The Gift of Resistance
“At this late date, it is your defenses, not your wounds, that cause the problem and arrest your journey.”
~ James Hollis
The Gift of Resistance
The concept of resistance has always intrigued me. I have been working with people over 30 years and this issue comes up over and over. Resistance is sly and elusive, not something one recognizes at first glance. When our behavior does not match how we think we are behaving,or we find we continue to deal with an issue over and over again, then we can bet that resistance is at work. Resistance shows up in behaviors such as acting out, saying one thing and doing another, feeling we really want change in our lives, yet continuing to behave in the old way. Or feeling we have changed our thinking about something, yet the same results continue to happen. There is a saying,” What we resist, we become”. Yet resistance is a normal part of growth. Just as fear is a normal part of being alive. The important thing to do is acknowledge your fears and your resistance; befriend them and they will become something you can work with. Deny them and they will own you.
Resistance is difficult to own because it is so wrapped up in our defense mechanisms. We may honestly feel we are willing to change some aspect of ourself, yet the old behavior persists. How many times have I heard, “I have looked at this for years; or I’ve done this work already; I have looked at my resistance, this isn’t what this is”. The resistance we feel is based in shame and fear, which leads to a sense of hopelessness.
Our fear is what drives our resistance. So, it makes sense that we must be willing to face our fear about what could happen if we actually change our lives. What price are we most afraid to face? Who will be most impacted by our choice to change? And whose love, validation, or acceptance are we most afraid of losing if we make this choice? “And where am I afraid of judgment if I admit to my resistance?” These are the most common faces of fear. Resistance brings up the place in us that knows we need to take ourselves seriously, yet are afraid of the consequences of our actions.
The very definition of resistance supports this thought. The word resistance is defined as: the act of taking a stand; to withstand the force or effect of… So, if we work to heal our resistance, we are taking a stand to be there for ourselves, to love ourselves and to be willing to tell our truth. To withstand the force or effect of being willing to claim our right to be our authentic self. So, we can see why it is so important that we understand the price we are afraid to pay.
I want to differentiate between resistance and being a victim. Resistance is natural and a part of anything that carries weight emotionally. We become a victim when we use our emotional response to anything against ourselves or the ones we love. The spiritual path requires we do the work. No exceptions, no excuses. At the same time, it is important that we learn to bring kindness and compassion to ourselves as we meet the resistance that will come up as we move through our work. If we don’t, the chance of becoming a victim is high. Remember, there is no way around our work, only through.
The gift of resistance is that we have the opportunity to see the places we are stuck. We then have the opportunity to bring compassion to ourselves because clearly, if we are stuck in a certain place and have been for some time, there is fear about this issue. We may be afraid to face the vulnerability that could come up if we address our resistance. The ability to allow ourselves to be vulnerable is important in getting to know our resistance. Vulnerability has a negative connotation to many people. They see being vulnerable as a weakness. The truth is being vulnerable is actually a strength. Owning our resistance may feel threatening to many people, but the cost is giving up on love and taking a risk to never allow someone to know us deeply. The experiences that make us feel the most vulnerable are the very ones that will allow us to be fully who we are and to be in relationship in a way that our heart longs for. This is the work of the spiritual warrior. A spiritual warrior faces resistance and the fear of vulnerability with compassion, not judgment or blame. When we meet resistance with compassion and with the willingness to see it as an opportunity, then resistance can truly be a gift. In allowing ourselves to work with resistance, we find freedom. Freedom to take the risk to be fully present in relationship. Coming to life from this perspective allows us to feel respect for ourselves and to be present to ourselves with our heart open which allows us to love and accept ourselves. May you allow yourself the gift of resistance.