“Dealing with what’s at the root of your fear, as opposed to creating stories that embolden it, shifts the power away from the fear and back to you.” ~Janine Rudder
During the weeks leading up to a recent work trip I avoided thinking about it. Whenever I opened an email about or accepted a meeting invite to discuss said trip, I’d let out an annoyed sigh and feel my stomach contract in frustration. I allowed my thoughts to run rampant with reasons to justify my displeasure -
“The client we will be supporting is particularly challenging; this is a really busy time and there’s so much other work back at the office; how diverse is Albuquerque anyway? Will I feel uncomfortable?”
I performed a version of this monologue in my head each time thoughts of my impending work trip crept in. However, I returned from New Mexico this past weekend pleased with the support I was able to offer and with a new sense of familiarity with the colleagues who accompanied me. When I stopped resisting the trip, started accepting its reality and began owning that whether I enjoy it or suffer through it is up to me everything changed.
What is Resistance?
Resistance is an unavoidable part of our human experience. It shows up for all of us at various times in myriad ways. I define it as selective opposition to the inevitable. In my experience, resistance is based in fear, feelings of helplessness, and a need to control. When I find myself resisting the hardest, usually feelings of inadequacy, and pushing against discomfort are lurking nearby.
I’ve realized that allowing even the tiniest disempowering thought to take hold in my head can pry open space for a wave of insecurity, powerlessness and angst – I think of them as the siblings of resistance. Once the resistance floodgates burst open they can be a struggle to contain. Think about that presentation you’ve been procrastinating on pulling together for weeks, the blind date your friend offered to set you up with that you’ve been dodging, or the counseling appointment you promised yourself you’d make months ago. These are all actions that you know would enrich your life, yet your resistance persists.
Why Resistance Persists
Resistance is incredibly personal and can be rooted in a lack of self-worth and feelings of inadequacy. Perhaps you haven’t gone on that blind date because you dread the possibility of another let down. “She probably won’t think I’m her type.” Or, you’re procrastinating on that project because you fear you may be exposed as incompetent. “What if I get up there and embarrass myself?”
Another reason why resistance thrives is because it is often entangled with our habits. Our self-talk, tendency to avoid change, or to be risk-averse could fuel our resistance. “I’m an engineer. Can I really just quit and open a bakery? I have a family. What if it fails? I’ve got a good job. It would be crazy to leave it.”
In many instances resistance is masquerading as apathy or disinterest. It’s true that they are related, but there’s almost always something deeper underlying the laziness. Thoughts like “Why should I try when chances are it won’t work out”, or the skepticism of others when they say things like “How many people actually make it as a public speaker?" and "What are you actually an expert in?” can plant those seeds of doubt and disbelief that can thwart any action, creating an internal struggle that ultimately sucks our energy and wastes our time.
OK, enough admiring the problem. What can we do about it?
Moving Past Resistance
The body has information. Noticing those subtle and not so subtle physical cues is a way to detect resistance early and address it before it becomes unwieldy. If I had done this with my trip as soon as I felt that first twinge in my belly, I would have been able to take a moment and ask myself what’s really at the source of my frustration. Dealing with what’s at the root of your fear, as opposed to creating stories that embolden your fear, shifts the power away from the fear and back to you.
Now that you’re aware of your resistance to a certain thing, be intentional and efficient about facing it. Give yourself the time you need to explore your feelings as well as the beliefs at the heart of them. This may look something like you writing down or saying to yourself I feel anxious about creating this website for my business because I’m afraid that it won’t be good enough. Being honest about your vulnerabilities is essential to effectively confronting your resistance.
When examining your emotions make sure that you’re not continuing the story you’ve created. Giving life to the story strengthens the resistance. To ensure that you’re focused on the root cause of your resistance ask yourself something like:
What emotions come up for me when I think about (insert topic or activity)?
What am I afraid will happen?
When you’ve identified the feelings and the story feeding the resistance, create the new narrative. For example, write down all of the ways a website will benefit your business. Include the resources available to help you, and all of the skills you possess already to make it a success.
Repeat the new narrative to yourself until the affirmations speak louder than the resistance.
Janine Rudder is a coach and Co-Owner at Manifestara LLC - https://manifestara.com/