One of my favorite books is The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.
In this book, Steven discusses how resistance is the primary force that keeps us from living our genius or Divine potential. He describes resistance as a repelling, negative force that keeps us from doing any number of worthwhile goals, pursuits, or positive activities such as starting or maintaining an exercise program, launching a new business, writing a book, finishing a creative project and even getting married or having a baby.
Steven refers to resistance as “the enemy within”. He says, “It is self-generated and self-perpetuated.” Resistance wants to prevent us from doing what our higher nature aspires to do. It will come up with all kinds of reasons, excuses, and distractions to stop us.
“Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.” Resistance comes from the unconscious part of us that wants to protect us and keep us playing small.
It is fear-based. It hates inspiration and inner guidance or anything that doesn’t “make sense” in the most rational, logical way. It likes to keep the status quo and avoid any kind of change.
And here’s the big revelation that got me, Steven says we can use resistance as a compass to our true north. In other words, what we resist the most is exactly what would lead us to the highest path of our soul’s evolution or growth. Whoa. Let that sink in…
Did you get any clues as to what is really important for you to be doing? I did.
Can you get a clearer picture of how your resistance may be creating obstacles or barriers to your most vital next step, highest path, or soul’s call?
As a therapist and transformational coach, I feel I am constantly in dialogue and doing a delicate dance with my clients’ resistance. It shows up in all forms, voices, behaviors and justifications. It’s a mighty opponent and if I resist my clients’ resistance, it’s a losing battle.
Here are some examples of resistance:
- The couple who came for relationship coaching to deal with infidelity issues and just as there was a shred of hope that they would make it; the betrayed partner goes and has an affair.
- The client who wants to pay off her credit card bills and get her finances in order, but periodically goes on shopping sprees and over spends.
- Or there are the clients who really want to be in a relationship, but won’t do online dating or much of any social activity to meet someone– like going out of the house. And the prevalent pattern of deadly job and career dissatisfaction coupled with the belief that there are “just no jobs out there.”.
I could go on and on. I get it. I have my resistance, too. There’s no judgment here.
When confronted with my clients’ resistance, as well as my own, it often feels like dancing with the devil and trying to outwit him and his sly moves by slipping in the back door and turning on the hidden light. Sometimes I get through his barricades and sometimes I don’t. And even if I do get through the barricade for a moment, it can come slamming down once the client walks out my door and is left to their own devices.
It takes time, patience and persistence to win this fight. So what is one to do? How do we face our resistance and not let it derail our life with its persistent fears, complaints, self-sabotaging actions and behaviors?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Learn to listen to the quiet voice within. You’ve heard it before. I know you have. This is the voice that whispers to you when you least expect it and gives you gentle, peaceful messages telling you what to do and where to go. It may not come to you as often as you’d like, but it is there waiting for you to ask and to listen. Give this voice more attention. It will begin to grow bigger and stronger. Resistance doesn’t like this voice.
- Feel the fear and do it anyway. I’m not talking about jumping off a cliff or doing anything life-threatening here. I’m talking about when you hear or feel a deep call or yearning to do something, listen to that. Don’t over analyze, endlessly procrastinate, or ask the advice of all your friends and family. Our tendency as humans is to wait until we feel safe, assured of an acceptable outcome and guaranteed success. Only problem is, that day will never come.
- Once you start, keep going. The first step is, well…only the beginning. While taking the first step may be the hardest, resistance will still rear its ugly head most every step of the way. Don’t keep looking over your shoulder and listening to it. Keep your eye on your vision, your destination, your goal; and keep going. Rinse, lather and repeat. Life is a process of dealing with resistance. Truly accomplished, self-actualized people who are living their highest potential have learnt to dance with their resistance and take the lead.
What are you resisting in your life right now? How can you listen more deeply to that quiet inner voice and take that first step?