Understanding Resistance in general.
Resistance to giving up our Resentments in particular.
By Cathryn Bond Doyle
Founder of Stepmoms on a Mission (SMOMS.org)
Excerpts from Emotional Resistance- Part 1
Resistance is a natural “put on the brakes” reaction that kicks in as we choose to grow, change, learn or embark on any kind of NEW experience or information. It’s human nature to resist change-not bad or wrong. Without understanding the emotional messages resistance offers us, many just stop short and therefore miss out on the treasures of insight or healing that resistance always indicates. Let’s review in more detail.
Resistance is a sign that:
1. We’re on the verge of realizing something new that also touches an emotional “hot spot.”
2. We’re about to learn something that’s going to change us in a profound (good) way.
3. Something old, within us, needs our attention.
Resistance is trying to get our attention saying:
1. Hey, there’s something here of value for you.
2. Please look deeper into this feeling-there’s some kind of relief or empowerment waiting.
3. Please give this your attention-something is festering or niggling just below the surface of awareness.
Resistance is a natural defense strategy asking us to pay attention for a good reason. Something unknown is about to be revealed. As you learn how to recognize & honor it there’s a lot to discover. After reading this article, I hope you’ll realize that resistance is like an emotional “Flashing yellow light” at an inner intersection. It doesn’t want you to stop, but to proceed with caution, fully alert and aware.
What Resistance is NOT!
1. It’s not a sign that you don’t want to grow.
2. It’s not a sign that you’re shutting down.
3. Resistance is NOT the enemy.
4. It’s not to be judged as bad or wrong.
5. It’s not the same as defensive behaviors in reaction to others. (“Disarming defensive behaviors in you and your partner” is an article coming soon.)
6. It’s also not something to force yourself through.
In this article, we’re going to approach this topic as a loving exploration of a very common, very human feeling. Recognizing resistance can empower you to make more conscious choices as well as expedite your progress.
How does Resistance manifest in daily life?
1. Feeling suddenly tired right before a class, an event, an appointment, a conversation. Exhaustion right before a chance to grow. A chance that was initially exciting to you.
2. A sudden urgency to clean the closets, paint the house, alphabetize your books, anything but the one thing you intended to do. I experience resistance in this way and call it “Productive procrastination.”
3. The onset of headaches, migraines & sinus issues are very common.
4. Thinking to yourself, “I can’t take the time for THIS now. I’ve got so many other things to do.”
Whatever the form, it’s very persuasive, seductive and convincing that there’s suddenly something ELSE that needs your attention…anything but the thing you set out to do for yourself. Next time you’re about to do something new, pay attention to these indications of Resistance. No judgment, but compassionate honesty.
Time for lots of compassionate support!
Since most people aren’t aware of resistance or that resistance is trying to help them, when they feel it, they just stop and pivot doing anything but the one thing they originally wanted to do. Now that you understand more about what could be happening, it’s important to pay attention to your self talk.
This is not a time for judgmental, bullying inner dialogue. Sadly, this harsh forceful tactic is the way many of us were manipulated or terrified to move forward as children. Without realizing it and now adults, many use this same manipulative, punishing tactic onto themselves. The good news is this not necessary. There’s another way to feel fear and keep moving.
Instead of force & pressure, please be very compassionate & supportive of your resistance. Having patience with yourself is going to reassure the anxious parts of you and increase the chances that you can move forward…even if it is one baby step at a time. Any movement forward is going to build your momentum so you can reap the benefits of whatever emotional treasure awaits you. Resistance is the psyche’s way of getting your attention and saying, “good things ahead AND please stay alert and awake as you proceed so you can get the most out of whatever is coming.”
Note: I realize most of you know this and just want you to be conscious to make yourself the recipient of your own powerful lovingkindness.
Resistance to getting rid of your Resentments-Part 2
With all the pain, fear and rage that resentments cause us, why are people so hesitant to give them up or get past them? This is a great question that deserves our attention. It’s not a logical thing. Although it’s human nature to use logic to rationalize their emotional reactions. This wise principle: “We make decisions emotionally and rationalize them with logic.” can help direct us to the true emotional motivations underlying so many of our logical-bases decisions and actions.
If you’re about to take a class and suddenly you realize that you’re feeling resistance in any form, realizing this can save you lots of time and energy. While it’s common to postpone or cancel your “new experience” using all kinds of good logic and reason, going forward, take an honest look at how you’re feeling. “I’m feeling fear & resistance to doing this thing that I know I wanted to do.” With this awareness, you can begin handle things in a whole different way.
A super-quick, super brief recap of what creates resentments.
1. Resentment is trapped, unresolved anger indicating some sort of boundary violation, some unmet need and/or an imbalance between the energy you’re giving out and the value of the energy you’re receiving.
2. Anger is trying to tell us what is & is NOT OK.
3. Anger is trying to get our attention, urging us to set new boundaries, make new choices and/or adjust our circumstances for our own well-being.
Victor or Victim in our life situations and well-being?
When we hang on to our resentments, instead of taking the action on our own behalf, (whether we’re conscious of this choice or not), we’re abdicating responsibility for our well-being and this naturally triggers disempowering rage within us,
Not taking actions to help ourself resolve our resentments can be the result of the yet unconscious belief that our well-being depends on someone else doing or changing something. I say not yet conscious meaning that we’re not aware we’re making this trade-off. Until we become aware of what we’re feeling and doing to ourselves, this disempowered rage commonly manifests itself as righteous anger, blame, self-pity, depression or physical illness or pain.
If we find ourself waiting (or pleading) for others to change, we’re not free or empowered. This state of helplessness can trigger all kinds of untapped feelings from childhood, when we REALLY were at the mercy of others. If resentments continue to build up within us, this can lead to resignation & feeling like a victim. Victims feel trapped, believing they have no options. As adults we always have options, but if we don’t realize this and feel like a victim, we may vigorously defend the belief that we have no options and no power to bring about the changes they deem necessary. “I’ve done everything I can and nothing will work” is a common defense of an unconscious victim.
While we may indeed not have the ability to stop others from doing whatever they’re going or not be able to get others to do something they’re not doing, as adults, we ALWAYS find creative solutions to improve our situations and better meet our needs. It’s important to be aware of the difference between not having control over what happens to us (sometimes we don’t) and having the ability to respond to whatever happens to us (we ALWAYS do. While we often can’t force others to bend to our will, we absolutely can find creative solutions that will better meet our needs.
Now we may not like the options. (More on that to come.) Options to act may seem a waste of time, too scaring, too risky or too hard because we may be tired of trying, but as adults, choices are always possible.
Note: Please see the article in the Self-awareness section about self-pity for a deeper, loving exploration of this topic.
More good news? The choice to take responsibility really does take less energy and brings more rewards than the stance of victimhood or resentment, but this is something you may have to experience in order to believe. I urge you all to give it a try.
Why would we choose victimhood over taking action to resolve resentments?
1. It’s much easier to feel resentments than to take a stand for ourselves.
2. It’s less scary to feel like a victim than to explore a possible belief that we don’t actually believe we deserve to stand up for our rights, needs, wishes as an equal member of the family.
3. It’s easier to keep our focus on “the others” than to face the possible belief that we don’t think we have a right to say ‘No” in this relationship without painful results.
4. We might be rationalizing our victimhood and the limiting belief that we’re helpless to help ourselves, because it distracts us from that still small voice that might be telling us there are things we can do…and we don’t like that message. Telling others, tales of “Oh poor me” can be a way to reinforce our belief that there’s nothing we can do to change things.
5. Feeling resentful can create a false sense of powerful that feels better than fear. It can create a fleeting sense that we’re safe from more pain, fear or wounds. This stirs up the emotional energy but without offering any relief valve. Therefore creating more of a sense of disempowerment and therefore more rage, bitterness and need to blame even more. This is a vicious cycle I call, the “Vortex of Victimhood.” Another article forthcoming.
6. We could fear that if we stop feeling like a victim and begin taking more responsibility for our own well-being that more (not less) bad things will happen. This big vague fear can stop us right in our tracks. (A chance to reflect.) However, when we reflexively swallow, stop or ignore any anger we feel, it can get shoved back inside us, misdirected or leak out onto others.
Unresolved anger = more self-justified resentments. This is a common unconscious smoke-screen to NOT own your own power because some part of us believes the price of empowerment is too great and therefore not worth it. It’s usually based on our very real childhood experiences of being punished when we tried to assert our opinions, needs or boundaries. Once we remember that we’re now wise, skilled, adult woman with resources and talents, this fear will often dissipate.
7. Giving up being a victim means we can’t play the “Oh Poor Me”, blame or manipulation card anymore. Some women believe this is the only way to get what we want so giving it up leaves us with nothing. (Again sadly this belief comes from very real childhood experiences.) No judgements here, just something I’ve seen a lot over the years.
The conscious choice to shift from believing you’re a victim of circumstances to believing that you have the ability to be victorious by creating a positive solution (even if you don’t know what it is yet) will improve your sense of well-being almost instantly.
Why could we feel fear or anger about giving up our resentments?
1. We could be afraid that if we stop being resentful, nothing will ever change or get worse. We could be carrying the belief from childhood, “I have to be angry to get attention otherwise I’ll be ignored, rejected or neglected.”
2. We could be afraid that if we let go of our resentments, we’d be left out of the family dynamics. Being left out hurts (anger+sadness) a common one for Stepmoms.
3. It could be too scary to take a stand on our own behalf, for a number of real reasons. We could have the belief (from childhood) “If I take a stand, bad things will happen to me & my relationships.” We may have had many experiences proving this belief to be true. The key here is to remind ourselves that we’re wise, capable adult women now and that we can find a loving stance to take that can work for both of us.
4. We could uncover an uncomfortable inner conflict, “Is it really OK for me to take a stand? Do I have equal rights with all the others in my home?” In our life, “rocking the boat” may have been frowned upon, punished and/or shamed as selfish.
5. We could be afraid that if we stop feeling resentment and go to work figuring out what healthy boundaries we need that we might want/need changes that we fear our partner won’t support. We might fear that our partners can’t look beyond their own wounds and fears to support what we need. This could bring an possibility or impasse to light that we fear might threaten our relationship. Yiikes, that’s terrifying! It can be hard to trust in our partner, especially after years of feeling our partner hasn’t been willing to take a stand for what’s good for us or if his kids or ex are involved.
6. Believe it or not, some people resist giving up feeling resentment because they like the drama of it all. Peacefulness and calm can feel boring to those raised in a home where drama=connection.
7. You may be holding onto your resentments because you’re protecting yourself and/or unconsciously afraid of any underlying grief or losses you would have to face if you accepted the circumstances and/or actions of others.
Going forward…Can you believe?
I hope the next time you feel some resistance to a new situation or insight that you”ll give yourself a gift and take some time to look deeper at what feelings are up for you. If it’s resistance, I hope that you’ll now be aware enough to realize, “I’m feeling resistance!” and choose to feel a Christmas Eve burst of yet unknown excitement that’s just around the emotional corner of awareness is an unknown gift of insight that’s going to help you in some way and then proceed with caution and alert loving attention.
I hope you’ll take a deep breath, step into your wise aware, adult self and say, “I CAN honor, support and handle whatever comes up in this process and I’m going to take this at a pace that is right for me, even if I feel a bit afraid. I want to grow and I can do this.”
I also hope you’ll reflect on your views about ending your resentments to see what might be true for you. I’m here to promise you that resentments CAN be resolved. I want you to know that in spite of the experiences from your past, your beliefs, your wounds or fears, that you’re now a talented, adult woman who has many many ways to stand up for yourself and the ability to learn the skills you need to take a stand for your own well-being and happiness.
1. Can you believe that you deserve to be happy?
2. Can you believe that you deserve to have a voice in your well-being?
3. Can you believe that you have equals rights with everyone else in your home?
4. Can you believe that you and your partner can find loving ways to change things in a mutually satisfying loving way?
The willingness to believe that things can change for the better (and that you’re not helpless) is a powerful state of mind, even when you don’t have the answers yet or even know where to start. The articles and case studies that are already posted are filled with ideas and insights for you to consider. If you can believe that resistance is a sign that you’re ready and able to change, even if it is also as “Proceed with caution” message, can you believe that you can make the next step to increase your personal power, well-being and wisdom? I know I believe that’s possible for each and every one of you.
May you find yourselves moving towards more peace of mind and a greater sense of empowerment. May you use whatever is going on in your life situation as clues to the treasures of self-awareness and personal growth.
For those of you ready to do the work, please register for my Resentment Workshop which begins on Sept. 8th.
I hope you’ve found some value in this article. If you’d like to work privately during or instead of the workshop please book some Private time with me via the site.
Warm Wishes to you all, Cathryn
Copyrighted, Cathryn Bond Doyle 2013.