When you start to turn towards “healing”, you will very likely experience a backlash. Probably lots of backlashes. You and Mr/Ms Backlash are going to become really great friends, in fact. But first, you’re going to be enemies. Epic enemies. Like, Avengers vs. Thanatos kind of epic. Sparta vs. Xerxes. The Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens. Rocky vs. Apollo Creed. You’re probably going to get beaten up a few times.
I mean, not to be pessimistic and “Law of Attraction” you onto a self-defeating pathway or anything, but rather the opposite. I think there is great value in acknowledging the likelihood of setbacks so that they don’t take you by surprise. As the saying goes, “Expect the best, plan for the worst.”
In any case, you’re going to hate Backlash. And you’re going to feel like Backlash hates you too. No matter how many times you make excellent, rock-solid plans to “get better”, Backlash is, for sure, going to come along and screw them all up. That’s just what it does. Asking it not to is like asking a dog not to wag its tail or a cat not to act superior to the idiotic dog wagging its tail.
Backlash is a mighty powerful opponent. When it’s at full strength, it can so easily derail whatever progress you’ve made, and whatever motivation and nascent belief-in-yourself you had nurtured goes POOF, disappearing like teenagers after dinner, who disappear like a ninja smoke-bombing out of harm.
How have you experienced Backlash in your life?
In the most obvious sense, Backlash can be heard as the critical voice inside you, telling you you’re stupid, or you won’t be able to do this right, or you’re being selfish, or you’re too far gone to be helped. It’s that feeling of embarrassment or shame or unworthiness that chokes our creativity and snuffs out our exuberance and joy, and most definitely makes us feel like doing good things for ourselves just…isn’t okay.
But Backlash can also manifest more straightforwardly, hijacking our behaviour while seeming to bypass our cognitive-level of awareness.
For example, let’s say you’re struggling with using some substances a wee bit too much, and you decide to cut down. So, you set a goal, you decide to replace some of your time spent drinking or smoking weed or whatever, and replace it with nature walks, exercise, reading good books, and gaming online with your friends. Awesome plan, man. And so, you implement your plan for…..a week! Holy shit! You haven’t smoked weed in a week!
So, you celebrate, roll a joint, spark up…..Inhale…..Exhale…..”Ahhhhh, yeahhhh, I totally deserved this.”
Time passes….more time passes…..you kind of stagnate, stumbling along just like you always did, sometimes better, sometimes worse, until the next time when you can’t hide from yourself any longer, you know things suck, and you sit down and have a good ol’ talk with yourself. Again. “You need to change, man….You don’t want to keep going on like this.”
Life could be so much more, and you know it.
You look into your eyes in the mirror. Really closely. They look….beautiful. It’s kind of astonishing. You feel motivated. Yes! This time, THIS time, you’re going to quit for real.
This kind of “back slide” happens in all sorts of pursuits. You make some progress, you feel good about things, you’re like “Yeah! Look at me!”, and then…you coast. You avoid it. You feel weird about it. Maybe you decide to give up altogether, abandoning what had just been so clearly important to you or something you were proud of. Then you feel bad for failing, or not succeeding as spectacularly as you had hoped. You feel guilty, maybe embarrassed, especially if you’ve been sharing your progress and success excitedly with people, and now you’re like, fuck, I suck. I suck suck suck suck fucking suck. Again. WTF man….
And right there, waiting for you with open arms, are your fall-back vices — your addictions, emotional entanglements, extremist thinking, self-hate, self-aggrandizement, obsessive achievement orientation, perfectionism, anger, dissociation, procrastination, Rescuer complex. Whatever you have relied upon to get through life in the past, it’s right there waiting for you, like that stoner friend who always has a greasy, weird-smelling couch you can come and crash on.
A Subtler “Level” of Backlash
But backlashing happens more instantaneously than that, more unconsciously and subtly. You’ve experienced this too.
Like, when you get a compliment, and you immediately want to discount it somehow, reject it, or perhaps in your mind, remind yourself that the person “doesn’t really mean it,” for one reason or another. Or maybe you just kind of … freeze … and don’t know what to say, so you feel embarrassed and weird and you laugh or make a self-deprecating joke, or automatically compliment them right back so things are “even” and you don’t have to sit with the weirdness of feeling good about yourself.
Or, when your partner reaches out to you for intimacy, for touch and closeness and maybe sex, and you immediately feel…weird. Like, maybe you are reminded of something you don’t like about your body and how it looks. Or you feel awkward and unsure what to do. Or you feel pressured to perform. Or you are reminded of some past shitty relationship you were in. Or you start to feel jealous, or insecure about yourself in some way. Or ….. the possibilities for people to be triggered, are practically endless.
Or, maybe it’s just you getting down on the exercise mat. You’ve been meaning to get in shape for a long time, so here you go! But….then you don’t. You just don’t. It just feels….just “not today”. Okay, maybe tomorrow. Yeah….I think today should be about, yeah, I’m gonna check Facebook for a second….maybe I’ll go for a walk. Hey I know, I’ve got time. Let’s smoke some weed, listen to some music. Yeah, I need to really “do some thinking”. Then I’ll be ready to exercise. Like, tomorrow man. Tomorrow is The Day. I’m gonna hit it tomorrow and hit it hard!
Anyway….flick flick….inhale…………exhale……..”Oh yeahhh, I totally deserved this….”