Long ago, the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung contended that “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.’’
When we feel pain, emotional or otherwise, our instinct is to resist it. In some ways it feels right to resist what hurts and scares us. And it’s just not in our human nature to embrace pain. But pain is not the cause of the problem as it’s usually the symptom of a deeper problem. When you resist it, you are feeding right into it.
In Buddhism they believe that since our mind creates everything, no external cause is really creating any pain for us. It’s only the illusion within our mind that creates the pain we feel. The external cause is what draws our attention to the pain that already exists. They mention the same exact thing in the book ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz where they talk about people experiencing life as the result of their own reflection in a mirror. Two people walking in the street on a rainy day, a bus passes by too close to the kerb soaking them both. Chances are their reactions will be very different. This is because of our internal issues and subjective perceptions of the world. One of them may be annoyed but decides to laugh at it, while the other one is still screaming and swearing at the bus driver. The first one will recover from this in the next 5 minutes and the second one will still be mad the next day.
We show resistance when we are not being able or willing, to deal with the negative experiences in our lives. This can happen in many ways as the mind is frankly quite amazing and always finds alternative ways to deal with problems. The issue is that some of those times, the way the mind has learned to deal with these issues is not beneficial to the person that can’t even see this pattern happening. Sometimes we don’t even know any other way to deal with the problems in our lives.
Forms of resistance
- To deny what is happening. Denial is a classic of resistance to confront feelings. It is probably the most difficult one to overcome as it is stays at the root of our sense of reality.
- To minimise the problem: This one is similar to denial but people minimising events of situations at least are aware of them even though they are trying to hide them under the carpet.
- To blame other people or situations: I will place this one just beside denial as this coping technique not only causes a sense of reality where one never owns up to their own actions but also holds onto a lot of anger and resentment towards people. Mostly because society is not made that way. We all are responsible for our actions and any other believe placing responsibility on others will only bring you a life of disappointment and negative emotions as it is not realistic at all.
- To try to change other people : Ww may spend too much time trying to get those around us to agree with our subjective view of a particular situation.We all think differently and may have different beliefs. But one step to overcome resistance is to accept that we are different indeed and that things and people change. Accepting the change and the feelings that will come with that change are better strategies than to try to change the person or the event back to what was comfortable for you.
Why we resist?
We usually resist because our perception of reality is somewhat faulty and very subjective to what we feel or have felt about that particular issue or event. But our happiness depends more on handling these issues that on letting go of them by denying them, or even fighting them. What it’s even sadder it’s that often times in doing so we unwittingly hold onto associated feelings of hurt, sorrow, anxiety, and even anger that will hurt us more in the long run.
If we don’t deal with the difficult issues in our lives, we may unconsciously get “attached” to these feelings that we haven’t resolved.
By working through these feelings, you’ll soon realise that clinging to them hasn’t at all contributed to your well being. Quite the opposite. What I mean by working through feelings is not to adopt a defeating ‘victim’ attitude about life (that won’t help you at all) is that we should all put ourselves in the best position to be able to change things. Sometimes they will not change the way we want, as we can’t control everything, we can only control what we do and how we react to the things happening to us. But the simple act of consciously choosing one way to DEAL over another will make all the difference in the outcome.
I guess this would be related to what we all have heard in popular psychology about the ’Law of Attraction’. Even though I read the book, I did not like the assumption that all of us want the same things from life: money, power, status.
Personally, I couldn’t care less about that and I know many people that feel exactly like I do. After all, happiness means different things for different people. But I did like that the whole philosophy of the book is related to how linked are the thoughts in our mind to the way life will unfold before us. I find the law of attraction very much related to the also well-known self-fulfilling prophecy first mentioned by American sociologist Robert Merton. The self-fulfilling prophecy explains that any positive or negative expectation about circumstances, events, or people may affect a person’s behaviour toward them in a manner that may cause those expectations to be fulfilled. And in my experience, they do.
This article on the Huff Post shows examples of resistance towards daily struggles and I like the perspective the author takes on it. Read more> ”Embrace Your Own Reality: It’s the Key to Happiness” By Elizabeth Denham
Why we should work through the emotions?
Because there are more and more studies that show the link between the emotions and our health and how negative emotions will impact our health. It is important to be aware of your emotions and to accept situations that are outside your control. There is a book by the molecular biologist Candace Pert, PhD. named Molecules of Emotion where she explains how various diseases and deteriorative physical conditions have been linked to what, emotionally, has never been released or discharged. Emotional pain is pain after all, and our body does recognise it as such even when we don’t want to. It is only a matter of time that it makes itself known physically, in the form of physical symptoms you can no longer avoid. This is well-known with anxiety and panic attacks, but also with many other illnesses.
The work of Dr Pert showed that a variety of proteins known as peptides (including endorphins) were among the body’s key “information substances” – and each of them could affect our mind, our emotions, our immune system, our digestion and other bodily functions simultaneously. (Source)
I guess that it is important to acknowledge that if you feel emotional pain of any sort, you should definitely work through it as the pain is not only not going to magically disappear but it will manifest itself in many other ways that will be more difficult to ignore.
We live in a society now where pills are supposed to ‘fix’ everything. But the reality is that they don’t. You can take pills for your anxiety, and sometimes you may need them. But it should be a temporary fix until you feel ready to really deal with what is causing it. Anxiety and panic attacks are like the fire alarms of the body. When the fire alarm sounds in your house, it is very annoying and nobody likes to listen to that. But it is doing that to warn you about an imminent danger, a fire. You may ignore it, and maybe it was only a bit of smoke from a toast, but if you keep silencing it, there may be a real fire you may not be able to ignore.
The long term cost of not confronting issues from the present or the past can be devastating for the person that experiences it. Often these people feel stuck or in a loop, and the sad thing is that they are. We all are, at some point, until you unveil the issue and you dare to see it for what it really is. Being avoidant or victimised by such feelings will not help more than if you simply confront them. With the right attitude there can always be change, and while it may not be the ideal change it will surely be better than to be attached to ruminations or negative emotions created by these difficult feelings and the negative impact that they have on our health.
Would you agree with this view? Have you experience resistance in your life? Let me know on the comments below!
Thanks for reading!