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I’m pretty sure we all feel resistance from time to time.
For me, it seems to be one of my most natural knee-jerk reactions.
I resist things I want to do and things I don’t want to do. I feel resistance when someone tells me what to do and also when I have to figure out what to do all on my own.
Some of us might feel it more than others, but we all feel it at some point.
The key to working with resistance is to work with it. We have to understand it—the energy of it and what it’s trying to tell us. We have to understand that we’re feeling it and why. Because once we understand what’s going on inside of us, then we can choose how we want to move forward.
Here are three steps to working through resistance:
1. Acknowledge it and feel it.
When we’re feeling resistant to something, it’s important to acknowledge it.
“I feel resistance.” Think these words in your head, speak them out loud, or write them on a piece of paper. Also, see if you can feel whatever physical sensations are going on for you. Is your chest tight? Or your neck? Has your breathing become shallow or nearly nonexistent? Does your brain feel like it’s shutting down on you?
Just acknowledge what you’re feeling. It helps to simply recognize what’s happening.
2. See if you can figure out why you’re feeling the resistance.
We can feel resistance for all sorts of things—things we want to do and things we don’t want to do. Big things, like major life changes, or smaller things…like taking out the garbage.
We may have deep fears or beliefs that are influencing our reactions. Do we want to do it but don’t think we’re capable? Do we want to learn, but it feels too overwhelming because we don’t even know where to start? Is it something we want more than anything else in the world, but we’re afraid of failing? Is it something we know we have to do but we’d rather be doing something else? Are we trying to force ourselves to do something that we truly do not want to do?
If we can get clear on why we’re feeling the resistance, we can figure out how to work with it.
3. Choose how to react to it.
When we know why we’re feeling what we’re feeling, we can then intentionally choose how we want to act.
When it’s something we want to do:
One of the best ways to work through this kind of resistance is to take things slowly and to think in terms of small steps. I get through this resistance by thinking these two phrases to myself: “baby steps” and “one thing at a time.”
If we’re feeling overwhelmed by all we want to do or by our lack of knowledge in something that we want to do or if we’re afraid of failing because whatever it is we want feels so meaningful to us, it helps to start with one little thing that we can do, rather than trying to think of the whole, big, vast thing and all the moving parts.
When it’s something we have to do but don’t want to do:
When we’re feeling resistant to something we have to do that we don’t want to do, these three things can help:
1. Think about the bigger picture and deeper priorities.
2. Try to find an easy or semi-enjoyable task to start with.
3. Think about a “treat” you can give yourself.
For example, when I don’t feel like working, because say, I’m tired and just want to rest or because it’s beautiful outside and I just want to go play in the sun, I think about the deeper priorities: work is a priority. That paycheck…is a priority.
And then, I scan my mind for one thing—anything—I can do that feels a little lighter. And I start with that. More often than not, once I start, I can get into a flow and actually be okay with doing everything else. I might even enjoy it.
Or, if I’m feeling resistant to cleaning the kitchen because I didn’t make the mess in the first place or because I’d rather meditate or do something more “fun,” I think about how I’ll feel when the counters look clean and everything is put away—as compared to how I’ll feel if it’s a mess (there’s that tight-chest feeling).
I often also convince myself to do certain things by saying I’ll make a good cup of tea first or I can walk later on after doing whatever it is I need to do first.
When it’s something we don’t want to do that we don’t have to do
Sometimes when we don’t want to do something, it’s simply because we don’t want to do it. And we don’t have to. Sometimes our minds think we have to do things that we really don’t have to do.
Maybe we’re just trying to force ourselves to do something because someone else thinks we should or wants us to, or maybe because we’ve set arbitrary deadlines or expectations of ourselves.
Sometimes when I don’t want to clean, I really just don’t want to do it. Maybe what I truly need in that moment is to rest or relax or do other things instead. Instead of forcing myself to do a big clean because it’s Saturday and “I clean on Saturdays,” I give myself a little grace and tell myself I can clean on Sunday instead.
The key to working with resistance is discernment. If we know why we’re feeling what we’re feeling, we can decide how we want to react to it.