We are coming up to the halfway point of this year so it’s time to dive deep into the whole concept of my work. My word of the year for 2020 is Resistance!
Seems a little strange- right? People choose words like strength, or possibility, or belief.. But this year Resistance is what’s on my mind – literally- like I’m recognizing so much resistance! And in the past, this would have been terrible news.. I would have resisted the resistance. I would have had negative thoughts about having resistance.
But now, since I’ve decided I’m studying and learning and growing from resistance this year.. I’ve become so curious whenever I notice my own resistance and whenever I hear resistant thoughts from my coaching clients, and even my friends and family.
I’m noticing my resistance in my own thinking.. And in other people’s thinking..
The Concept of Resistance
Resistance is also on my mind as a concept.. Something I’m trying to think about as a researcher and as an explorer- to watch it in the wild.. To see how it behaves, to study it, to do experiments with it and then eventually.. To release it.. To go off on its way.. Out into the world.. With a clear understanding of its characteristics and behaviors.
Resistance is an emotion that comes from a thought that something that IS happening, did happen, could happen, or might happen SHOULDN’T be happening (or shouldn’t have happened).
Here’s what I mean – If I’m living in a world that’s going through a highly-contagious pandemic, and people are being told that they should stay home and shelter in place and take precautions, I might think
“no.. this isn’t right, this shouldn’t be happening.. That is me, resisting what IS happening.
And, during this same pandemic, if I see people all around me not taking precautions, not staying home, not wearing masks and keeping distance from each other, I might think “they should be doing that! That’s me resisting what ISN’T happening.
Or, if I had an argument with a family member.. And I’m stewing in my own emotion, and replaying what she said and what I said and I think “she shouldn’t have said that to me..” That is me resisting what DID happen.
Or, when my friend decides to put herself up for a promotion and then she decides to back down because she’s afraid of how she’ll feel if she doesn’t get it, and what other people will think and say if she puts herself out there and then doesn’t end up getting promoted, she is resisting what could or might happen.
Do you see how resistance shows up? Resistance is arguing with your perceived past, your current reality and/or your possible future outcome.
Why is this a Problem?
Because, when you are resisting, you put yourself in a defensive mode. You insert yourself into a self-created WAR. You are defending yourself from what you think happened in the past. Or, you are in a battle with what you think is happening right now, or you are fighting against what you think might happen, but hasn’t even happened yet.
The mind in you is operating from your primitive, survival mode because it thinks there is a threat. And all this defensiveness puts you in a scarcity mindset. And from your scarce thinking, you are unable to be open, to see possibility, to feel abundance, and to know and believe that everything is working out.
And right now, I know, this may be a little too extreme to even discuss – because the mind in you may be screaming:
“how can everything be working out? It’s not working out! There’s no abundance in this situation at all.”
if you’re thinking or feeling anything along those lines, notice that! That’s resistance. Join me in my research! Get curious about what you are thinking and feeling! Notice the thoughts that create that feeling, that reaction in you.. Because, you may have never noticed, or considered, or questioned before if those thoughts are required. Or if they’re helpful or if they serve you. Or, if they get you the results that you want in your life.
And for that last one, don’t you automatically already know, like, in your core, that when you’re resisting something, you’re definitely not creating the results you want in your life?Don’t you already realize that when you’re in a defensive mode, because you’re at war with reality, there’s no way you can create what you want for yourself?You know that destruction does not equal creation, right?
3 types of Resistance
So, Have you ever thought -in detail- about resistance? Do you know how resistance regularly shows up for you? Maybe you can even think of some areas in your life right now where you are noticing some resistance. Again, that’s good! Welcome to the lab! Let’s start our observations!
Awareness and recognition are the first steps.. And I’m going to describe how you can further recognize and classify your resistance so that you can intentionally decide what to do with it, rather than just react to it.
So far, I’ve discovered that there are 3 types of resistance: Urgent, Passive and Avoidant. I’m going to describe the 3 types to you, tell you how they may show up in your every day and then give you a simple 3-step process you may want to consider when you realize you’re feeling resistance.
Urgent resistance is the most intense. It’s the mind screaming to you there is a threat or something that’s taking resources from you. It feels like an immediate NO shouted in your head. The companion emotions are sometimes fear and anger. Even though I’m describing this as an extreme and urgent emotion – it may not show up externally for you that way, but you may be feeling that way internally.
I’ve experienced this in my business when a mentor introduces a change to my current process. My immediate professional response may be “I don’t think that will work! I probably shouldn’t implement this change.” But inside, I’m probably just hearing NO! NO! No! In my head and I might be responding that way before I even fully understand what the change is – and the reason is because I’m thinking it’s a threat to my current environment and routine. And I need to be on the defense to protect myself from that threat.
Can you think of a time when you’ve immediately felt URGENT RESISTANCE? How did you show up? What was happening for you externally? What about internally?
Save those! We can dive into those feelings and reactions later, but I want to keep describing the types of resistance for now.
Passive Resistance is not as urgent or as intense. I consider this one the “stealth” version of resistance because you may not even realize that you’re resisting something. When faced with an opportunity (that your mind is resisting) the response from you may be “I don’t know” or “I’m not ready” or “I’m confused.”
Back to the business example and the introduction of a change – passive resistance might not be a shouted “no” (like how urgent resistance shows up) but it might look like accepting the suggestion to change, but then feeling confused by it..
For me, it might be me not allowing myself to learn the new process -in secret hopes that I don’t really need to change and I can eventually just keep doing it the way I’ve always done it. If my mentor asked me why I didn’t start the new process yet, I might honestly answer “I don’t know.. I’ve been meaning to review it. It seems a little confusing.”
This is why the resistance is passive – and stealth! You don’t even realize you are resisting it. You don’t feel like you’re resisting it.
But, if I really got down to the real reason why I haven’t made time to learn the new change.. It would be because I don’t want to change, I don’t want it to happen. I think it shouldn’t be happening.
Can you think of a time when you’ve indulged in a little passive resistance? How did you show up? What was happening for you externally? What about internally?
Avoidant resistance It is almost imperceptible and invisible. This is unexamined. It may stem from heldover past beliefs that you’re not even aware of and that the current you wouldn’t agree with.
An example of this may be in a restaurant, your friend doesn’t finish her meal.. The server asks, do you want a box- she says, “no I’m fine.” And leaves half a plate of perfectly good food on the table. You may have an almost silent, unarticulated nudge that she shouldn’t be wasting that food – even though it’s not your food and you don’t want it – it may be held over from some longstanding belief about uneaten food left on a plate.
A subcategory of Avoidant resistance may be physical – your body may be resisting on your behalf without you realizing it. For example, if you’re forcing yourself to send an email that you don’t really agree with, your fingers might keep typing the wrong letters and you might accidentally close the browser window.
Or, Have you ever agreed to do something you don’t really want to do, then you get physically sick on the day of the event? Has that ever happened to you?
Like I mentioned earlier, when you are aware of resistance, and how it could show up for you, you can notice it, and get curious about it and question it and then, intentionally decide what to do with it. So, the 3 types of resistance are Urgent, Passive and Avoidant- and these can show up in different situations and circumstances, depending on your thoughts about those situations and circumstances.
Here’s a simple 3-step process you can try out on yourself or when you’re working with a coach to USE your new awareness of the types of resistance to transform yourself!I’ve used this process on myself and learned so many helpful, amazing, insightful things about what I was resistant about and why.
You can probably easily recognize when you’re feeling urgent resistance. So, this process helps specifically uncover your passive and avoidant resistance too.. And helps you release all 3 types of resistance. I call it the Transformation Deep Dive!
The first step is to decide on the transformation that you want. Decide. That means it’s as good as done. That means it is no longer open for negotiation or re-deciding.
It’s decided. Your transformation is decided. Say it out loud, write it down, think of who you will tell, think of how you will publicize this decision. Step 1 might sound like:
I’m losing 20 pounds.
I’m quitting my job.
I’m starting my business.
I’m finding my partner.
I’m forgiving myself.
Do you see how this step should be pretty quick. All you have to do is decide – and you’re done! It’s decided.
..and this is a beautiful, natural segue into step 2 which is Resistance Check.
Notice all the resistance that comes up for you when you realize you have made the decision for transformation. Write down all those sentences, all those words, all those thoughts and feelings. Write down all the things other people will say and think. Write down all the reasons it is impossible and improbable and impractical. This can be pages and pages.. That’s good! That will give you a lot to work with. This can also just be 3 things – that’s also good. That also gives you so much to work with!
So, for the weight loss decision of “I’m losing 20 pounds,” some of the resistance that might come up for you could sound like:
“I’ve tried before and never been able to”
“Losing weight is hard.”
“I don’t really want to change my habits and give up what I love to eat.”
Or, for the “I’m quitting my job” decision, the resistance might sound like:
“I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”
“What if this new job I’ve been offered is a bad fit?”
“I don’t think I can find a job that will pay me what I want and make me happy.”
Basically, you repeat your decision to yourself, and ask yourself if you have any resistance to it.. And then be open and let all that resistance come up for you. It could be urgent resistance – like shouting at you that THIS DECISION WILL NEVER WORK!, it could be passive resistance, as in “I like the decision but I’m not sure how.” Or, it could be avoidant resistance.. You might decide when you get to step 2 that this is a good time to take a break.
Or you’ve spent enough time on this exercise today and you’ll pick it up again tomorrow. NOTICE THAT RESISTANCE and keep going! It’s part of the exercise. It’s normal if you want to excuse yourself right in the middle – but stay with it! Get to step 3.
So now, in step 2, you’ve written down all the thoughts and sentences and beliefs that have come up for you about how the decision you made in Step 1 might not work out.
Step 3 is to allow yourself to Agree and Disagree with your own thoughts so you can uncover the layered resistance. So you can see possibilities unfold for yourself.
For this step, you take 1 of the statements you wrote down during the resistance check and you allow yourself to agree with it – to open a conversation with yourself.. And to release the “grip” the resistance has on your thinking. Remember earlier, I told you that while you’re in resistance, you’re at war. You’re in a defensive mode. You’re trying to protect yourself and conserve energy so you’re closed off.. Not open.
By allowing yourself to agree with your own resistant thought, you’re giving yourself a strategic truce. You’re creating a ceasefire so that you can open your mind a little.
So, for our job-quitting example, you’d say
“Yes, it’s true.. I really don’t want to disappoint anyone.” and then you ask yourself, in a loving, but direct way “So what?”
Loving and direct and open and honest, the decision is that you’ll quit your job. The resistance is that in quitting, you’ll be disappointing someone. Then, agree with the resistance and ask a follow up question:
“Yes, it’s true.. I really don’t want to disappoint anyone, so what?
When I ask myself this type of question – with open curiosity.. I remember.. It is impossible for me to disappoint anyone. It is impossible for me to make anyone feel any emotion- positive or negative. And I love that I remember this truth by being willing to be open and accepting of my resistant thoughts!
But.. that may not be where your mind goes. Maybe, your mind asks yourself: “Yes, it’s true.. I really don’t want to disappoint anyone, so what?” and maybe this causes you to remember, one of the people you are currently, actively, disappointing is YOURSELF! Wow! Breakthrough, right?
Let’s do it with the weight loss example. The decision is that you’ll lose 20 pounds. The resistance is that you’ve tried before and weren’t able to.If you agree with your resistant thought about your ability to lose weight.. You might think something like
“Yes, it’s true, I have tried to lose weight before and was never able to, so what?”
Maybe the next thing that comes up for you is a little “mean voice” – “so what makes you think you can do it now?”
Oh! Interesting.. We moved from passive resistance to urgent resistance in one question! This is getting good! The mind is in full protection mode- right? With love and compassion.. Answer that question: what does make you think you can lose weight now (when you never did before)?
Maybe you have a better reason now. Maybe you’re finally totally tired of being overweight. Maybe you have tools now that you didn’t have before.
Do you see how by agreeing with the resistant statement, even if it brings up more resistance, it still lets you uncover more layers! Do you see how this exercise gives you SO MUCH information and awareness to work with?
The third step is to agree and then disagree with your resistant thoughts- so I just demonstrated to you how you can use the process of agreeing with those thoughts to uncover more layers of resistance – with the “so what” addition.
And, by agreeing, you really loosened up your mind, and gave it what it wanted – your mind just wants to keep you away from threat- the threat of the unknown, the threat of discomfort, the threat of change. It makes perfect sense! So, by agreeing you’re acknowledging the value of that job that it’s doing for you. (“Good mind! Thank you mind!”)
And now, since the mind has already had its say, and it’s feeling a little more relaxed and open, you can come up with some disagreements for the resistant statements you wrote. So, for the job quitting example, you could ask yourself
Why is it NOT true that “I don’t want to disappoint anyone?”
Maybe at this point, your mind is open to recognize, because “disappointing someone” is the step in between where I am now and me getting what I want – what I decided on. Maybe the mind is able to recognize that “Quitting a job doesn’t necessarily mean that someone will be disappointed.. We don’t know what’s going on in other people’s brains.. Maybe they’ll be relieved! Who knows!
And for the weight loss example, again- we’re going to disagree with the sentence our resistance offered us.
Why is it not true that just because I’ve tried to lose weight before and haven’t been able to it means I won’t this time?
This one is actually kind of funny. I’ve had weight loss clients tell me this statement before with complete honesty -they would swear to it and promise that it is true.. And then when I ask them about it, almost in the same breath, they say “oh, well I have lost weight before.. But..”
What?!??!? They just told me their resistance was that they had tried before and were NEVER able to.. But once the mind is open, and has released its resistance, it suddenly remembers that actually.. They have lost weight before! A-ha! So, immediately we know that resistant statement is certainly not true! Amazing how we uncovered that, right? And it just goes to show how funny our brains are when they are in protection mode!
If you’re still with me as my research assistant in these Resistance Experiments that we’re trying out.. So far we’ve classified resistance into 3 types, urgent, passive and avoidant. Then, we applied the Transformation Deep Dive technique to the resistance to help release its grip.
Do you think you can apply this work outside of a research environment with my made-up lab examples? Do you think you can apply this work on yourself, in real life, with real resistance? Do you have any resistance about researching or releasing resistance? How Meta, right?!
Think more deeply about how resistance shows up for you.. And how you can deep dive into uncovering the various layers of resistance.. Then work on loosening it so you can transform.