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Resistance May Not Be Futile, But It’s Definitely Human

** This blog discusses resistance as a psychosocial decision making phenomenon. Resistance in the face of injustice, for example, is a different exercise altogether.

We all throw up resistance sometimes. Generally, it comes from at least one of the following:

  • subconscious behavioural patterns and/or unresolved emotional issues
  • conflicting motivations
  • physiological functioning that tends to render one’s interface with others, a specific situation or life in general … a bit glitchy (ex. anxiety, trauma, depression, illness, injury, chronic pain, developmental issue etc)
  • disdain and/or apathy

The degree to which I feel disdain for resistance cannot be sufficiently described in this blog. It is one of my deepest trauma triggers. Seriously. It’s not a peeve. I don’t simply find it annoying or bothersome. It doesn’t trigger anxiety or even panic. For me, it triggers trauma. I hate  it. I detest it. It registers in my being as fundamentally dangerous. There’s not much in life that I would speak about like that.

Now, there are psychological and physiological reasons for why this is, but let’s ignore those for a minute and focus on something else.

In this society we value decisiveness, clarity, certainty and resolve. These are qualities of the Self. They describe aspects of a person’s style and manner of interacting with life. They are the balance or antidote for resistance. They prevent or break through it. As an on-going pattern, resistance is generally held to be counter-productive and wasteful.

However, if I use my life, not to tell the story or Self, but to testify to how life really is I’ve come to a crossroads. Telling the story of Life and How It Really Is, necessitates that I learn to describe and appreciate experience in terms of ambiguity, uncertainty, mystery and fluctuation.

(Damn it!)

Which leads me to wonder: what would it be like to experience that which I label as resistance and interpret it primarily as ambiguity and fluctuation? How would the experience change if I related to resistance as mystery and uncertainty? Could I begin to imagine that resistance is a natural part of what life is, showing up in confused, often antagonistic, human form? It comes to me that this is part of our humanity, worth embracing and valuing because it makes us more of what we are. Stitching us into life on this planet and bonding us to it.

(*#ck, now I have to do it!!!)

So it seems that being in relationship (existing by way of relationship) with the world, instead of being a Self, requires that I reframe and redefine resistance. This is an act of love, to be certain. It comes out of devotion and leads to living in deeper amity with all experience. The relationship in which I find my existence and meaning is characterized by a truer, more natural form, of humanity.

6393053459_df7dbd055aWhich returns me to the psychological and physiological reasons for why I resist resistance so fervently. Honestly, the psychological ones are relatively easy for me to reframe. I feel confident that, over time, I can navigate my way to a different way of perceiving and understanding in that area. But physiologically? Due to the illness that I live with, clean, straight-forward un-muddy decision making is quite literally easier on my body. It’s safer, less risky and has fewer negative outcomes. It’s medicinal. Static on the lines of communication, relationships and decision making can be harmful to me.

But that’s how life really is. (Son of a squash!!)

There is a difference between “the illness I have” and “my way of doing illness.” I am determined to do illness (with all of its limitations and vulnerabilities) in such a way that there is ample and creative room for illness in my way of living. Trauma is experiencing illness in a society that doesn’t hold space for it.

Which means, relating to resistance happens not simply in the context of the limitations and vulnerabilities of illness. It also happens in perceiving and understanding resistance to be a natural expression of humanity.

That’s a tricky balance. Learning to live in peace with the resistance thrown up by others while simultaneously maintaining dignity and health within illness.

I have no idea how to do that. Anybody got any ideas?

(Grumble. Moan. Sigh. Snort.)

In gratitude:

Header Image: photo credit: Catherine Reznitchenko Passage via photopin (license)
Hummingbird: photo credit: Danny Perez Photography Green…. via photopin (license)

Published inArticles & Essays


  1. “Learning to live in peace with the resistance thrown up by others while simultaneously maintaining dignity and health within illness.” Those are 2 different situations but they’re both just resistance, I think, and have to be worked with in much the same way. What triggers the resistance is different, that’s all.

    Through mindfulness-style meditations I have learned much about working with resistance. It’s been a very slow and challenging process (and continues to be) but I’m beginning to let go and lighten up enough to feel a change in the texture of my resistance. I’m beginning to sort of enjoy it, accept it as a kind of companion on my journey, an adviser/teacher, perhaps.

    The bottom line is this: Stay awake (spiritually speaking), monitor your breathing and sensory experience, drop the stories and subconscious gossip you “speak” when in resistance, be in your body & senses, be in your body & senses (repetition is deliberate)., feel the texture of your unstoried resistance and let it be what it is (to the best of your ability), stay focused on the present. Rinse and repeat (an infinite number of times).

    Then do the things you’re avoiding, with bravery and the kindest confidence you can muster.

    Thanks for inspiring me to write this, Arria. It’s been useful for me. I hope you get something out of it too.

    • Arria Deepwater Arria Deepwater

      Thank you, Paul. Good to hear from you. I agree with your suggestions. I must say that staying non-resistant in the face of circumstances that reliably deplete my stamina and exacerbate symptoms … especially when those circumstances are created by the resistance another is experiencing … is still a uniquely difficult thing for me (and for many others doing chronic illness.) Our resources are very precious. However, practicing peace and diffusing resistance (even if only in myself) is always a worthwhile expenditure … even if I have to go to bed for a few days because of it. (She says devoted to the idea, but maybe not fully believing it all the time!)

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