This is How to Overcome the Most Powerful Obstacle to Change

by | Aug 18, 2019 | Anxiety, Intrusive Thoughts | 22 comments

We all know that greens are healthy. We know that meditation can be life-changing. We know that breathwork is deeply healing and that yoga can be a pathway to profound change. We know that exercise is essential. We know that journaling is a powerful tool. We know it, but what stops us from committing to these actions that will result in change and growth?

Resistance.

Resistance is one of the most powerful forces that both prevents and, paradoxically, invites change.

What does this mean? It means that the very blocks that resistance creates are the ones that, when addressed effectively, will help us access the next layer of inner growth.

In other words, resistance itself is part of the plan. It’s not just something to get over but, because it provides something to push up against, it helps us grow. So we don’t want to think of resistance as an evil or bad part of our personality but rather an essential aspect that, when attended to and worked with effectively, aids our healing process. In other words, it’s through consciously working with resistance that we strengthen our sense of Self. It’s all exactly as it’s meant to be; none of it is an accident. 

As Douglas Adams writes in The Book of Joy: 

“Stress and opposition turn out to be exactly what initiate our development in utero. Our stem cells do not differentiate and become us if there is not enough biological stress to encourage them to do so. Without stress and opposition, complex life like ours would not have have developed. We would never have come into being.”

If we don’t have anything to push up against, we will not grow. 

And yet… when resistance takes over it stops growth in its tracks. In fact, nothing stops growth more than resistance.

What does this look like?

It looks like signing up for an online course and dropping off after the second week.

It looks like committing to eating more greens and making more salads and falling off the horse after a month.

It looks like signing a contract with yourself that you’ll go to the gym three times a week and dropping the ball after three months.

It looks like meditating every day for 15 minutes… for a while.

Sound familiar?

We’ve all been there. It’s part of being human. Committing then falling away from the commitment is as common as sand, as essential as light. If we were meant to grow easily and in a straight line then that’s what we would do. But because we have an ego, which is the part of us that is afraid of change and clings with tenacity to the status quo, we’re subject to one of ego’s emissaries, which is resistance.

Now that we’ve named the problem, what are the steps to overcome it?

One step, as always, is to name it. There is so much power in naming. When you feel resistance taking hold, say out loud, “Hello, resistance. I was expecting you!”

Another step is to identify your fears about growth. Write them down and respond to each one from a wiser and more change-tolerant part of you.

A powerful third step is to break down whatever you’re resisting into smaller, more manageable steps. For example, if your intention is to meditate every morning, tell yourself, “I’m going to sit on my meditation cushion for one minute. That’s all. In fact, if all I do is sit on the cushion but I don’t meditate, that’s okay.” As resistance and overwhelm are closely linked, when you give yourself permission to do less, sometimes more ends up happening.

Oh, but if only it were as easy as one, two, three.. :).

These are basic steps, but in order to unpack and diffuse resistance at the core much more information and guidance is required. I’ve been wanting to offer a course on resistance for years, but as I was creating my new course, Break Free From Anxiety: A 9-month Course on the Art of Living, it made so much sense to fold it into this curriculum as there’s no reason to learn the mindsets and tools that will create growth and healing if we don’t know how to work with resistance.

In fact, there’s nothing like deciding to embark on a path of healing, like a 9-month long course, to activate the character of resistance, for resistance, as we’ve said, is an emissary of ego whose biggest fear is of change and growth. Therefore, we can expect resistance – almost welcome it! –  and then learn how to work with it effectively. Like anxiety, resistance is not our enemy but is our ally in disguise, and when we meet it with effective tools, we learn how to harness its power.

I will announce registration for this Break Free From Anxiety 9-month course at the end of August, and it will start at the end of September. I very much look forward to connecting with you there.

And one more thing on this note of connection: One of the aspects of this course that I’m most excited about is the live phone support. It’s become quite clear to me that, while the forums can be helpful (sometimes life-changing), when we connect voice-to-voice on a phone call where you have the opportunity to hear other people’s stories and listen to me working with them, an invisible layer of safety and healing arises. Connection is medicine, and in our digital and isolation age, this connection is more critical than ever. Again, I look forward to meeting you there.

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22 Comments

  1. You really have a knack for writing about what is within the collective consciousness don’t you Sheryl? I’ve recently been reviewing my exercise regime and decided to exercise first thing in the morning, rather than later in the day (so i have more time in the evening and so i can get better sleep!). I found so much resistance within to “not being able to sleep in”, but i resolved to give it a go none the less and it’s been life changing! I get all of my gear ready the night before so i have no excuse not do it (this is actually the MOST important step). The alarm goes off, my body says no, let’s roll over. I say to myself, of course that is what you want to do, but that’s not giving you the results you want, so let’s swing the legs out and stretch, and then let’s put the gear on and get out the front door. I felt mental resistance (and body tiredness) this morning on my way to work out, and i just kept telling myself – it’s all about the habits. Good habits deliver the results. I then pumped out a great HITT session and came back feeling alive and vibrant!! What we resist persists, but when we push against and through the resistance, we grow, and we show ourselves that we can do it.

    Reply
    • Incredible wisdom in this comment, Brent! YES to getting everything ready the night before. YES to pushing through the mental and physical resistance. YES to creating good habits; this is KEY. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  2. So, so true. But once you break through the resistance, the real healing begins. You just have to muster enough courage to push through.

    This is unrelated to the post, but with how much work you’ve done with the wedding transition I figured you might have some insight.

    I bought my wedding dress yesterday. After visiting multiple stores and not loving any of them, I finally found “the dress” that made me feel beautiful, radiant, and like a bride. I loved it. I’ve been on cloud 9, so happy and excited.

    Now today, one day later, I’m having thoughts like, “What if my fiance doesn’t like it?”, which is taking the fun right out of it. (I’m going the traditional route and don’t want him to see until the day of.) I know that I look and feel beautiful and he’ll probably love it, but now these doubts came creeping in.

    Is this sort of thing common for brides-to-be? What do you think it points to?

    Reply
    • 100% common. The dress is the primary symbol of the wedding and, as such, it’s where we project all of our fears, grief, and insecurity. Use the same tools you’ve used to work through relationship anxiety, especially the concept of projection, and you’ll break through it. Also, I recommend reading “The Conscious Bride” if you haven’t already as there’s an entire chapter on the dress!

      Reply
    • Your wedding day is all about you. The Bride. If your finance truly loves you. All he will be seeing how beautiful you are.
      Thanking the ? that you didn’t left him at the altar..
      Keep telling yourself, ” I LOVE MYSELF”. This is my wedding day. I really love this ?. I am very happy wearing this ?.
      I wish you all the happiness.
      I love Myself.
      Queen Evvye

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      • I’ll do that, thank you ??

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      • I was having a moment, but you’re right! I feel beautiful, I look beautiful, and my fiance will think so, too. He always does 😉 thank you!

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  3. Wow. I just finished struggling through another meditation and decided it’s just not for me. I’m too hyper. Talk about resistance! Thanks for the pep talk. One thing I learned from Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopalian priest and long-time meditator, was to “surrender to the resistance.” Sometimes that helps me relax into it.

    Reply
    • Beautiful wisdom, and good job naming that voice as resistance!

      Reply
  4. This post helped me get “back on the mat” last night and meditate before bed. Thank you. Also, wondering if anyone has read “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself”? A friend gave it to me. I’m just starting it and it seems fascinating. Very science based about the brain.

    Reply
    • Wonderful! I’m so glad the post arrived at the right time. I haven’t read that book but it sounds fascinating.

      Reply
  5. Sometimes the same repetitive thoughts keep creating resistance in the body and mind. Nowadays I decide to stop fueling those thoughts the moment they appear. It helps a lot. I release the tension and choose to keep the mind silent even though I feel the pull of the mind. Am I doing it right?

    Reply
    • There really isn’t “right” and “wrong” when it comes to healing. If it’s working for you then that’s what matters!

      Reply
  6. Hi Sheryl. Your work has been such a life line for me – I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    I’m currently working through the Relationships anxiety e-course – I’m yet to cover all the material and know it will be an ongoing process to work regularly on my inner healing…. but I wondered whether your new course on anxiety and the relationship anxiety e course would work in conjunction? And will there be other course start dates in the coming year apart from the end of September?

    Reply
    • The new course will work well in conjunction with the relationship anxiety course as it covers different material and also offers the live support element, which is so crucial to healing. There likely will not be another start date until next September. I’m so glad my work has been helpful ;).

      Reply
  7. I will look into it. Thank you!

    I also want to say that I’m glad you joined Instagram. I know you were hesitant, but I look forward to seeing your posts amid all the junk and pretense that the platform is full of. You make it real, and this way your message reaches more people. Our culture is saturated with unhealthy and unrealistic expectations about love, and it seems that more and more people have relationship anxiety because of it. Your grounded words are needed now. ?

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your kind words and reflections. It means a lot to me :).

      Reply
  8. I’ve experienced resistance in having sex with my husband. This last year after working through layers of trauma, shame, and fear, I’ve found I’ve come to enjoy it! However, the patterns of “oh no, he wants sex again.” Pop up still. It wasn’t until I realized that the feeling was tied to my past feelings, and not my present, that I began to name it as resistance. I still say “no” when I genuinely do not want to have sex, but I have began removing the times when it’s purely from habit! Thank you for your work and your course on healing your relationship with sex!

    Reply
    • What a beautiful update, Cassandra! You’ve worked very hard and are now reaping the benefits ;).

      Reply
  9. This hits so close to home! I struggle so much with resistance. It’s such a confusing thing! I have developed bad myopia because of my poor lifestyle and habits and I know fully well that doing eye excercises, breathing, meditating and massaging could very well help my situation, and yet I always think “Yeah, I will start tomorrow!’. Everytime I find out that doing a specific something will help me get healthier, I get the same. Exact. Feeling. The same exact rush of reassurance and excitement, (because “Yeah! I can fix this! There’s still hope”) that I know fully well will end in me procrastinating that specific thing until “forgetting” about it completely. “Ok! Now I know I can fix this! Yay, I’m happy! So I can start tomorrow, right?”.

    It’s confusing because… Why would I want to choose to keep doing unhealthy things for me? But the good thing is that now I recognize that specific rush of excitement that leads to procrastinating. And I can use it at my advantage: everytime I feel that rush *I know* that something healthy is expecting me to the other side. So it’s a signal that I must unequivocally pursue it, and not dropping it 🙂

    It’s funny that, while I struggled with severe relationship anxiety and I didn’t really know if staying with my lover was the best thing for me, when I thought about doing the “love actions” and taking real steps to create a real lovimg relationship with him I felt that same rush… 🙂

    Reply
  10. Beautiful words. I am at a point in my life where I know I need to change some unhealthy routines in order to grow and heal.
    Can it also be that the ego/a part of me finds some sort of false ‘safety’ in holding on to certain habits although not good for you? Because for me it is al about letting go and finding a more healthy outlet, it is as if something in me wants to hold on to the old ‘sAfe’ habit… instead of letting go…because letting go means change, means feeling instead of distraction.

    Reply
    • Absolutely. The ego hates change :).

      Reply

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