You don’t have to seek revenge, because karma will get the bastard anyway.” - Ajahn Brahm


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Resistance is Futile -
but to be expected

(printer friendly version here)
The Borg may have told Captain Kirk that resistance is futile but it is a natural way of life for humans and to be expected as part of our spiritual journey from time to time.

Resistance is a term commonly used in therapy and spiritual groups but what is it and what does it mean both about us and in general?

Resistance is anything that we do, feel or think that acts against our best long-term interests. It can also be something we are unwilling to stop doing despite knowing we should. It can be conscious or unconscious and it blocks or slows healing or positivity. Devoid of resistance we would be happy, healthy and who we really are.

Self-sabotage is an obvious example such as eating the wrong things, refusing to follow doctor’s advice or not going to bed at a reasonable time.

Resistance is not so much the act as the refusal (or resisting) to stop doing the act. In the above examples our psyche is resisting the release of a harmful behaviour despite the long term problems that could occur (it much prefers to focus on short-term gains and ignore long-term harm e.g. smoking).

This means there is a pay off or the behaviour wouldn’t persist. We do these things because we get something from them, even if we are not consciously aware of what it is. In serious examples of this we may remain ill despite consciously wanting to be well. Many therapists and doctors can tell tales of people who unconsciously resist healing for any number of reasons such as the loss of attention from loved ones or the benefit/insurance money should they become well.

The mind can keep us in illness no matter what if that is what is required. Given a good enough rationale to remain ill, all attempts at a cure by doctors will be unsuccessful because a greater “good” being served by not being well. The Placebo and Nocebo phenomena clearly demonstrate that the mind can allow healing or illness to occur if it thinks it should happen. In the absence of resistance, healing often occurs rapidly, even in moments. Enlightenment could occur instantly if we were without resistance and so a spiritual quest is about overcoming blocks and issues that create our resistance to becoming who we really are. We are not bad or faulty people for having resistance in our lives.           

The New Age movement is often quick to judge when illness strikes and blame is attached for not having resolved whatever issues have caused the sufferer to be struck down, but the part that makes us ill is often not the part of us that we are consciously aware of. While this is frustrating, it is indicative that no matter how we might try to be in control of our lives and do all the right things, our soul has full control of the greater agenda, not our conscious selves. This is because it knows the big picture and not just our tiny glimpse that is this life time from a narrow human perspective. Developing trust in this higher wisdom within us and surrendering to it with love is an important step for all of us. Scary or comforting depending on your personal make-up.

Resistance can be more subtle and even invisible unless you know what to look for. Procrastination is resistance in action, or inaction to be more precise. Being too busy to get round to doing something we “should” do, such as meditate is, another example. Notice how your “shoulds” feel different from your “wants”. I always use to say that I would meditate tomorrow and even write it down on my list of things to do that day and end up finding that my list got longer or I got side-tracked into never getting round to doing it because of all the important things that needed doing (I still do at times). Resistance again.

Avoidance is another example of resistance. In my case it was avoidance of silence. I had to have noise around me such as the TV or radio on at home even in the bathroom! So many powerful negative emotions were inside me that I had to constantly distract myself because silence is the enemy of the mind that is trying to protect us from our past traumas. In some people it manifests as “ants in our pants” and always having to be busy. Boredom is usually blamed for this phenomenon but boredom is the first stage of emotional unease or anxiety and so we act before it builds up any further. We often then label ourselves as being a person of action, an achiever but this is ego protection, inflating ourselves to justify being the way we are.

On the spiritual path, we can expect to meet our resistance. Working through it is a large part of the journey. I hope you can see from this that it happens in all areas of our lives and to all of us in various degrees and at different times. It is a highly personal thing because it comes from the mind and is caused by our past experiences and unresolved negative emotions. It can be obvious or very subtle. It can come from experiences we are acutely aware of or totally oblivious to. The important thing is not where it comes from but whether we are aware of it and what we do about it. Tapping is a good way of releasing resistance as is meditation. Those that subscribe to the Abraham-Hicks daily quotes may have received this:

That's why so many of us teach meditation. Because when you stop thought, you stop resistant thought. That's why we teach appreciation, because when you're in appreciation, you are not in the mode of resistance.- Abraham”

Knowing that you are in resistance is crucial, knowing what you are resisting makes it easier to deal with and knowing why is helpful. Personally, I have found that berating myself and giving myself a hard time about it makes it worse and I end up forcing myself to do the thing I’m resisting. At best I create something that I should do but all “shoulds” are a chore not a joy or free choice. A more gentle approach of allowing and noticing, while slower, is more productive over time. I try and adopt the view that in resistance there may just be a nugget of opportunity to learn something about myself.

Especially at the beginning, resistance will make you procrastinate, run away or avoid so be prepared to accept that. It isn’t failure, merely what is, right now.

Sometimes resistance can be so strong that despite all the best intentions in the world and having all the awareness in the world it is still not enough to allow us to sit down and meditate or face a problem. We may know exactly what we are running away from or avoiding but we are simply not ready, no matter how maddening that may be to accept. Sometimes we haven’t suffered enough to tip the balance in favour of change. Hard to face but true nonetheless.

Everybody wants to know why there is so much suffering on this planet and one only has to look at human nature to get a glimpse into why it is the way it is. Not just our shadow sides being projected out onto others creating misery and cruelty but the fact that most of us do nothing about anything until a situation is so bad that only then will we take action. Suffering is our motivator and teacher once a threshold has been crossed.

Whether you choose patience and love, EFT, meditation or some other way of releasing your resistance, knowing why you have it in the first place does help to speed up the process. Remember, it is serving a purpose no matter how annoying or frustrating it might be. Bullying or hating ourselves is not going to be productive if the resistance is caused by a part of us that is scared.

Many that do try meditation give up quickly due to not feeling comfortable with it. This is resistance again and some of this is because people have trouble focussing for very long or can’t shut the mind-chatter up. The mind requires training and knowing that it might be difficult at first may prevent some quitting prematurely. But why do some people find it hard to do?

There is a cultural programme being applied to us that encourages resistance to a journey within. Our way of life is deliberately designed to promote superficiality and banality. One can see that even in the last few years, society has become more vapid and obsessed with superficiality. Not only that, but we are fed this barren information in a quick fire environment, constantly switching from one message to another. Amazingly, it is said that this culture has come about due to public demand and modern life.

We are told that we are simply too busy to do anything in any depth anymore and we are told this by the very organisations that create this vacuous environment. That’s like the dealer justifying selling heroin because there’s a demand for it due to him peddling the drugs in the first place. We junkies are shooting up on whatever distraction we are given, oblivious to our addiction to life as it is being sold to us.

If we don’t like the current shiny thing being pushed on us, don’t worry another one will be here in 30 seconds. We are bombarded by media implying or even telling us directly that we are in some way deficient and that we must buy stuff in order to feel better now and fit the societal norm, as well support our debt based economy. Shiny thing after shiny thing paraded before our minds that are programmed to want instant gratification no matter how soulless the fix is.

Desire is a powerful force in all of us and our ego loves fulfilling shallow, immediate “need” and this is exploited by modern society. Advertising works. We think of advertising as telling us why we should by a Twix instead of a Kit-Kat. It also tells us why we should buy something we don’t need. Advertising is also the selling of an agenda and occurs everywhere. Another term is propaganda and we have all been duped to one degree or another.

Years of the “instant gratification” society has led to our ability to focus and meaningfully question ourselves being rapidly programmed out of us in order to keep us asleep. It has got to the point where it doesn’t even occur that something is very wrong. Those that do awaken from this hypnotic trance and feel the urge to explore themselves may find that they will face internal resistance purely caused by the mind being so addicted to the instant false gratification it is used to. Expect it to take time to wean yourself off it before you can discipline the mind to be still and focussed.


© Phil Grant unless otherwise attributed