How Do You Resist? Let Me Count the Ways

“No feeling is final.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Are you feeling stuck, out of sorts, disconnected? Are you plagued by addiction or gripped by compulsions or fear? If so, it’s a guarantee that you are resisting a part of your experience.

How do I know? Our natural state is this: clear, whole, loving, peaceful, and happy. It is the source of all our desires and the truth that we long for. It is who we are, closer than close.

In our natural state, we open to all experiences equally. We don’t avoid or suppress. When we seem to be out of touch with the essence of ourselves, we must be denying a feeling or allowing ourselves to be derailed by a belief or expectation.

When these experiences are met with love and understanding, our natural state shines through unimpeded.

Our Natural State – No Resistance

Have you ever felt completely at peace? Maybe it happened in the arms of a lover, on a walk in the woods on a bright summer day, or over coffee with a friend. Maybe it occurred when you were a child or yesterday. Maybe, like me, these episodes of deep contentment spring forth from seemingly nowhere.

At moments like these, there is no resistance. Everything is welcomed as it is, without pushing anything away. The war has ended, and you have put down your arms.

Unexamined Experiences – Resistance

But if there is disturbance, if there is an unexamined ripple or wave in the depth of you, then you are resisting. You have come to blows within yourself. A feeling or sensation in your body is appearing, and you are saying, “No!”

It’s a kind of violence. You are fighting reality, evading the present moment, cutting off a tender part of you. You are choosing separation out of fear, while turning away from the possibility of peace.

Some of us live a great portion of our lives in resistance. We are in deep – addicted to substances or work or obsessive thinking. We are afraid to be quiet or alone. We wonder why the same problems keep occurring.

Know How You Resist

We begin to untangle these areas of dissatisfaction by first recognizing how we resist, then gradually meeting the fragments of ourselves we have been avoiding.

So how do you resist?

  • Are you defensive, hesitant to take responsibility and admit when you have made a mistake or hurt someone?
  • Do you compulsively drink or shop, text or gossip?
  • Are you too busy or preoccupied to be present with the people in your life?
  • Do you worry, judge,criticize, or blame?
  • Do you need to control or be controlled?
  • Are you living in a mind filled with harsh and negative thoughts?

Think of yourself as an actor on a stage playing the same role over and over. You know the words and feelings so much by heart that you express them automatically without considering their origin.

But if you look behind these roles and defenses, worlds open up.

What Is Your Backstory?

No child is equipped to deal with strong feelings, and many adults don’t know how to honor the emotional life of their children. When we experience feelings as children, we often don’t have the support or know the tools to process and release them.

The most adaptive response is to send the feelings underground. We push them out of conscious awareness because they are too overwhelming to handle.

And, as a result, we develop strategies to keep them hidden. We spin stories in our minds, try to control the uncontrollable, and engage in unhealthy behaviors, all habits driven by these powerful unconscious feelings.

From Resistance to Peace

The end of resistance is the beginning of healing. Little by little, we turn and directly meet these fragmented parts of ourselves. We let go of the story about our experience, and we welcome in the feelings and physical sensations just as they are.

As psychologist Brené Brown says, we find beauty in our vulnerability. We unearth the source of the problem so it can be met with compassion. We let the unseen be seen, the disenfranchised invited in like a long-lost friend. We bring light to the dark places with so much tenderness.

Over time, we begin to notice that we feel whole, happy, and free. We are less reactive and more available. Moments of peace appear.

Find out how you resist. Let the impact of this resistance land in you, then open into yourself. Welcome every tension and contraction endlessly. Your habits will lose their fuel and begin to dissolve. And you will know yourself as the peace that you are.

Are you aware of how you resist? What happens when you let go of resisting? I’d love to hear…

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  1. says

    Just what I need to read today. It has been one of those days where I feel I have accomplished nothing. My heart feels like that yet my brain says otherwise. May I share this post?
    Thank You

        • Gail Brenner says

          Love your post about the itch, Mr. LK!

          Here are some wise words about preferences from Verses of the Faith Mind, Zen writing from the 5th century AD (italics added)

          The Great Way is not difficult for those who are unattached to preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart. If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind. When the deep meaning of things is not understood, the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

  2. says

    I think my go to form of resistance is control. I get it in my head that if I can orchestrate everything in my life then I can avoid pain and unpleasantness. A rational thought? No, but, it seems to be the one I run to when I am unwilling to be with what is.

    Thanks for this piece and for giving me a chance to examine this tactic that obviously can hold me back from being at peace with what is. Nicely written, Gail. :)

    • Gail Brenner says

      Your insight is so clear, CC – that you try to control to avoid pain and unpleasantness. And I imagine it works to some degree. The only reason to investigate these strategies and resistances is if they aren’t serving us. Sometimes they are necessary, until the moment comes to let them go and be with what is.

      So glad to see your shining face over here!

  3. Víctor says

    I know I’m fighting, I know I’ve to stop resistance, but I don’t know where is my enemy. Is not that easy because most people doesn’t know what they tried to put out of conscious when they were a child. I’ve looking for this all of my life and I haven’t found anything. I’ve tried some therapies but to no avail.

    Sorry…I’m from Spain and I think I can’t express quite well.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Welcome, Victor. I understand you very well. You are fighting something inside yourself, but you don’t know what it is.

      My recommendation would be to start where you are. You may not be able to find what you are resisting, but you certainly know resistance. See what it is like in your experience to resist and to fight. How does it feel in your body, mind, and heart? Welcome resistance/fighting like you would welcome in a good friend. Once you stop resisting resistance, you are likely to feel more at peace.

      See if you can be compassionate with yourself, to soften in how you treat yourself. Peace is possible for everyone, including you…

      We are all here in support of you…

      • Víctor says

        Thank you very much, Gail. It is not usual that someone anonymous gets involved in someone’s problems. You’re really friendly, so I won’t take advantage of you. I think that’s the key for people like you keep doing good things in the world.

        Your advice reminds me the theory of Viktor Frankl: The paradoxical intention, that consist in doing the same thing you try to avoid. For example: If you can’t sleep at night, you should focus your mind triying not to sleep with all your strength and you’ll realize that sleep comes. More or less….

        It’s really hard for me to explain in english, so I hope you understand.
        Thank you for your attention.
        I’ll do my best to follow your advice.

        If you don’t know anything about The Paradoxical Intention (I don’t think so) you can find it in the book by Viktor Frankl:
        Original tittle: Das leiden am sinnlosen Leben.
        Spanish tittle: Ante el vacío existencial.
        English tittle (I think it could be translated like this): Given existential vacuum.

  4. Shannon says

    Thanks for another wonderful article, Gail…Just perfect for today. I have experienced so much peace and inner joy and contentment when I have accepted things just as they are, just in the present moment, rather than living in the past or future, without grasping or aversion. I find that there is still pain sometimes in life, but not suffering, and the pain passes much more quickly than when I resist and fight it. Keep the inspiring blogs coming–I love them and share them with family :)

    • Gail Brenner says

      A warm welcome to you, Shannon. I’m so happy to hear that you think to share these articles with your family.

      What a beautiful description you offer here of inner peace – accepting things as they are, not grasping or avoiding. And you have found that challenging feelings pass through when we don’t resist them.

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience here…

  5. John says

    Welcome back, I hope you enjoyed your time. I have missed your posts. I am trying to live in the moment and stop resisting. It seems some small progress is being made but it is so hard to undo 50+ years of “stinkin thinkin”. Thank You for your help in this effort.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi John,

      I am also 50+ and I always hold out hope for all of us!

      I can see from the comments that there is another point to be made here about resistance. Sometimes it is possible to let go of resisting. But when this turns into a fight, then resistance is what needs to be embraced. If that is one’s present-moment experience, than that is what is here to be welcomed. What is most important is to say yes to the experience in the moment – yes to resistance, yes to challenging emotions, yes to joy and love.

      When we end the fight with what is, even if it is resistance, peace sneaks up on us before we know it.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Yes, Cathie, this is so common, as many of the other commenters have already noted.

      The choice is to resist resistance, or welcome it. Don’t worry about what you might be resisting. If resistance is present, embrace it with an open heart, then see what happens.

      Love to you…

  6. says

    This morning I just read Pema Chodron’s talk “Smile at Fear” and then I read your post this afternoon. Both were so refreshing and renewed a soft inner joy within me. I love this quote from her “If you do stay present with what you see when you look at yourself again and again, you begin to develop a deeper friendship with yourself.” So many of our backstories are based on our fears.

    Thanks for your encouragement of connecting with our essence.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Susie,
      Yes, our backstories are loaded with fear. I love that quote reminding us to develop a deeper friendship with ourselves.

      Smiling at fear, as opposed to avoiding it, fighting it, or pretending it doesn’t exist, are wise words. Thanks for sharing them.

  7. says

    Hi Gail,
    Great article. To me the resistence is living in the past. I have situations in my life where I come to the realization that there is nothing that I can do about them. I think about them and then let go of them. I except reality and move on. When these times hit I do concentrate on Jesus. Sometimes the way people looked at him and he realized he could not control there thoughts, so he just moved on to the people that wanted to listen and learn. As they say, ” You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Does one really want to set there until the horse gets thirsty enough to drink. This is not your problem, it is the horses.

    Anyway that is my story and how I handle resistence. Thank you for listening and sharing. You are appreciated.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Debbie,

      I love that you mentioned the wisdom of realizing what we can and cannot control. And when we try to control the uncontrollable, we are resisting. There is great intelligence, and relief from suffering, in accepting things as they are.

      Thank you so much for sharing your clarity here. Sending heartfelt appreciation right back to you…

  8. Clare says

    I think, like most people, I probably have more than one way of resisting, but the big one is perfectionism. I critique myself mercilessly. For example, if a conversation doesn’t go well, I will relive the silly thing in my head, while I’m quite certain the other person has completely forgotten about it. So what do I do? I try to remain present and in the moment and when I am critiquing myself, I make an effort to recognize what I am doing and return to the present.

    I used to wake up nightly in a panic, unsure of whether it came from a dream or from unresolved issues. I believe that it came from learned responses that became automatic and those experiences were trapped in my body, like muscle memory. There was no need to try to dig to find out why; the real challenge was to be still and stay with the emotion, study it and breathe through it, not trying to repress it or resist it, but instead allow it to express itself through the body. I hope this makes sense.

    • Gail Brenner says

      This makes complete sense, Clare, and I’m grateful that you are sharing your experience.

      You are doing just the thing that is going to soften your habit of perfectionism. You are not giving the thoughts your attention and returning your attention to sanity, to the present.

      You say you “used to wake up in a panic.” Sounds like staying with the emotion, breathing through it has allowed the panic to dissolve. I’ve had a similar experience. I used to wake up in the mornings with a sinking feeling about having to face another day. Once I realized I was doing this, I embraced the feeling directly every morning, and eventually realized it was no longer visiting me!

      These deep habitual responses do lodge in our bodies, armoring us against the world. What a relief to see them, relax with them, and make the space for them to be released.

  9. says

    I can easily resist by trying to control others when I am concerned about their lifestyle. Learning to let go and appreciate others for who they and help when asked. Your post rings true in so many aspects of life

    • Gail Brenner says

      A warm welcome to you, Cathy.

      Oh, trying to control others. Who among us hasn’t tried that and suffered the consequences? Maybe your experience is like mine – going down a deadend road. The antidotes that you suggest, letting go, appreciating others, and helping lead us to acceptance – and peace.

  10. says

    I don’t resist as much as I used to. I could identify several of the resistance methods you described and it made me glad I don’t do that anymore. Resistance takes a lot of energy–I think I just got too tired to do it anymore.

    These days, I find I might react with resistance when I’m surprised by something. But I can pretty quickly relax and move through it. I can tell that when I’m resisting, I am not happy, so I’m motivated to release the resistance and move on.

    Great post!

  11. Gerry Leonard says

    How do I investigate my back-story? How do I dig up those fragmented parts of myself and reconcile the past within me?

    • Gail Brenner says

      Welcome to you, Gerry.

      How to investigate? You start where you are. See what thoughts and feelings grip you as you move through your life. See what old stories you keep telling yourself that interfere with your happiness. If fragments from the past are a bother, they will be showing up somehow in some form.

      How to reconcile? This is a bigger question. Ultimately, it is in opening your awareness to everything, letting all feelings and bodily sensations be held by the love that knows no bounds. Be very kind to yourself by no longer rejecting any parts of yourself. For myself, my journey really took off when I made a conscious decision to do whatever it takes to be free of suffering. This led me to books, teachers, and, more importantly, the moment by moment attention to how attachment to thoughts and feelings was making me unhappy. Little by little, the knots untangled.

      If it is possible for me, it is possible for you.

  12. says

    The disadvantage of our mind is its tendency to resists. Since most of us are controlled by our minds we become detached to our true essence. I believe that awareness of the manipulation of our mind is the first step to getting in touch with our essence. And once we take a grasp of who we really are, we will stop resisting. :-)

    • Gail Brenner says

      Your words ring so true, Walter. If we are caught in our minds, we feel disconnected from our true essence. You are so right when you say that awareness of how the mind works is a step to refinding our essence. Knowing how the mind works helps us to no longer buy into it.

      Thank you for these very wise words.


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