On the path of healing, most of us will run up against resistance…and for some, it’ll come up with a capital R. Resistance takes on many forms in our thoughts, emotions, and physicality. It might just be a heavy feeling of inertia or irritation when we intend to move forward, say, in our meditation practice. We say to ourselves, “when I meditate, I feel better, so I’m going to meditate for a ½ hour every morning.” Then the third morning comes around and suddenly we find ourselves resenting that we “have to” get up early to meditate. Suddenly the thing that brought us excitement and a feeling of accomplishment feels like an irritating chore. Hello, resistance!
Resistance, if allowed to run the show, can thwart growth and take away the opportunity to feel fulfilled through taking positive actions. And yet, the voice of it can be debilitating.
Our Inner Voices
When we make a goal like the meditation practice example, at least one voice is present. We could call it the voice of guidance, or the voice of our aligned self. It is a clear, loving voice that knows that sticking to a positive routine like meditation will open doors to freedom, expansion, and spiritual growth. We will get great benefit, we will have more self-love, more calm in challenging situations. The benefits are clear. Sounds great, right?
If that were the only voice present, then fulfilling the goal will be relatively easy. We’d set the alarm, get up, and drop in to meditation every morning. We’d get the self esteem boost we’ve been craving, and feel more accomplished and relaxed.
But with resistance, another voice comes in, a voice that throws a tantrum and doesn’t want to do it. What is this voice in us that resists this positive, loving guidance, hits snooze and tells us to blow off the practice instead?
The voice that resists, in my experience, is the voice of the oppressed aspects of ourselves.
Have you ever felt in life that were being asked to live up to impossible standards, or were suppressed, controlled, or “shoulded” into doing things? If so, a part of you may still be rebelling against that icky feeling of being under pressure to perform.
It can be quite a conundrum to be caught between the voice of the aligned self, which may be giving you excellent suggestions for moving forward (or may be so buried that you can’t even hear it), and the wounded parts of you who really just want to throw off the pressure and be ‘left alone.’ Problem is, when we don’t stick to goals and move forward in life, the stagnation tends to destroy self esteem and tank our moods.
So, how do we work with this conundrum? How do we move forward, become a go-getter, push past resistance, and achieve great things, while at the same time being gentle and loving with the parts of ourselves that felt or feel pressured and pushed in our lives?
Here are a few thoughts from my toolbox:
- Accept and reintegrate the voice of resistance
This might sounds something like, “OK, resistance, I hear you. You think waking up early sounds like something perfectionists do. Or that my mom would want me to do. I won’t get anything from it anyway.” Perhaps the resistance in you says “if you stay depressed, at least you’re not giving in to the pressure of the culture, of your ex, of mom & dad. At least you have a little bit of yourself still.” This is actually a very common (albeit buried) storyline in the body/mind of depression sufferers. The inner psyche does what it thinks will shake off the internalized oppressors, but in doing so destroys movement and joy. It’s like a part of the person is saying, “see? See what happens when you push me [mom, dad, mentor]? I just get worse. So there. My depressed state proves you and your tactics wrong!”
If you can listen deeply and let the resistance vent, let it tell you its concerns and fears, often you will find that it just doesn’t want to be taken over by outer perspectives, it wants to find its own authentic movement forward, not someone else’s prescription. It wants you to find your own truth.
The voice of resistance, when it is not further shamed, judged, and misunderstood by you, can actually become your ally. It can help you find what you really need in order to move forward. It can help you understand when you’re crossing your own boundaries to please someone else. It can steer you towards your own prescription of healing. If you integrate the resistant voice into your psyche as a positive, it can help you find love and acceptance of the parts of you that did/do feel pushed, prodded, and criticized by others and subsequently are holding you back in life. In other words, it can help you find your boundaries.
- Rediscover your authentic inner voice and your inner authority
As we’re exploring here, often those who experience resistance in a strong way are those who once gave their decision-making capacities away to someone else. That could have been a parent, grandparent, influential teacher or guru, or a strong-minded partner. They gave in to the power of someone else’s conviction, because that person had a stronger, more opinionated voice than their own. Therefore empowering themselves to become a leader in their own life and process takes releasing any feeling of obligation to an inner or outer voice that is in any way oppressive or critical.
Once you know that the voice of resistance is your way of rebelling from criticism that came from an outer source, you can consciously release the pressured perspective you took on. As one of my mentors once said to me, “you need to let [that person’s voice in your head] go. Stay away from people who are critical of you. You’re good enough at criticizing yourself, all on your own!” She made a brilliant albeit humorous point. Many of us are so good at finding our own faults, why would we also add insult to injury by taking in heavy criticism from outside sources? If we do, it all adds up and we cave under the pressure.
For me, claiming my sovereignty as a unique, individuated person made a huge difference in my ability to heal. From that point, I really started to make deep shifts in myself, because I finally had some internal breathing room in which to actually hear myself. Once given the spaciousness I need, I started to turn towards another voice—a voice that did want me to move forward, that did want me to make changes, but wanted that in a loving, self-respecting way; not in a shaming way. This is the voice I try to listen to now.
This shift also allowed me to take criticism with more perspective, lightheartedness, and trust in myself. When someone I respect points out an area of growth, I can take the feedback in without shaming myself or feeling hopelessly crushed by it. It’s a shift for me to be able to say “ok, I can work on that” (which is a statement of self-esteem) instead of “Oh my god what have I done what the hell is wrong with me I’m such an idiot…” (you get the picture.)
This authentic inner voice in you might be timid at first, or perhaps covered over by many layers of cynicism and sarcasm. What would it be like to just keep breathing through those layers? To keep releasing those internalized pressures, to give yourself some space?
What are your creative ideas for growth? They could be as simple as the example I’m using here of the desire to get up early and meditate before work. I guarantee you that the creative impulse, that small flickering flame of desire, is alive in you, no matter how beaten down it feels in your life. The joyful essence within us can take great pleasure in small things in life, like a meditation practice, baking a cake, taking a nap in the sun. The voice of resistance won’t allow us these simple pleasures; instead demanding more and more from us; never satiated, never calm.
- Take the risk to become who you want to be
All the things that that inner, protective voice of resistance fears: failure, being criticized, being disliked….all of those things may very well happen. When we start to shine our essence out, to share it, despite the fear and resistance, we are entering some pretty risky territory…it’s the unknown! It’s vulnerable! As you individuate and start holding your own perspective more and more, some people probably will not resonate with you. Someone probably will roll their eyes at you and speak badly of you. But when you’ve developed the inner voice of authority like we talked about in step two; honestly, you won’t care. At least not that much. Maybe you’ll get a little sting of pain when it happens, when you aren’t accepted by someone in a given moment, but you know enough now to know that your naysayers and critics are probably just terrified themselves of coming forward in life.
The concept of “spiritual growth” implies that there is a new edge we’re facing, an unknown territory. If we decline the invitation of our higher self or inner authority to enter that new territory, it’s basically guaranteed we will stay stuck and depressed.
In taking the risk to feel the discomfort, step into the unknown, and chart the potentially scary territory of our own uniqueness and perspective, we are saying NO to depression and YES to our higher self. There can be fulfillment in our lives, but it only comes through taking the risk and moving through the voice of resistance’s many good arguments as to why staying put and playing it safe would be smarter.
If your inner critic has a strong hold on you, and you find yourself in resistance to taking your next step, take some time with yourself to just relax and explore these inner pressured voices. Obviously one of the big issues we’re talking about in this article is a lack of spaciousness in the inner being/psyche. So if the answers aren’t coming, and the stuck sensation feels overwhelming, first try relaxing and allowing that spaciousness.
Do you need to cure all of your frustrations and questions about your life purpose right now? No. If you’re telling yourself you do, that’s the inner critic. I would invite you instead to listen through the layers of criticism and doubt, and follow the thread of purpose you find, a desire from your inner self. It could be as simple as baking a cake or calling a friend. And that is enough.
To learn more about how I can help you shift out of stuckness into creative flow, please contact me via my contact form here.