The other day my husband and I were in our closet discussing how the space is utilized. We have one of those “redesigned” closets, with all the extra cubbies for shoes and folded clothes and the maximized hanging spaces. I was concerned because I was thinking that over the years my clothes have outgrown all of the spaces originally assigned to me, and I wanted to move around where we put our clothes and what spaces I was use. I had an idea of what I wanted; Robert had his own ideas of what would work better, and we were discussing our ideas amicably, when I was surprised to feel an overwhelming surge of resistance to all this talk of changing things around. I became aware of excuses and “yes, buts” starting to invade my thinking, close to shutting me down.
All this over moving around the clothes in the closet. Remember, that I am the one who initially brought it up and said that I wanted the change. When I was confronted with the actual prospect and reality of change, I suddenly didn’t seem to want it so much anymore. You may think that’s weird or unusual, but stop and take a look at your life for a minute. It happens all the time, probably every day.
We are so resistant to change,even change we want. This is always a big challenge for clients in therapy and the primary reason why most clients don’t achieve the success they desire in therapy, or even manage to stick with therapy long enough to give it a chance to work. Often times, clients blame the therapist, lack of time, or lack of money, but most often, it is resistance to change that is the culprit. Outside of therapy, resistance to change is rampant and often times creates more problems in our daily life than we deserve or need.
Freud was one of the first psychologists to address the concept of resistance and he wrote volumes about it. I would just like to simply say that I think a lot of resistance is based upon fear. Fearof any type, even change that is desired, will result new responsibilities we can’t handle. New challenges, we won’t be able to meet. New expectations from ourselves and others, we won’t be able to fulfill. One of the most common examples that I see every day is about people’s weight. When I talk to clients about their weight issues and help them to really dig deep to see the most feared emotions underlying the weight problem, it is always revealed that the person is afraid of the responsibility and expectations they assume will be associated with being thinner.
There are many ways to treat resistance, but I feel the easiest and perhaps best way is a four-part process: 1) be on the lookout for resistance in your life every day. Look for it in the smallest of justifications, rationalizations, excuses, irritations, and tendencies to blame others for something…anything, 2) acknowledge that resistance exists and it is keeping you from being your best self and realizing your dreams, 3) simply sit with the resistance and let the feeling exist with you. Don’t try to do anything about it. Don’t try to rationalize it away. Don’t try to get rid of it or deny it. Just let the feeling be with you. 4) As you allow the feeling of resistance to co-exist with you, you will begin to understand that it is not a mandate to action. We don’t have to act on every single thing we feel. You will also realize resistance is like a Florida rain; it can come on very strong with a lot noise and fanfare, demanding attention, only to pass very quickly and be gone, allowing the sun to shine once more.
Resistance really is a waste of time.