There's Nothing Left to Do But Die: Why Overcoming is a Superpower

A friend of mine shared the most remarkable insight with me the other day. Over the course of months, we’d been discussing his experiences of growing up in an abusive home. This led up to the bombshell words I couldn’t forget.

“You get to a point where there’s nothing left to do but die.”

My friend had it pretty bad; first his mother abused him while he was in the womb by drinking. When he was a kid, he was beat with sticks and closed fists by his dad. By the age of 12 he was supporting his family financially with hard labor. This hurt, as he watched his peers learn and grow together he was hustling for money.
Even with all the pain of growing up this way, he sought the approval of his parents, and from a young age he did this through his work. He was known to do the work of 4 adult men. As he grew up, he got a great job in a stable environment earning 6 figures by his early 20s. Even with that great job, something drove him back and he ended up working with his parents in business again, dragging them from a small, two-man operation up to a sizable business with 10+ full time staff.
Eventually, his parents pissed away the business, and even then they blamed him for the missing money and finally paid him the ultimate insult by telling him they never wanted to see him again.
They gave him shit and abuse for his whole life, and to this day, he’s struggling to be free of them.
The Words I Couldn’t Forget
After learning his story over the course of months, he shared his extraordinary insight. He said that  being as low as he’d been, after being kicked in the teeth enough times, after having enough dirt rubbed in his face, that at that low point, “There’s nothing left to do but die.”
These words have been stuck in my head ever since, and I’ve been thinking them over and over. In the conversation we had that day we had both noticed that he had developed something very much like a powerful intuition — a kind of superpower.
He operates on gut feeling a lot of the time. He trusts or doesn’t trust people based on these feelings. More often than not his gut feeling is correct. We agreed that this trait is prevalent in other friends with similar family histories. But, I kept thinking about his words.
What I Think It Means
Being abused takes you to a place you never want to go. When alone in those moments, you can very well imagine the option of death. “There is nothing left to do but die,” is an expression of that desperation. Dying is almost logical when you feel so destroyed. But it can also make you take another path. Through perseverance and effort you can eventually choose to say, “Fuck it. I don’t care what’s expected of me. I’m creating my own path.”
The truth is that there is nothing left to do but die or be reborn.
The Path My Friend Chose
The reason I even know this friend is because he chose to be reborn many times. He chose to do things that most would consider impossible. He chose to grow, change, and be better than the sum of his life experience. He chose to make a generational change and not do as his circumstances suggest he should. He chose to inspire and support. It’s a remarkable decision, and I believe one that some of the greatest among us have made.
The Saddest Path
My maternal grandfather chose death, in fact, he chose literal death by suicide. The overwhelm and fear ruled him. Unlike my friend he could not escape.
I don’t fault him. He did the best he could at the time.
Other Kinds of Death
Suicide is the extreme example, but I believe countless others are dying every single day. For example:
1) People who stay in shitty jobs or businesses they despise. It’s like taking a small dose of death every day. How do you bounce back from the insult that 5 of every 7 days brings you? Easy. You drink, drug, or medicate yourself through. You dream of escape to get out of your horrible position.
Always waiting for the weekend or the next holiday but always wanting out. Staying in a job or business you detest with no exit plan means choosing a slow death.
2) People who stay in relationships they detest. Imagine the double whammy for the ones who also hate their job. Staying in a relationship you hate is choosing death.
3) People who treat performance as their alleviation to the pain they feel. Many people have the intense desire to perform, even at the cost of their loved ones, their friendships, and their health. Unfortunately, the emptiness of this beyond-natural desire to perform will never lead to fulfillment. It will always be a slow death.
Be Reborn
Please note: I don’t believe you have to experience the kind of pain my friend felt in order to be reborn. I think many, many, many people feel significant pain, and it comes from different places. The question is this: when will the pain be bad enough for you to be reborn? If you’ve already been there, you’ll know what the other side looks like. I commend you, and I appreciate you. If you’re going there, I support you, and I know you can do it.  Don’t choose to death, whether slow or fast.
Choose life. Choose your second birth.
Read Zander’s previous article on ManTalks, “The Five Key Steps to Editing Your Life Story.” Or listen to him talk about story on the ManTalks podcast.
Zander Robertson is editor-in-chief of the ManTalks blog and has ghostwritten more than 20 zander-robertson-1books for major publishing houses and self publishers. Zander believes that the world turns on powerful, raw, and true stories. Read Zander’s article to begin understanding and owning your story, and email him at [email protected] to pitch your article idea for ManTalks.
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