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The Resistance

“What is happiness?  The feeling that power increases – that resistance is being overcome.”  ~Friedrich Nietzche

We all have it from time to time, the need to resist what “is.”  Some of us have more resistance than others. We can often have resistance in some areas and not others.  Resistance is very often coming from ourselves and our emotions.  It looks more or less like living in a state of denial on a particular topic.  Maybe it’s a lover who won’t give up on her love even though he doesn’t treat her right, or a person who refuses to acknowledge the negative impact that their job is having on their personal life.  Most of the time resistance is an unconscious defense mechanism rather than an intentional plan.

Resistance can come to us for many different reasons; fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being hurt, fear of losing something important to you, as well as countless other reasons. But it is fear and an inability to deal with the truth that is at the heart of the issue.  It’s the idea that whatever we’re resisting is so big that we don’t feel we can handle the changes necessary to deal with the problem, because our ego won’t allow it.

What we resist must persist.

I know that I’ve had my fair share of times when I was unwilling to accept the truth about something. And let me tell you, the more I fought it the more miserable I was.  Resistance and misery tend to go hand-in-hand.  Sometimes it’s a dull unhappiness. Other times it’s an out-and-out pain fest.  We cannot accept what is, so we fight it.  This usually leads to anger, frustration, hurt and an extended period of time being stuck in a place that feels really bad.  It’s ironic really, we resist to avoid feeling the pain or other negative feelings that we don’t want to feel, yet it’s the very act of resisting that exposes us over and over again to feelings that are negative.  The truth is, we aren’t able to save ourselves from pain.  Just as happiness is part of the journey of life, so is pain.  What we can do is move through hard times with our eyes open. We can stop resisting and surrender to what is.  It’s only then that we begin to move forward through the fear and pain.  Yes, this can be scary and painful, but movement is the beginning of growth.  We must walk through the hard stuff to get to the other side.

I’m thinking of the analogy of someone standing on broken glass.  If you resist the fact that you’re in pain or standing in a dangerous place you might be able to talk yourself out of the pain, to some extent. However, you’ll continue to live with mild to moderate discomfort until you take the chance and walk through the glass.  There is no question, walking through broken glass is painful and scary.  You’ll probably experience more pain while walking through the shards, but on the other side you’ll be out of it and ready to heal.  The pain and fear will either go away or leave a scar as a reminder of the fear and pain you felt, and then you can put on comfortable shoes to protect your feet in the future.  No relief can happen until you take the leap and face the truth of the situation.

Getting through something that you’re resisting is always challenging, but how you think about it can impact how hard it is for you.  Here are some tips for overcoming resistance:

1. Observation – I really like Buddhist thinking around coping with negative emotions.  The idea is that you observe your emotions rather than become your emotions.  This is much easier said than done, but if you practice this technique you become better at it.

2. Awareness – As you become more aware of times when your ego is resisting something, you can start to see a time of resistance as an opportunity for change.  When we can see what is in front of us, we can make choices rather than blindly making knee-jerk reactions.

3. Expectations – Expect that you will have resistance in your life.  We all have resistance to something and a certain amount of resistance is good, in fact necessary.  The need to resist hurting others – this is good resistance, but know that sometimes you will discover that your avoidance of something is hurting you or interfering with your growth.  Know that you are like all of us; human, imperfect, learning, growing and becoming more awesome by the day.

All too often our thoughts and reactions are our biggest obstacles to the awesome that is awaiting us on the other side. I know dealing with resistance is really hard work, let’s not pretend anything different.  The alternative, however, is to remain stuck in a place that isn’t working.  What will you choose?  Will you deny the discomfort you feel from standing on broken glass or will you walk out of it and into a life that feels better to you?

As we get better at the practice of shifting our resistance, we open ourselves up to real change and the amazing opportunities that await us!  Wishing everyone a little movement with your own levels of resistance!  Good luck!

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