Written by: Shari Teigman
‘If..you..could..just...push...a...little..harder….you would get the glory, success, skinny jeans, and fame you crave’ is what culture and society seem to try to convince us of on a daily basis, right?
Your resistance is your enemy, they say. (Who exactly are ‘they’ anyway?!)
Sweat dripping, muscles - both brain and body - aching while you crawl to an imaginary finish line just to find out there’s NO END to this push and hustle.
So, you realize there has to be another way but what do you do with the constant sidekick called resistance in order to find this ‘other way?’
Glad you asked, I’ve been waiting for you.
Resistance is not a battle to be won or something to rush through to try to beat the clock until it lifts.
In order to create sustainable growth and change, you need to make resistance part of the process.
Resistance is a safety valve that needs a software update. Resistance is a psychological reaction to change - it’s not some evil cackling villain waiting to grab your ankles as soon as you gain traction.
What it whispers in your ear 24/7 is not accurate or current, but it is yours until you decide to change your relationship with and to it.
Most resistance is merely old tapes replaying past situations and creating current emotions about them to stop you from repeating mistakes and getting hurt. Very kind of our sweet brains to try to protect us - until one day, staying stuck is no longer comfortable.
You have two choices if you want to break this cycle of cray cray:
Believe your resistance and stay where you are OR change your relationship to resistance so it moves forward with you.
Sounds simple, but let me show you how:
3 Important Bits of Neuroscience to know if You Want to Overcome Resistance:
1. The Prefrontal Cortex
When we experience something new, different, or unusual, the prefrontal cortex area of our brain lights up. This part of the brain processes ideas, perceptions, and logistics and is highly energy-intensive — it can only process a certain amount of data at a time and tends to fatigue quickly. So, when we encounter change, regardless of whether the change is good or bad, our brain needs to work harder.
2. The Amygdala
The extra effort and processing power needed by our prefrontal cortex to navigate change can also stimulate psychological and physical discomfort. This discomfort can then kick off a part of our brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for our “fight, flight, freeze” response to stress, danger, and the unknown. AKA holy cr*p I’m freaking out mode - you know the one….
When activated, this part of our brain can stimulate feelings of fear and anger and cause us to act emotionally and impulsively. It can also provoke psychological states such as denial, confusion, depression, and crisis. Side note: It can also make you feel insane when you aren’t insane at all; you are beautifully human.
3. The Basal Ganglia
In contrast, our existing routines and everyday habits are stored in our basal ganglia. Our behaviors are deeply embedded in this part of our brain. The basal ganglia automates our thoughts, behaviors, and actions at an unconscious level, so these things are highly efficient and require little effort and energy to process. Cruise control CENTRAL!
All this explains why we naturally tend to resist change — not only does change require the prefrontal cortex part of our brain to work harder, it also causes psychological and emotional discomfort courtesy of the amygdala.
It’s no surprise then that our body’s natural response is to resist change and return to the safety of the status quo, safely stored in the energy-efficient basal ganglia.
Now, what do we do about it?!
1. Meet Your Inner Brat
Name it, claim it, befriend it - it’s coming along everywhere anyway so find out what it wants.
The more you avoid what your resistance is attempting to get you to pay attention to, the more it will persist.
Think annoying 3-year-old who hasn’t napped or eaten clinging to your leg on a long line in the supermarket - NO BUENO.
I lovingly say brat because you will be frustrated by it. But really it’s just your intuition loudly nudging you. It wants you to continue paying attention so things can ease up and flow, by following what you need and how you need it, rather than forcing yourself into places and spaces you no longer fit!
2. Remember Your “Why”
It can be easy in the process of change to get lost in the details or caught up in the flow of life’s busy-ness. We sometimes forget why we want to change, why it’s important to us, and how it benefits us.
To counter this, write down the benefits of change and the disadvantages of not changing. This becomes your “why” and is a compelling reason to steer you through the highest levels of resistance. Place that compelling reason somewhere visible and remind yourself of it often. For example, stick a note on the fridge, pantry door, or bathroom mirror, or make it the screensaver on your smartphone.
To create your “why,” try answering the below prompts:
What will happen if I do change?
What will happen if I don’t change?
What won’t happen if I change?
What won’t happen if I don’t change?
3. New ways; new days
When resistance hits, we are ready - and all too willing - to make a bad hour or day into a bad year or even life! We start talking in extreme statements, all or nothings.
“I always do this.”
“I never finish anything.”
You know the loop I mean. Your brain then gives every shred of evidence to back up those ‘always’ and ‘nevers’ to lock you back into safety.
But the truth is, every day is a chance to start anew. Think new things, try different ways, wear different glasses in which to see the world.
Less has to change than you think it does. Your perspective is what shifts all things around you faster than you’d imagine.
Allow yourself to play in possibility without pre-deciding what will happen. Make some room in there for new things!
4. Reset + Recommit Plan
Take a break, step away, treat yourself, and go again when calm. Nurture your inner child who is fighting you to stay stuck.
That blinking cursor will wait until you get back, but sometimes the fastest way to unlock yourself is to step away and reset.
Problems can’t be solved with the same set of thoughts and energy they were created in so get into a new state for yourself FIRST and allow the recommitment to be about you being ready and more comfortable to know what to do next.
The game is not to wait until all doubt, fear, procrastination, and pull goes away to do what we want and be who we're meant to be. It’s to learn a new dance with yourself so you can expand and feel safe all at once.
Shall we choose that new dance today, then?
Originally published in Issue 3 · May/June 2021 issue of SOULACY.
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