The concept of resistance as defined by the rules of physics is relatively easy to grasp. Resistance is” the collision of two forces which are unable to adapt or join with each other effectively to exist as one, or benefit from the presence of the other”. This type of “resistance” can either be the result or cause of friction. Friction is a term in which two objects are inclined to move in opposite directions. When people are resistant to each other, change in environment, or even acts of nature, they experience “friction”. Friction between people can be felt intuitively by those uninvolved. The continual act of resistance and resulting friction is more commonly known as “stress”
Consider the act of resisting what circumstances life may bring us. Resistance may serve as protection from harm such as fighting off a true threat, such as communicable diseases. Resistance may also act as a barrier to personal growth. Most people tend to perceive change in very rigid terms. Some view change as an opportunity for the improvement in one’s life. Others may perceive change as a threat to one’s sense of security. The reality is that there are no promises in change, except that change is promised experience of life.
Individuals are well aware of the energy and stress levels when engaged in a verbal, emotional or physical battle. However, the act of resisting in itself is usually motivated by an unconscious effort to avoid feeling or recognizing painful core beliefs. An individual may make irrational statements when in conflict. Examples often heard are “You will do what I say because I am the parent (boss)”, “Every time you go out, you get in trouble” or “This is the way we always did …” What core feelings may be hidden behind the former statements are “I must be in control” , “I do not trust you” and “I am afraid of change”.
Resisting inevitable change, negates any opportunity for personal growth, invites counter resistance and may lead to tragic consequences. Resisting the acceptance of physical change, changes in lifestyle, the change in support system, is a factor in many cases of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. People who refuse to let go of the “past” or fear the “future”, are more likely to develop anxiety disorders including Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD). OCD is a disorder in which one is trapped by their own need to feel in control and secure. In extreme cases, people who suffer from OCD will perform rituals, develop irrational phobias, or hoard belongings. Paradoxically, the behaviors displayed as an unconsciousness resistance to not being in control, actually loses control of many aspects in their life.
How is resistance helpful? Resistance of temptation or oppressing forces which are destructive and dangerous results in the strengthening of the spirit, allows for empowerment, and acts as a catalyst for positive change. There are few, if any history books which do not address the resistance of a political group. Resistance to oppressive powers were often violent and difficult, but were necessary for positive change.
Internal resistance occurs when the conscious mind conflicts with a compulsion to meet a personal desire or need. “Internal oppressors” which every human confronts at some point life, may include urges to steal, lie and cheat. Those who have suffered from poverty, abuse, or trauma are more likely to engage in behaviors in which they are fully aware are harmful to themselves or others.
Recovering addicts must master resistance to the compulsion of using or engaging in addictive behavior. Initially, the cessation of the addiction leads to an overwhelming feeling of physical and emotional discomfort. Those lucky enough to have never experience addiction can easily blame the addict for lacking in willpower or morality. People who have abstained from abusing any substances may reason “cocaine, cocktails and cupcakes do not knock on doors demanding to be consumed”. The Nancy Reagan statement of “just say no” does not register with an active addict. Resistance to the addictive substance is nearly impossible if the substance is readily available and within reach.
Many addicts have made the decision to end the cycle of addiction. If an addict attempts to quit without a support system or coping skills, they are more likely to resist the compulsion to regress into the destructive behavior. However, the feeling of relief may be temporary. Even those who are seriously committed to change may lack the ability to resist and repeat the addictive behavior. Consequently, internal “friction” is experienced as feelings of guilt, shame, blame and hopelessness. This type of internal friction acts as further resistance to change as the negative thinking patterns inhibits one’s ability to honestly reflect on their relapse and problem solve.
The continual act of resistance, regardless if it brings negative consequences or positive change is exhausting. Energy which is placed into resistance can not be used for problem solving or resolution. Accepting the fact that change is inevitable or necessary is imperative to ones mental health. Acceptance of change allows one to maintain stability, recognizing the opportunity for growth, and developing new skills which could enrich one’s life. Below is an abbreviated list of steps of learning how to utilize resistance as a tool for growth,
1) Accept the change, or the presence of what is perceived as threatening.
2) Connect and blend with the force which produces resistance (which more than likely is one’s personal deep seated beliefs or fears).
3) Maintain a self awareness as well as awareness the intent or purpose of that what you resist.
4) Honor your true emotions appropriately by setting boundaries and maintaining consistent efforts to problem solve in order to create a “win-win” situation.
5) When feeling doubtful, hopeless or overwhelmed, seek support to guide you through the conflict.
Resistance when used as a tool can only be effective as one’s ability to comprehend their own acts of resistance as well as resistance of others. The ability to face a threat, change or fear by connecting with the imposition requires a willingness to take a risk. By taking the risk, resistance automatically evolves into an opportunity. The more opportunities created, the greater the possibilities of profound life change.