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UNDERSTANDING RESISTANCE

One of the things you’ll have to deal with on the path of healing is resistance. Simply put, resistance is all the things that are going to get in the way of your healing. It's all the reasons why you can't (or don't want to) grow and expand.

CONSCIOUS RESISTANCE

 

Resistance can take many forms. Sometimes resistance is conscious and easy to recognize.  This kind of resistance feels like “I just don’t want to.”  It arises when you’re on the verge of doing something you’ve identified as good self-care, or something that’s helpful for your overall growth or well-being.  This kind of resistance is present with many of the routine things we do to stay healthy (i.e., proper nutrition, regular exercise, hygiene routines, spiritual practices, etc.). It’s also present where we’ve set specific goals for ourselves that we then don’t follow through on. It may feel like a lack of will-power, or like you just don’t have the motivation/energy.

 

This kind of resistance is oftentimes a defensive, habituated response. It’s strongly related to the compressed energy pattern which develops in childhood around the age of two or three, as a defense against being invaded or controlled by a parent. At the time, the defensive compression was a healthy and logical response to what was happening.  (For more information on how this pattern develops and how to work with it, please see my publication on Compressed Defense.)

Unfortunately, a compression pattern in the energy body keeps you stuck in the feeling of needing to resist. It creates an internalized sense of rebellion that’s not aligned with your health, happiness or well-being. It rebels for the sake of rebelling. Worse, it oftentimes holds a very negative intent, making it more likely that you’ll rebel against the very things that are good and right for you. It’s your inner and automatic saboteur.

Working with this kind of resistance is a four-step process. 

  1. Recognize and Honor the Resistance.  This kind of resistance is a distortion of an original, healthy response (your “healthy no”) that wasn’t allowed. Recognize that there’s an inner 3-year-old inside of you now, stomping his/her foot and letting you know “I don’t want to!”  It’s important to honor the trauma that lives in this resistance. You don’t need to let your inner 3-year-old have her way, but it’s not helpful to be heavy-handed with yourself, as this merely mimics the original wound. Honor the existence of resistance as a life-affirming force. Let your inner child know you see him.

  2. Feel the Feelings Trapped in the Resistance.  Every time this kind of resistance arises, it’s an opportunity for you to clear something. It’s a chance to re-parent your inner child in a kinder, healthier, sturdier, more-consistent way. Start with making space to feel the resistance itself. Listen to your inner child. Let him speak. Feel the part of you that really, really doesn’t want to. Does this energy live somewhere in your body? If so, put your hand there and breathe. What are the feelings hiding underneath this resistance? Anger? Spite? Grief? Shame? Guilt? Whatever you find, keep breathing and allow yourself to actually feel the feelings. Defensive patterns exist to protect you from feeling inconvenient things. Your willingness to sit in the inconvenient feelings allows the defense to relax. It makes room for a different, more creative experience going forward.

  3. Consider your Choices.  Although you may not have had a choice as a child, you do now.  Consider all your choices, remembering why you signed that gym membership to begin with, or why you booked that appointment, bought that book, entered that relationship, took that job, signed up for that class, etc. Give yourself permission to still say no, but check in with yourself on why you’re saying it. There’s a big difference between a healthy no arising from a felt-sense of what your body and soul need and want to experience, and a reflexive or self-sabotaging no.   

  4. Make your Choice and Follow Through with It.  Only in making a choice and seeing how you feel after following it through will you really get a sense of what’s uniquely right for you. This is an experiential, learning process, in which you’re finding and reclaiming your “healthy no.” Without a healthy no, there can be no “true yes.” In the process of working with your resistance, you’ll be refining your boundaries and defining what good self-care means for you. Be patient. This is a practice not a goal. 

SUBCONSCIOUS OR SHADOW RESISTANCE

Sometimes resistance seems like it's coming from outside of you. It seems like something that's happening to you or something that's outside of your control that’s getting in the way of your success. This more subconscious resistance is likely the result of a hidden, negative intent.

  

With this kind of resistance, life seems to bring you exactly what you don’t want. It might even take the opposing form of what you’re actively trying to change in your life. For example, if you're working on opening to your abundance, your resistance might create an unexpected bill or some other kind of financial loss. If you've just committed to healing work, or a healthy diet or exercise program, your resistance might create all kinds of physically-manifested reasons for why you can't get to your appointment, the gym or the grocery store. Something happens at work, and you have to stay late. Your child gets sick and you need to go pick him up at school, or you develop a terrible migraine just as you were getting ready to walk out the door.


In any kind of healing process, working with your subconscious resistance is key. For many people, resistance is there from the start, although it tends to get stronger or manifest in more dramatic ways as you get closer to making a shift. The closer you come to facing a fear or dealing with a troubling pattern (i.e., achieving real change), the more the frightened, constricted part of you will fight to hold on by sabotaging the process.

You can think of subconsciously-created resistance as the outward manifestation of your own creative energy that’s been trapped in distortion. This creative part of you creates distorted or difficult real-life experiences so you can see exactly what thoughts, feelings and habitual reactions are blocking you from achieving your goal. Although it might seem like these things are out of your control, your outer life is a mirror of your inner life. Everything that happens to you is a reflection of something that's inside you. Although it may seem like it’s coming from somewhere else, it’s really just reflecting some part of your subconscious that’s ready to be looked at. 

Not working with your subconscious resistance when you’re trying to heal is like pretending the part of the iceberg that sits above the water is all there is. No matter how much you chip away at the ice above the waterline, if you ignore the hulking mass that’s bumping against your boat just out of sight, it’ll be almost impossible to get where you want to go.

Working with subconscious resistance starts with asking yourself a few questions. Try to hold a curious, non-judgmental attitude toward yourself, and be really honest when you answer.

  1. What part of me wants to experience this?  Why?

  2. What kind of beliefs would create this experience?

(For a much more in-depth exploration of subconscious and shadow work, please read Facing Your Shadow.)

THE INTERPLAY OF CONSCIOUS AND SUBCONSCIOUS RESISTANCE

As a real-world example, let’s look at the case of someone trying to lose weight. This is oftentimes a lifelong battle for people, because there’s so much conscious and subconscious resistance that needs to be dealt with. Although there may be a very clear, conscious desire to lose weight or get healthy, unless that subconscious layer is exposed, it’ll constantly be working against that conscious effort. It’s the clash between the conscious and the subconscious that gives us the see-saw effect that most people experience when trying to lose weight...the diet that works for a while and then stops, the efforts to get to the gym that get side-tracked, the scale that fluctuates or shoots up to an all-time high.

Let’s say you’ve made a real commitment to heal this particular distortion, and you've decided to work out on a regular basis. It starts out great. You feel motivated, and you get to the gym four days that week. The following week, maybe you go three times, but on that fourth day, you really just don’t want to go. You’ve made the commitment to do so, but you’ve had a hard day and you just want to go home and sit on the couch. That’s pretty easy-to-spot, conscious resistance. Your inner 3-year-old is saying “I don’t want to!” You can work with this resistance as discussed in the previous section (honor the resistance, feel the feelings, consider your choices, make your choice). Maybe you make the choice to go, and you feel so good afterwards, you recommit to your self-care plan.


But then the next week comes. And the next, and you find that you consistently don’t want to put in the effort. Forcing yourself to go feels like a pressure you just don’t want in your life. The positive reasons for making the choice to exercise haven’t changed (you want to be healthy, have more energy, etc.), but now things are popping up in your life that are making it even harder to follow through. Your son’s soccer season starts, making it difficult to get to his game and the gym on the same day. There’s a party one night and you stay out a little later than you planned, and just can’t get up early enough to squeeze in your exercise that day. Or your car breaks down on the way to the gym.

When you consistently don’t want to do something that you’ve determined is for your benefit, and/or things keep “popping up” that prevent you from following through, there’s likely subconscious resistance at play. You probably have some pretty strong subconscious reasons to keep things just the way they are. Ask yourself those two questions.  What part of me wants to experience this?  Why?  What kind of beliefs would create this experience?  Maybe some part of you actually likes being overweight because people are more likely to leave you alone. You don’t have to risk being seen. Maybe you think they won’t expect certain things from you...things you don’t want to give but would feel uncomfortable saying no to.  Maybe you’re afraid you’ll fail. Maybe you believe if you wrap yourself in enough layers, no one can hurt you. These are all beliefs you can work to change. (See Using Affirmations to Change Your Operating System.) 

If you’re honest about the things that are getting in the way, maybe you’ll see that you chose to go to the soccer game over the gym because you hold the belief that “my needs don’t matter as much as others.”  Do you eat as a way to feel like your needs are finally being met? Did you stay out too late because you hold a constricting, subconscious belief that “denying your needs and desires is morally right,” which triggers an addictive boomerang response when you’re doing something fun?  How might this belief be affecting your relationship with food?

ALL HEALING IS SELF-HEALING

Your power to change lies in awareness of these underlying beliefs. Even when your resistance seems to be coming from completely outside sources, such as other people, situations or events that hinder your efforts, your greatest success will come from owning the part you’re playing and staying present with the resistance. As your work towards your larger goals, the process of facing your resistance again and again will help you reclaim all the creative aspects of yourself that went into hiding or broke off as a way to protect you. Work with your resistance gently and patiently, knowing that every time you’re willing to look honestly at what’s underneath your experiences, you’re taking a step closer to your authentic Self hidden behind the defenses. This is the part of you that’s immensely creative, powerful, loving and strong. Trust that your resistance is pointing to the places you’re ready to reclaim.  It takes courage to look at our resistance, but it takes self-love, patience and self-care to truly transform.

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