome them, even when life seemed at its most bleak. His friends said he was in a “good place” at the time of his too-early passing.

The last song played at his funeral was written by by Peter Gabriel and features the beautiful and soul-touching voice of Kate Bush. Don’t Give Up. That says it all really.