Resistance empowers what we resist – whether it’s addiction, relationship problems or the national debt
BY MARY COOK – Nobody enjoys watching a documentary about melting icecaps and drowning polar bears. Switching off such a downer of a show is one way to shut out reality, but it doesn’t help the cause of global warming. In the same way, stashing an unopened credit card bill into a drawer instead of paying it only worsens the national epidemic of personal debt.
If everyone resisted what is unpleasant in life – cold truths, hard facts, hard work – there would be no progress. In the inner world of the mind, resistance is equally futile.
Resistance is born of fear. It is not healthy assertiveness and boundary setting. It is not examining, understanding and resolving problems. It is not letting go and letting God. It is pretending that we can extinguish something by pushing it away with negative thoughts.
Resisting sadness increases its energies, attracting sad people and experiences to us, until we acknowledge our own sadness. In the same way, resisting addressing childhood molestation makes it more likely that further sexual abuse will occur, and that we will act promiscuously. Resisting society’s rules results in more rules and restrictions being imposed on us. Resisting anger means that we become self-destructive, passive aggressive, or repeatedly attract angry people and stressful circumstances; then we blame others for making us angry. Resisting learning means that the same lessons that we don’t like continue to plague us with escalating negative consequences.
The wrong way to resist resistance
When resistant thoughts alone fail to protect us from fear, we use compulsions to aid in our attempt to fool ourselves. The resulting combination of negative resistant thoughts and resistant compulsions gives us temporary artificial illusions that our life is the opposite of what we resist.
In an attempt to resist feeling weak and inferior, we abuse stimulant drugs that provide false beliefs of power and invulnerability. Eventually, however, we end up paranoid and imprisoned in self-hate and locked garages. We resist inner pain and depression with alcohol induced euphoria, until resistance and alcoholism beat us into overwhelming despair, hopelessness and shame. We try to resist feelings and memories of harmful intrusions, impositions and violations from others, by practicing eating disorders. Controlling what we put in our bodies, and what we get rid of and avoid, gives us the illusion of safety, comfort, power and nurturing but can end up causing us physical harm and increased anxiety, depression and fear.
We avoid painful feelings of powerlessness over sick people who determined our welfare in childhood, by codependently controlling and focusing on others. This results in hostile dependent relationships, futile power struggles and feelings of increasing anger, fear, frustration and helplessness.
We tend to resist feelings of personal emotional low self worth, by using workaholism to supply us with external achievements and value. We then experience unrelenting pressure to succeed, and an inability to relax and enjoy ourselves no matter what we accomplish – and our significant others complain that we have nothing to give them.
It is impossible to get someplace new when resistance is our primary tool. Fear creates a future that will resemble the past, and it prevents us from experiencing a single moment in the present. The present is the only place where we have any power for positive change. Resistance is an isometric exercise that keeps our bodies rigid, our minds narrow and our lives victimized by our own false beliefs.
Face yesterday, embrace today
Instead of resisting, we can respond to what we don’t like by attempting to understand it, its genesis and what it triggers within us emotionally, mentally and physically. We can then use our psychological and spiritual insight to determine the healthiest response. Life never ceases in its attempts to enlighten us. And once we agree to be a willing and open student, our life will evolve instead of remaining stagnant and replaying the same themes and heartaches.
Compassionately embracing our sad feelings allows us to mourn and move onward. It releases stress hormones, and we ultimately feel lighter and more energized. Addressing and healing sexual abuse, for example, gives us the chance to perceive our bodies as holy and miraculous instead of objects to be used, abused and hated. Complying with rules brings learning experiences that result in greater freedoms, and the acquisition of valuable skills. Experiencing anger and the circumstances of its beginnings, without negative actions, releases its destructive energy and reveals the underlying vulnerable feelings to be experienced, understood and healed.
When we cease practicing compulsions, we can examine painful feelings, thoughts and memories in light of adult perspective and spiritual support. We can ask ourselves: In what healthy ways or life areas do we experience competence, joy and serenity? Where are we able to set appropriate boundaries, and how can we demonstrate personal safety and self-nourishment?
We can identify healthy role models for relationships, re-parent ourselves, develop our true identity and learn to live and let live.
We can listen to others who are comfortable with personal reflection and sharing of feelings, and learn to trust this process and the inner strength and bonding that it brings.
In order to evolve, we need to set aside fear in favor of faith. We must practice assertiveness rather than aggressiveness or passivity. When we face our problems and pain with a calm mind and compassionate heart, we are on the path to resolution. Surrendering willfulness and character defects allows God to work through us. When resistance falls away, everything can be transformed into its highest good.
Mary Cook is the author of “Grace Lost and Found: From Addictions and Compulsions to Satisfaction and Serenity”, available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com etc. She has 34 years of clinical practice and 29 years of university teaching experience. She is a national speaker and has a private practice in San Pedro, CA. Mary is available for telephone and office counseling, guided meditation, speaking engagements and in-service training. Contact her at MaryCookMA@att.net and see her website for further information.
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