It’s just a word.
I suppose there are other words that reflect the same meaning, or even more, other words that describe the same feeling.
Resistance is…resisting. Resisting is…‘no’. But it’s more than ‘no’. Resisting is not allowing for options, other viewpoints, a different way of thinking, feeling, or doing.
Resistance. No. Closed.
Resistance can be as satisfying, as it is frustrating. We can desire certain outcomes, yet be resistant to the path, the choice, or the next step that helps us move in that direction.
Resistance shuts the valve. Shuts down the flow.
Resistance is not bad. Resistance is an indicator. An internal communication. Your body’s ‘tip’ or ‘hint’ – nudge…clue… – that you have chosen to not move forward, or toward the discomfort.
The intelligence of the nervous system seems mostly involuntarily. We are programmed to survive. We fight, flight, freeze, or faint our way in response to any potential threat, danger, or challenge.
The resistance I am talking about is creating a state that voluntarily triggers the stress response. The desire to quit, to say no without considering any other option, to get back into bed when you have already slept for 10 hours, to workout for the third time in a day, to avoid the office or the project, these are all indicators that you could be in a state of resistance.
Can we agree that in situations, circumstances, or events that are truly a threat to our survival, we will respond accordingly?
Resistance is that tight feeling in the gut. Resistance is the sensation of a saturated brain – ‘too much’, overwhelm. Resistance can feel like tears welling up behind your eyes. Resistance can be a form of an adult temper tantrum in response to not wanting to think, feel, or act in a different, or unfamiliar way.
Change creates resistance. Change in routines. Change in what is familiar. Routines and familiarity create a sense of comfort – oddly enough, they create a sense of comfort to the point that a person would stay in a lifestyle that is limiting (not expanding, not growth producing) because it’s familiar.
Living in resistance to change creates a disconnect to our nature. All observable evidence points to growth being inherent to the human condition. If we resist growth by resisting change, we go against our nature. Discomfort then shows up because we are experiencing life in contradiction to our nature. We continue to resist the discomfort. The story we tell about discomfort, is the story that can catapult us into new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that are more relevant and life-giving to not just our own experience, but to the advancement of all existence.
Resistance is constant. It won’t go away. It is an indicator. A communicator. It gets our attention and challenges us to focus on next steps and new outcomes.
We can soothe ourselves through resistance by practicing skills, tools, and strategies that allow for an open state. The open state allows one to be okay with not knowing, or uncertainty. In the open state there is a sense of trust, or a knowing, that things work out.
Resisting keeps us the same. Resisting keeps us stuck in patterns that are not allowing for sustainable growth. In (most) cases, doing things the way they have always been done can be an indicator for curiosity – is it really the best way?
Resistant to a new way. Resistance causes headaches. Tears. Stomachaches. Moving toward a new way of doing anything is uncomfortable. And…when there are others who feel the same way, it is easy to find ‘like’ minds who have the same resistance, and it can feel quite validating. Talking about the resistance, or talking about the problem, may not lead to growth and desirable outcomes. Solutions.
I read something somewhere that resonated. Some version of: A good scientist loves when there is discordance in results because that is where the growth is.
To move toward resistance is accessing an open state. This simple choice to move toward discomfort, with an openness to be curious, is an executive functioning skill called ‘initiate’. One can’t ‘get started’ when one is arguing/fighting, going back to bed or the couch, freezing – shutting down or avoiding, or convincing oneself that you are sick, or only focusing on ill feelings.
Moving toward discomfort is what Brene Brown has become famous for analyzing…it can feel a bit vulnerable, and the antidote to the vulnerability is your brand of bravery.
There are three categories of executive function skill sets that I am familiar with: behavior, emotional, cognitive. Executive functions live in our frontal lobe. We cannot access these skillsets when we have an activated stress response.
Behaviors are observable and basically reference a form of impulse control. This has to be relatable to most people or none of us would have what we consider to be ‘bad habits’. It’s the impulse to respond in a maladaptive way, and the inability to ‘divert’ the behavior in the moment, and make a more adaptive choice (to eat, to drink, to be mean to yourself or someone else, to engage in harm to self or others…the list goes on). In the moment, there is an inability to resonate with cause and effect. To have that inner space – almost like a time machine – ‘if I react to this impulse I am just creating more of the same…my reaction is not going to lead to sustainable results’. The executive function skill is called self-monitor.
Emotional regulation is connected to one’s ability to shift or transition – to be flexible and open to changing circumstances, situations, or events. A person who does a good job managing emotions is able to recognize resistance (the skill of self-awareness). Resistance is the inner sensation in response to a change in plans, or expected next steps or outcomes. And then the skill of emotional control is our ability to manage the feelings that can show up in response to the change, or when something doesn’t go the way we prefer it to.
Cognitive regulation. Our thinking. Moving toward a task, an expectation, an outcome, begins with the skill of initiation. I can regulate, or manage, my thinking to be curious about this situation, circumstance, or event that has just presented itself. Resisting the perceived problem moves us back to emotional and behavioral regulation. Managing our thinking allows us to be in charge of the story we are telling.
The story we tell creates a state. A state of what’s possible, or a state of what’s impossible. An open state of possibility allows us to access the whole of who we are (which is a curious problem solver), and a closed state of impossibility keeps us stuck or spinning in the emotional or behavioral reactivity of the intelligent nervous system – fight, flight, freeze, faint.
We are programmed to move toward discomfort. When we move toward discomfort with a curious state of possibility, we access a broad context of what we know to be true (our working memory), we can create a plan for next steps (first, next, then), we can monitor the plan – change and adjust as needed, and organize our materials in a way that helps us accomplish, or create, a sense of completion. This feels good.
We are always playing out a version of how we respond to discomfort, or unexpected events, situations, circumstances. The discomfort gets our attention. We can make a choice to focus on a preferred outcome (which is best if the outcome is a win-win). And we move toward it.
We are wired for advancement. Staying stuck in the same thinking, that creates the same outcomes, does not lead to sustainable change. Discomfort is a function of existence. It gets our attention. We grow each time we move toward it. When we stay stuck or spinning, our outcomes tend to match an observable pattern linked to our stress response (a constant fight, constant regression, constant disconnect, or constant pain).