Resistance: A Blocker To Change

Resistance is one of the biggest blockers of change, and is at the opposite pole of acceptance and resolution. Resistance shows up in all of us and tends to be about our unwillingness, and avoidance in dealing with the negative experiences in our life, such as hurtful or disturbing aspects of an experience. These adverse feelings involve fear, shame, pain, or feelings of being out of control. The way to deal with resistance is to first recognize it as soon as it rears its head. It is sneaky and wears many disguises so it is hard to catch.  

There are many examples to illustrate this refusal to accept what is— especially within the parent/child relationship, often we parent from our own needs, not the needs of the child and we resist seeing this. Other situations include work, personal health, intimate relationships, financial difficulties, and, of course, unresolved emotional disturbances (or traumas) from our past. 

I’m sure you’ve heard the quote by psychologist Carl Jung who contended that “what you resist not only persists, but grows in size.” It takes a tremendous amount of energy to hold onto the emotions from our past. Focusing on what we don’t want actually strengthens it. The saying, “like attracts likesuggests that similar things are attracted to one another, including our thoughts. If you focus your attention toward what you don’t want, you end up just attracting more of it to you. By devoting all your energy to what you want to avoid, you paradoxically “energize” it, and so permit it to have even more power over you. 

What are the many faces of resistance?

  • Wasting time
  • Avoidance
  • Perfectionism
  • Inertia and feeling stuck
  • Overthinking or paralysis-by-analysis
  • Self-sabotage
  • Low motivation and mood
  • Taking a break from change (despite only just starting)
  • Giving up or falling off the wagon
  • Unrealistic expectations 
  • Procrastination
  • Blatant non-execution (we see this with follow through on plans made)
  • Inconsistencies in narrative and untruths - this could be fear related
  • Fear of the unknown future
  • Making excuses (no money, not the right time, etc.)
  • Distractions - detours - getting “busy”
  • Delaying
  • Judgmentalism (nothing is good enough)

When you can identify resistance in its early stages, you won’t fall into the trap of perpetuating it and instead will work to call it out and then work on dismantling it. Remember resistance is natural. It signifies an unwillingness to change one’s status quo. All of us get used to being stagnant in our lives. Change is hard. This is why most of us resist it.

Responding to fears and doubts in a way that challenges their validity can go a long way in helping end resistance and create change. Practice these techniques regularly.

1. First, resistance is inevitable and relentless—it’s not personal. Remember this.

2. Notice it as you go about your day. The moment you’re aware of it, you can create space between yourself and the resistance and disentangle from it.

3. Open yourself up and experience it. How does it feel in your body? Get intimate with it so you can recognize the sensations of it, where is it located in your body? What are the thoughts surrounding it? What behaviors does it default to that lead you away from your intention? 

4. Awareness opens us up to make new choices and to discern what is best for us at the moment. Welcome it and let it go with compassion.

These four steps will help you notice when you’re in resistance to something. Remember, we’re not alone. Every human being has resistance, even the most talented or famous people sense it prior to getting up and performing. Be kind and gentle with yourself while you investigate the resistance to continue to learn from it.

Whatever it is for you, don’t put it off until tomorrow, that’s just the subtle voice of resistance talking, every moment is an opportunity to step into the life you want to live.