Your Gateway To Invulnerability: Releasing Resistance
We’ve all heard the cautionary words, “Resistance is futile”. It’s a premodern meme that originated on Star Trek as a warning of forced assimilation by one alien collective upon another— pretty powerful and assuming words when posed as a threat. But when we look just a bit deeper, this threat is also telling us something about the power of resistance, which in the assessment of the Borg, is the only conceivable alternative to their takeover.
When we apply such power to resistance in more conventional, everyday scenarios, it suddenly appears that resistance may not be futile. In fact, it has practical applications in our lives and careers that we employ daily. The problem is, our resistance is not always serving us in the ways that we instinctually expect it to. Let’s have a closer look at this quagmire and start to consider the effective ways you can release resistance from your stash of reflexive actions.
Not Futile, But Certainly Unhelpful.
Resistance to the ideas, suggestions and requests of others, especially in the workplace, is a natural form of self-protection. And for this reason, it often goes unexamined. With such power, resistance becomes the gateway to other thoughts and actions that actually keep us vulnerable. It plays out something like this: We assume that if we entertain others’ ideas, we’ll lose our sense of individualism— of being right. We sense our freewill is under threat as we get pulled into an uncertainty zone, where anything could happen including failure. It could result in “more work on my plate”, or it could be as pedestrian a sense as “I won’t enjoy it” or “I don’t know where to begin” or “I don’t know how to do what they’re suggesting” or for some of us, the major inward confession that “I’m too lazy”.
All this resistance keeps us confined to our reptilian brain, where thoughts remain fear-based, and protection of our emotional safety is on the front burner. In this state, a negativity bias flourishes, triggering a reflex to not change or stray too far from the familiar. We remain resistant to releasing held emotions, thoughts, behaviors and actions due to fear of vulnerability and not being in control.
The first step to emerging from this state is to acknowledge that what we perceive as safe is merely that— a perception. Only when we take this simple but difficult step of releasing resistance towards trying new things and embracing new ideas and challenges can we grow and thrive! It means being open to influence and not remaining attached to one’s own preconceived notions. And we can all get there.
Releasing resistance through self-awareness is a tough start because we don’t always realize when we’re resistant. This is especially true when we’re resistant to our very own ideas— yes, that’s really a thing! I fell into this camp myself until recently. But once I understood what I was looking for, and how to shift my thinking, I became curious about resistance, noticing just how much it ruled my life.
The first clue I was in resistance was the physical manifestation (I found myself clenched all the time….the jaw, the butt cheeks, etc.). I had to catch myself in the act, acknowledge the clench, and physically release it, then explore what I was resistant to. First, I asked myself if my thoughts and ideas were real and true, utilizing psychologist and meditation leader Tara Brach’s R.A.I.N. approach:
Recognize the Resistance: What are the situations wherein I’m prone to resistance? I name them and “call them out”, as suggested by Deborah Naish. I also check my personal energy status, like when I’m tired or stressed, and examine my level of resistance.
Allow the Resistance: I pay attention to what resistance feels like emotionally. For me it’s nausea, a tendency to procrastinate, underlying ungratefulness, a toxic inclination to find fault with others, and a manic feeling of being flustered and flushed, like a dog rushing around in a circle to find its tail.
Investigate the Resistance: How does it physically feel in the body? Is it a quick jab or is it a long build-up, imperceptible until it bursts? Is the feeling warranted? Is it related to the action or the person?
Nurture the Resistance: Summon and nudge it out. Assess whether it’s true or related to the amygdala being alerted to potential embarrassment or vulnerability, leading to lack of control. Separate the amygdala from the intuitive (gut) brain. What will it take to bypass the threat and say “yes” to the challenge before you?
Dipping A Toe In
The RAIN exercise helped me develop a self-awareness of the types of resistance I’m disposed to. For me, that means when I don’t “think I can”. It means anything new, “scary” or potentially messy in life or career, which instills a fear of looking foolish as an outcome.
I’ve since become curious and courageous about navigating resistance, which began with a simple breath. I commanded myself to “release” and willed myself to unclench. I inquired with myself, “What’s going on here? Is the concern real and true?”, since what seems real isn’t necessarily true. I reminded myself of Henry Ford’s wise quote, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right”. In my mind, I had “…known a great many troubles, most of which never happened” (-Mark Twain).
As I continue to lean into resistance, it gets me to “yes” (or “no”) more quickly. I can even challenge myself with a baby step about how to move through resistance in the future. Throughout May, referencing my own exploration of RAIN and the wisdom of a special friend and colleague, I’ll explore with you how releasing your resistance and re-leasing your curiosity and courage can turn what was a tether into a slingshot! My follow-up article will begin by exploring resistance toward others’ ideas.
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