Resistance & Letting Go
You Have Come so Far!
First of all, I want to congratulate you and thank you for getting to this point in Self-Study. If you have hung in here thus far and are paying more attention to yourself, deep-diving into self-awareness, and exploring your challenges with honesty and a sense of nonjudgmental curiosity, then you, my friend, have already been practicing letting go of excessive resistance. You are maintaining at least a degree of courage, willingness, and maybe even a bit of balance as you teeter back and forth in your trial and error process of knowing yourself!
*Did you resist or willingly accept this praise? Just notice!
All of these courses, not only this course on challenge, ask you to notice how resistance manifests within you to better understand its nature to leverage it– to work with it rather than against it–– for wellness. This sort of knowledge and understanding of oneself is wisdom!
What is Resistance?
Resistance is neither good nor bad—it’s about how it is positively adaptive or negatively stifling growth and wellness of the organism. Noticing resistance as energy in your body is a good thing to practice. Find resistance inside and be curious about the ways in manifests within your body and mind. As I mentioned, you may have already noticed somewhere in your Self-Study already!
Some people resist compliments, self-sabotage so they do not receive the promotion, the raise, happiness of a great relationship, and so on. They may resist the truth that they ARE worthy of success or achieving their dream. Others resist their excesses, loss, weakness, and dysfunctional behavior, thinking, emotions etc…They are sick but refuse to admit it or do anything about it. All of this is resisting reality, the present moment, what is, or truth.
We resist in a myriad of ways all the time with all sorts of reasons why. The point is, in this Challenge Course, and all the courses, try to notice your resistance.
- Write about the ways in which you experience resistance.
- How does resistance play its part in your life?
- How do you understand resistance?
- How, when, where, why, and with whom does resistance manifest in your life?
- Choose one day and observe resistance and write about it to learn.
- What do you do in response to resistance when it shows up? (avert, avoid, get scared, feel anxious, depressed, physically ill, accept and meditate, accept it and get stoned, drunk, or otherwise check out or run? Call your friend, go to therapy, workout at the gym, go for a walk, ask for help?etc… etc…)
- When have you accepted a difficult truth in this self-study journey so far? When have you resisted?
Letting Go of Resistance
There’s a Zen saying, “Let go or be dragged,” that means rather than resisting reality, that is–– pushing discomfort, unknowing, or insecurity away, we ought to learn to sit with it, observe it, and let it go. I know letting go can be challenging, but being dragged doesn’t sound pain-free either. A bit of healthy tension and stress is what helps us keep our balance, but excess is what we have to pay attention to and manage better.
You practiced a bit of letting go when you observed your mind in the Self-Awareness course, and I asked you to think about your thoughts as merely coming and going, like leaves floating down a river or clouds floating by in the sky. Same with emotions– they come, they go, they are changing all the time– same with physical sensations, if we take the time and attend to them, that is if we pay attention to the nature of the way our being manifests itself.
(People JUST DO NOT SLOW DOWN LONG ENOUGH TO PAY ATTENTION AND NOTICE. This is the problem of not knowing who we are, hence Self-Study.)
Write about an example of where you “let go” of resistance or tried to let go.
Be, Like Water not like a Fish Out of Water
Nature is fluid and changing, like water, always moving, thus it is healthier and more aligned with who you are to go with the flow of life rather than try to stop it or resist— it’s unnatural and unhealthy to be static, resistant and inflexible. So, if you can slow down enough to watch yourself– to audit–to take note and reflect upon your observations to learn, as I have asked you to do throughout these courses, you can better understand and work with your resistance.
Do you wonder what to do with all the BIG energy within you, big resistance, big joy, big love, big sadness, big loss, big wins, and how to manage the big energy that swirls around you? How do you work with it all, little old you in this big scary dangerous world? The energy comes and goes– it is always there to some degree, in some amount, and always will be. If you were a fish, spending all your time and energy trying to get out of the water is probably a bad idea. It’s better to swim and put energy and time into learning to swim better, even though that’s challenging too.
Letting go, or surrender, as Dr. David Hawkins (2012) explains in his book by the same title, doesn’t mean giving up; it means not letting fear win by running from it or resisting it! Letting go, or surrender, means releasing our natural instincts to unnecessarily cling on to safety, comfort, and what our ego desires. Letting go means to cease resistance that causes unnecessary and unhealthy stress. So that “unnecessarily” word implies is a judgment call– what’s unnecessary or necessary? Who decides? YOU!! You have to know what is excessive, out of balance, too tense or too loose, or just right for you (recall Goldilocks?). This takes self-knowledge, awareness, practice which is just lots of trial and error. You can do it! You are doing it!
It’s scary to surrender, because this often means to change, “get out of your own way,” give up and let go of unhelpful habits that have made you feel secure, that were once adaptive but no longer. To let go of who we “think” we are and our need to control, grasp, and cling on to the illusion of permanence, familiarity (even if dysfunctional and unhealthy) and security is a challenge of being human. But better health benefits come from surrender or letting go than fighting, resisting, acting the victim (when you are, in reality, not—some people are legitimately victimized) living in denial, pretending, or excessive repression, all of which causes tremendous stress within the body effectively compromising one’s immune system. Stress from resistance is a killer.
Write about a time where you surrendered.
Write about a time where you got out of your own way.
Write about a time when you gave up an unhealthy habit.
Write about a time where you changed a thought about yourself from untrue to more accurate.
Write about a time when you surrendered or let go of something and what that FELT like in your body.
Observe Your Language
Letting go also means to stop forcing life to happen by your own control and effort and instead allowing it to unfold. Let life speak to you rather than always trying to manipulate it to be how you’d prefer. Notice– this word “always” means excessive or extreme. It also suggests polarity and dichotomy (always vs never, all vs. nothing).
Try to notice when your behavior is “always” or “never” or when you see the world as either black or white, or when you hear polarizing language by others or yourself, or even in your writing here in this course!
*Write about your “all or nothingness” talk.
A kind of resistance also exists that is associated with how we set our expectations, whether too high or too low, which in many cases can cause us to suffer unnecessarily. We resist what life gives us because we are unhappy that it did not meet our desires, preferences, or expectations, thus failing to see that when one proverbial door closes, another one may open (Singer, 2007).
Suffering equals resisting the truth of reality; You suffer when you want things to be other than what they are…when you expect things to be different, people, outcomes, processes, and the weather! I am reminded of this truth every time I hear someone complain about the weather here in Boston– it’s too hot, too cold, rainy days are awful days…talk about setting yourself up for a shitty day because you have decided reality isn’t as you desire. Silly, really, but we rarely realize that we do this and then we wonder why we are unwell. Letting go can also be applied to letting go of your preferences.
Because we cling too tightly to our expectations (often unrealistically high), perhaps out of a reaction to feeling too vulnerable, we are unable to see that despite not always getting what we want or hope for, we often get what we need—unexpected lessons for defining us further and for which we might be grateful.
*Write about an example of when you expected something of yourself or of others and you failed to meet those expectations. Describe the circumstances.
Writers Steven Pressfield (2012) and Julia Cameron (2016) describe resistance as the biggest challenge to expressing oneself authentically and creatively. Pressfield labels and personifies resistance in his War of Art with a capital “R” as the voice of self-doubt, one’s lack of confidence in one’s abilities, and the self-defeating attitude that comes from vulnerability and the fear of being real or authentic—exposed for who one truly is. Also, Resistance is the fear of success that shows itself through one’s own critical self-judgment. It’s also a fear of rejection, alienation, and not getting the love, approval, attention, and connection we all so desperately need as human beings. It can cause us to sabotage ourselves as we nearly reach our truest expression!
Write about a time when you sabotaged yourself right before you would have received something you really wanted or worked for or deserved.
Write about a time when you were going to reach your goal but you abandoned the project right before reaching its culmination.
Reflect & Write About Transformation
Write about how you transformed resistance.
Write about how you may have turned resistant energy into energy that supported your nature and wellness.