What Psychiatrists Say You Need To Know About The Word “Can’t”

No Excuses

Can’t and Won’t. We all need to be very careful which one we choose. It seems that we prefer to use can’t.

  • “I can’t get along with my wife.”
  • “My husband and I can’t communicate.”
  • “I can’t discipline the kids like I should.”
  • “I just can’t stop smoking.”
  • “I can’t stop overeating.”
  • “I can’t find the time to workout.”
  • “I can’t quit _______.” (Fill in the blank)


Anyone who takes an honest approach will have to confess the word really should be won’t.

One of the best books you can read on overcoming depression is a fantastic work by two psychiatrists, Frank Minirth and Paul Meier. The volume is appropriately entitled, Happiness Is a Choice.

“As psychiatrists we cringe whenever patients use the word can’t…Any good psychiatrist knows that ‘I can’t’ and ‘I’ve tried’ are merely lame excuses. We insist our patients be honest with themselves and use language that empresses the reality of the situation. So we have our patients change their cant’s to wont’s…If an individual changes all his cant’s to wont’s, he stops avoiding the truth, quits deceiving himself, and starts living in reality…”

Look at the difference:

  • “I just won’t get along with my wife.”
  • “My husband and I won’t communicate.”
  • “I won’t discipline the kids like I should.”
  • “I just won’t stop smoking.”
  • “I won’t stop overeating”
  • “I won’t find the time to workout.”
  • “I won’t quit_______.”

It’s time to face the truth friends…


It’s time to own up to our wont’s and take action.

Don’t fall victim to the “can’t” trap.

The sooner we are willing to own up realistically to our responsibility and stop playing the blame game at pity parties for ourselves, the more we’ll learn and change and the less we’ll burn and blame.


Excuses quote




  • Miranda

    Reply Reply

    Use of the word “can’t” is banned in my house! (And yes, I trained as a psychiatrist before I left medicine to have kids!) Instead, we teach our daughters to say “I’m learning how to…”. This has gone a long way to reducing frustration with the oldest (almost 6).

  • That’s great! I love the idea of using “I’m learning how to…” instead. I may have to steal that one for my daughter. Thanks so much for chiming in!

  • Cathie

    Reply Reply

    My Dad never let us use the word “Can’t”. He always said there is such word as Can’t!!!!!!! He didn’t explain what else to put in there, just that we could do anything!!! I grew up believeing that!! And am teaching it to my kids! What would you say though to a 4 year old that says, I can’t reach the swing or I can’t pick up my toys i’m too tired? I say to him. Don’t say can’t, say I will try. And if you have tried and need help, ask for it. So now, most the time, he tries something, (doesn’t say I can’t) and then if I really can’t do it, like reach the swing, he askes for help and I say I’d love to help you since you tried first. Is there a better way to say it??

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