118) From Shitty-ness to Well-ness, Part 7: Resistance, the sneaky bastard

In this series on healing, we have been discussing the “problem” of resistance, and noting how people’s deeply internalized self-feelings and beliefs can be so strong, so reactive, so “resistive” that they are able to forestall, sabotage or otherwise prevent the person from truly walking the path to healing.  In other words, far too often, we are our own worst enemies.

Society’s general response to this, ubiquitously shared from the well-meaning friend to the well-meaning internet commenter, from the self-help speaker to the solutions-oriented therapist, is, in essence, just do it.  Just change.  Just stop thinking the bad thoughts and holding on to the negative beliefs.  Just stop focusing on yourself and your problems and look at how you can be of service to others.  Just stop feeling sorry for yourself for all the things that haven’t been perfect, and practice gratitude for all the blessings in your life.  Not uncommonly nowadays, I hear echoes of Jordan Peterson, sternly telling Bucko to sort himself out.

And all the people out there who feel that they themselves have improved their thinking, have healed and “let go” of the things that were holding them back, they KNOW you can do it!  They did it!  You can too!  (And they have at least 15 books scattered around their dwelling which echo this mantra.)

And in a sense, this is true.  The whole “personal responsibility” mantra IS true.  You ARE responsible for yourself.  You DO need to let go of past hurts, embrace the present, and orient motivationally to the future.  You DO need to stop telling yourself the negative things, staying attached to your negative beliefs.  You DO need to change your self-defeating attitude, and adopt healthier habits!  And nobody is going to get your shit together, except you.

Plus, when you do these things, you ARE happier, you ARE more motivated, confident, empowered, able to take hold of your life.  It’s true!

But the problem is, the advice to JUST DO THESE THINGS, is not the medicine that so many people need.  It is, in fact, just another dose of the poison they’ve been ingesting all their lives, a poison that seeped right into their core.  “It’s your fault.”  “There is something WRONG with you.”  “Why can’t you….?” “Why didn’t you….?” “Ugh! Can’t you just….?”

And everything, everything you try to do, try to “be good”, try to follow all the rules, everything, turns into shit.  You are told every step of the way you are a failure.  Or if you do succeed in some objectively obvious way, you are criticized for being selfish, or you didn’t really deserve it, or haha, just wait ’til you fuck THIS one up!  Etc. 

When this was enough of your early life, and the feeling of being “fundamentally wrong” resides right in your marrow, then it does not help to hear, again, that you “just have to” change.  Fix your thoughts and feelings.  Fix your behaviours.  Fix your life.  Fix….You.  

Yes, yes, you know that you need to fix you.  You’ve known that for as long as you can remember.  It is a cruel joke the world, or god or whatever, has played on you — to create the Unfixable Thing, and then torture it with the knowledge that it would feel better if only it could fix itself.  

So, when you encounter the “healing advice” in its various guises, there’s Resistance in you, and it interferes with you “just doing it”.  Resistance is a sneaky bastard (to riff on one of my therapist’s fav phrases).  It has many faces, plays many parts, has many tools to employ, many tricks up its sleeve.  

Resistance can manifest as laziness or productivity, as sadness or joy, as painfully low self-esteem or outright arrogance.  Resistance can look like someone who is out of touch with their feelings, or it can be someone who dives wholeheartedly into the ocean of their inner pain and splashes around in it without hesitation.  It can look like vapid, stubborn stupidity, or razor sharp analysis.  Resistance can be the nihilistic turning-away from meaning, or it can be the ardent seeking of enlightenment and spiritual salvation.  Resistance can be denying you have a problem, or it can be enthusiastically jumping right into your “healing journey”, especially when someone’s watching. Resistance can be the isolated loner who believes people are better off without them, and it can be the kind, compassionate “helper”, busily putting themselves aside to “be there” for everyone who needs someone.  Resistance can be driving the selfishness and greed of the corporate shark single-mindedly chasing career success, or it can be driving the seeming-altruism and righteous anger of the sign-waving activist trying to save the world. 

And with all of this sneakiness at its disposal, you can be damn sure that resistance is up to the task of perverting the wisdom you encounter in your life, twisting it from liberation to condemnation, so that what is well-intentioned from others, what is meant to help you, what is meant to heal you, becomes more layers of the shit-onion that is your inner prison.  Everything becomes your prison.  Because, “there is something fundamentally wrong with you.”


* * * * * 

So what is the secret?  How do we overcome resistance?

We don’t.

We befriend it.

Which is harder than it sounds. And easier.

It’s hard work.  And remembering to play.

And finally, finally, it’s rest.

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