There comes a point when it becomes painfully obvious just how exhausting it is to resist events in life. For some of us, there have to be many such points until we’re ready to do something different. Here’s a typical scenario: You get up in the morning, you have a list of what you’d like to accomplish that day, including how you spend time with your family, what you’ll accomplish at work and what you’ll do to take care of your own well being. One by one, however, there are interruptions, delays, changes, and other unexpected events and before you know it, there’s no way you’re going to get everything done on your list. You’ll be lucky if you get half of them accomplished. Each time something happens that gets in the way of you doing what you think you need to do, you say no (whether out loud or to yourself). This is known as resistance. One of the things we do when we resist is to make people or circumstances wrong: “that shouldn’t be happening,” or “they’ can’t do that.” Your physical body tightens up, you feel the muscles in your neck and across your shoulders turning into cable wires, your feelings bounce back and forth between blame and anxiety. Sound stressful? It is. And the stress doesn’t just get to you: the energy you project when you’re resisting affects others and puts them on the defensive so they resist, too. A chain reaction starts and events can easily spiral out of control.
Everyone’s had this experience of resistance and nobody likes how it feels. So let’s consider some positive reasons to act differently.
First of all, letting go of resistance makes you feel better - in your body, in your feelings and in your mind. Byron Katie says that whenever we argue with reality, we lose. In other words, when we argue with reality, we are resisting. Just because it may not be what you expect or intend doesn’t mean it’s wrong or shouldn’t be happening. As Katie would say, do you absolutely know for certain that your agenda is the best one for you and everyone else concerned? If you soften and open instead, what could you discover, what new information could present itself, what gift might arise that may never have been possible otherwise?
Secondly, letting go of resistance is empowering. Instead of daydreaming or wishing things were different, fretting about potential consequences or projecting an imaginary future, you can release the pent-up energy of the thoughts and feelings that have arisen. As you let go of them, they will let go of you. It may be hard to accept the reality that life may not go the way you want, but letting yourself inwardly allow what is happening outwardly gives you control over your own responses and helps others with theirs.
Thirdly, letting go of resistance enables you to see new options. By consciously choosing to be where you are and be present, you can discover what else is available to you now other than the fulfilling of your agenda. Isn’t it a possibility that there just may be something you can benefit from? Why not explore it and see? Certainly being open and curious is a much more expansive posture than avoidance, denial or closing down and refusing to participate.
We can begin to change our habitual resistance by noticing when we’re doing it. Your beautiful ability to be self aware will make it clear when you’re resisting: the quality of your thoughts and your feelings and your bodily sensations are unmistakeable. If you don’t like how they feel, choose to let them go. It’s really that simple. It may take a bit of practice in the beginning, but that’s true of any skill you want to develop. Aren’t you in a much better position to make choices and find the best in a given situation when you are willing to be curious about what’s showing up instead of what you expected? Instead of the strain of “what should be” you can relax and open yourself to “what is.”
Nina Lockwood, MSW, HTCP, is a healer, teacher and coach.