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The Role of Resistance in Our Stress

A simple shift in awareness that can unlock stress and move us into creativity without changing a single external circumstance

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In observing all the ways that resistance is showing up in the year 2020, I have been reflecting on some patterns that I am hearing my clients experience.  As a theme, almost everyone has their own flavor of resistance showing up to test them (and help them grow!) on the regular these days.  While we have settled into the new routine of remote work, homeschooling, zoom parties, and distanced interactions (read: “I really wish I could give you a hug!”), this resistance is showing up in all kinds of sneaky ways.  Here are just a few that I’ve been experiencing myself and witnessing in clients, especially as the intensity increases this summer:

·      Fatigue

·      Poor eating habits

·      Lack of self-care

·      Impatience and frustration with others

·      Quick judgement, making others or situations “wrong”

·      Tuning out or writing off thought leaders or presenters during work meetings

·      Using the word “should” often about ourselves or others

·      Imagining worst-case scenarios in detail

·      Being self-critical

·      Focusing on the problem at a much higher ratio than possible solutions

·      Looping a particular situation or belief over and over in your mind

·      Having no sense of what we need in each moment to feel better or move forward

·      Overwhelm

·      Avoidance and Numbing with TV, phone, food, or alcohol

·      Talking negatively about others and/or their choices

When these behaviors or thought patterns show up, that is our cue that we are in resistance.  And when we are in resistance, we are spending way more energy than we have to.  So in that place, the first and only thing to worry about is moving into acceptance of the present moment.  There are a few ways I have seen this work for clients:

1.     How do I feel in my body when I am in resistance vs. acceptance?

o   Often when we can pause and observe how much lighter the feeling of acceptance is, it is enough to help us let go for the sake of our own well-being)

2.     If I feel unable to move out of resistance, how might the resistance be protecting me?

o   Examples: allows me to stay in what’s familiar, allows me to avoid the feeling of vulnerability that is associated with uncertainty, allows me to feel significant and “right” in control, etc

3.     What am I afraid will happen if I accept this and/or let this go?

o   Examples: the project will fail, he/she will get away with it, I won’t be able to get it all done at home and work

4.     And lastly, what will that thing I’m afraid of above mean about me?

As with any stressful situation, it is imperative to observe ourselves and the answers to the questions above without judgement.  If we don’t feel psychologically safe to look at some of the ways we may be contributing to our own overwhelm then we will never be able to get to the root causes and clear the deeper resistance.  If you are sharing and reflecting on these questions with someone you work or live with, remember that it is equally important to create a safe and non-judgemental space for honest and open dialog with others.  This can be one of the quickest ways to build trust (or break trust if you go into problem solving or constructive criticism mode). 

How we respond to our stressors can often be more important than the stressful event itself in terms of the physical effects and lasting impacts. And as with any shifts and growth that we make, we want to move forward in a way that feels authentic to us and easeful, just not by spiritually bypassing or abandoning parts of ourselves.  If there are parts of us that are not ready to move into acceptance, those parts will continue to find sneaky ways to show up and plant their metaphorical feet.  Through genuine reflection starting with the questions above, we can untangle our resistance and what we may really be afraid of.  And practicing acceptance is what will help us truly shift and sustainably disarm a huge part of our stress.

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