Butting Heads with Resistance
Have you ever pressed the gas pedal in your car only to find the car won’t move? So you push on the gas again, a little harder this time. Still the car won’t move much. Then you either push the gas again, even harder or you pause for a moment only to realize that your emergency brake is on. So you release the brake and move forward with ease and efficiency.
The emergency brake is there to ensure that the car stays put. To resist any external force that may propel your vehicle in any undesirable direction. It is used to keep the car stationary. At times the resistance created by the brake is very desirable but when you are ready to move forward you have to release the brake. Of course you could choose to keep the brake on but it would definitely get in the way of ease and efficiency and over time would wear the brakes out.
Resistance is the ability to prevent something from having an effect.
In the case of the car the brake was resisting the force generated by pressing the gas in an effort to move the vehicle forward. Of course, the emergency brake is a fantastic feature when needed. At times it helps to ensure the safety of the vehicle and anyone in or around it. But if you can’t release the brake it will hold you back from moving forward.
Much like the car we (human beings) also have an “emergency brake”. It is called your nervous system. One of it’s main roles is survival optimization. And one of its main goals is to reduce surprise and optimize actions. It does this through the sympathetic nervous system with the “fight, flight or freeze” response. This reaction is a form of resistance to ensure survival. And was meant to heighten in times of perceived danger and chill out when life is comfortable and familiar. It prefers the comfortable and familiar. Therefore, resistance to change and the uncomfortable is part of our biological makeup. Much like the emergency brake on your car the sympathetic nervous system can greatly hold you back and definitely wear you out if it is left in its heightened state most of the time.
First, understand that this is a primitive response to ensure survival in a primitive world. The ability to sense and react to change, generated by fear, ensured survival in a primitive world. But you don’t live in a primitive world anymore yet you are dealing with a primitive system. One that can greatly hold you back from experiencing life and your fullest potential. So what do you do? Accept the fact that you are wired to resist change. Once you acknowledge and accept this you can now take action.
Now this is a lot easier said than done. And if you choose the path of growth and progression don’t be surprised when you find yourself resisting change and seeking comfort and familiarity. When this happens accept it, listen to it and then take action. At times that action will be to seek comfort and familiarity at other times it will be to step out of your comfort zone. To roll up your sleeves and accept that growth and progression can get uncomfortable. It is going to require some change. And resistance will happen because remember you are wired to resist change and discomfort.
So the next time you find yourself butting heads with resistance – be it physical, mental or emotional, take these easy steps…
First: accept that this is a natural reaction.
Second: take a deep breath and accept the situation.
Third: make a conscious decision to act accordingly:
- To act consciously and with clarity around the reality of what is actually happening.
- To accept reality and to move in the appropriate direction. The path to growth and progression begins with acceptance. If you continue to resist your reality you will only make things harder than they need to be.
For example, stretching can be uncomfortable yet most of us recognize that it is good for us. Stretching improves mobility, posture, balance, alignment and even strength. But if you haven’t been stretching much it is going to be uncomfortable. And remember that sympathetic nervous system doesn’t like discomfort so it is naturally going to put the brakes on and resist the stretch!
The resistance creates tension and can excite the nervous system. When this happens muscles contract to prevent you from moving further into the stretch. This is called neuromuscular inhibition and is a form of survival optimization. And the muscles that are best at resisting the movement can also get in the way of building strength. Of course you could force yourself into the stretch but over time this will backfire. You will begin to experience pain and soreness. You will feel tight and need to get really warm before moving and stretching. And eventually you will lose mobility and strength, likely in the form of an injury. The resistance will wear you down.
The same thing happens to us on a mental and emotional level. If you spend much of your time and energy resisting change, discomfort, and reality it will wear you down. When you are worn down growth and progression can seem like a lot of work. And it is work. Growth and progression is a process that requires continual practice. And if you can practice letting go of resistance as part of the process you will find that you create space for growth and progression. Now the work feels more doable. Let go of resistance, create some space and do the work.
Enjoy a Mindful December:
This month notice when you find yourself resisting reality. Be it your in-laws invading (I mean visiting) your home for the Holidays. The crowds at the grocery store. The long lines at the mall or your intuition telling you to slow down and let go of the idea that your tree and your home need to be decorated to perfection. And when you feel that resistance, pause, take a deep breath and let go of the resistance to what is.
Let your kids decorate the tree, mainly the bottom half if they are little. Accept that you can say no and take time for yourself. Reach out when you need help and remember you don’t have to do it all. Love and accept your in-laws for their quirks and know that nothing lasts forever, you will get your home back! And when you find yourself on your mat (remember you are going to take time for yourself) resisting a stretch, aka where you are, PAUSE, BREATH AND LET GO.
Let go of some rights and some wrongs, some shoulds and some shouldn’t and if only I had this wouldn’t. Let go of resistance. And then notice the space you create inside and around you. That space to breath, to laugh, to live, to feel and to love. The Holidays are coming, buckle up, get ready to roll and use your emergency brake wisely. I hope your Holidays are filled with love, joy, chocolate, laughter, tears, chaos, calm, acceptance and of course a little less resistance.