On Resistance

A few months ago, I had decided that it would be in my best interests as a professional life coach to facilitate a tele-class on the subject of committing our hearts to be open and at peace. The topic is near and dear to me as an area that I have been exploring and growing in for a long time. Doing an hour-long class was neither a technical nor intellectual challenge for me. I frequently use internet phone bridges to make conference calls. I had plenty of resource material at hand to write a script for what I wanted to say and how I would involve my audience. But I hadn’t done a tele-class before, and I had not stepped out of my comfort zone to expose myself as a coach into a larger circle of people.

I stalled. I set a date for the call, and then cancelled it. Not just once, but several times. Every time I vowed to spend time to write my script, I found other things that I “had” to do first. I was resisting, and I knew it. I also felt powerless to will myself into doing what I had committed to accomplishing.

We all commonly have feelings that we resist. It could come in the form of a nagging resistance to fear of an unwanted situation. Or you might resist feeling sad about a loss. You may even feel resistance toward anger, trying to avoid that uncomfortable and unpredictable emotional state.

When it comes to the realm of human behavior, I find the question of “Why is that?” much less useful than the question, “What do you get out of behaving that way?” ‘Why’ is about looking for causes and justification. Often that inquiry does not point us in a useful direction. ‘What do you get?’ points to the benefit we receive from a behavior like resistance to feelings. Understanding the benefits and the impacts of resistance on ourselves and others is a useful way toward arriving at a commitment to change an equation that is not working well for us and those we care about.

So what was it that I got out of my procrastination? I was so badly stalled that I found someone to coach me on just this one topic. Through my coaching sessions it soon became apparent that staying stuck did two things for me: 1. If I didn’t do the tele-class, I could stay small and maintain my status quo. Even though I “knew” on another level that I wanted to do this tele-class, my inertia was winning out. 2. If I facilitated the class in this more public sphere, I would need to face an old and deeply held belief that I’d be judged harshly leading a group. I was resisting feeling the fear and the threatening sensation of a potentially hostile crowd.

What were the impacts of my resistance? I was stuck, and not moving ahead in a direction that would surely benefit me professionally. I was not giving my gifts of communication, open-heartedness, truth-telling and community building. I was cheating myself and others. Still, this was not enough to get me in gear and moving. I needed to do one more thing: stop resisting, and see what was really there behind the wall of my resistance. I dropped the resistance I was exerting, and let in the fear and discomfort. It felt hard for a moment, like a plunge into a pool of cold water. And then came the shift. I didn’t so much feel the cold fear. I felt some invigoration and aliveness. After a few minutes of experiencing the fear it was no longer overwhelming; it had transformed into something more open and freeing: Possibility.

From that moment on, I was able to move forward on my plans, and facilitated the class. I am ready to do another one, eager to go forward. All because I faced my resistance and let in what was on the other side of it.

When you are feeling resistant to something, the following are tips for moving through it. Consider hiring a certified professional coach who has experience with helping people with moving through resistance to facilitate and assist you in this process:

  • Notice first that you are feeling the resistance. Feel where the energy of resistance resides in your body. Notice if it has a shape or color or texture, like tightness or spikey or abrasive.
  • Breathe in whatever way your body wants to, and notice your breath. Let your body assume the posture that expresses your sensation. It’s okay to slump down or crawl under a desk for a while, if that’s where your body wants to go. The idea is to fully experience what is going on, not just rehearse it in your head.
  • After feeling the resistance in this way, invite it in. Open the door to it and actually welcome this part of you. Know that you can go back to resisting if you need to, that this is your choice to welcome whatever is there into your conscious space. Keep breathing!
  • Sit or stand with the feeling. Usually in a short while it will transform to another sensation. Notice what that is, and be curious about that.
  • You may need to repeat the above steps several times to get the shift. Don’t give up on yourself or the process. You can come back to it later if you find your resistance comes back strongly.
  • When the shift in sensation happens, there is often a new thought or belief that comes with it. Notice that, and write it down. Take time to breathe in the new message and anchor it in your body. Touch that part where the new energy lives. Notice its characteristics. Remind yourself that this is part of you, and you can access it at any time.
  • From this new state of being, a new commitment to action can be made. Choose some resonant action that comes to mind.
  • Follow through on you actions, and celebrate your success!

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About John Owens

John Owens is an intuitive coach who works with men, women, and couples who want to gracefully and mindfully transition their lives from earning and parenting focus to purposeful eldership and renewed intimacy.
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1 Response to On Resistance

  1. Michael Martens says:

    John

    You are right on.

    Sometimes I have either excuses why I not doing something I know needs to be done or I’m in denial. My self talk is other things are more important”right on” & I will do what I am resisting doing later.

    You are right it is hard to admit to resistance. And sometimes we need help to support us when we step into and really feel our feelings.

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