So here it is, the end of another super-busy day. Looking back at everything you accomplished, you gotta give yourself props. You busted through that to-do list like a bosslady. You fed yourself, and maybe your family. You negotiated that deal even more successfully than you expected. You walked the dog not once but twice! And there was even a little time at the end of the day to sit and peruse your Facebook feed.
You’re a rockstar, pure and simple. Let the inner high-fives fly.
But…maybe not. Maybe you can’t quite celebrate yet, because there’s that one thing. That one item on your to-do list that didn’t get to-done. And it’s even harder because this one tugs at your heart a little more than the others.
Maybe it said, “Work on book.”
Or, “Finish outline.”
Or perhaps simply, “Write.”
The one to-do item you didn’t get to today. Or yesterday, probably. And the thing is, you really can’t be sure you’ll get to it tomorrow, either.
Colloquial wisdom would say you’ve got a problem on your hands. A problem that is sometimes referred to as laziness, or a lack of dedication, or “the wrong priorities.”
And if you’ve steeped in as much self-help/personal growth/spirituality hoo-haw as I have, you know this “problem” by its more ominous name.
* * *
If all its hype is to be believed, resistance is the bad guy—and you’ve fallen into enemy territory. Writing is a battleground, and you’re losing the war.
But here’s my beef with the so-called “problem of resistance.” As anyone who’s studied depth psychology and shadow work can tell you, there is a reason for every counter-productive behavior we have. Usually it’s a really, really, REALLY GOOD reason. Often a reason that ties back to some dangerous-feeling experience in childhood.
In other words, you’re not writing because there is some part of you that’s trying to protect you. Protect you from something awfully bad happening.
If there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s the preachy-coach mentality that says, “All you need to do is commit to writing! What are you letting stand in your way??”
I don’t know about you, but I prefer to apply a blanket policy of trust in my life. Trusting myself, trusting my motivations. And perhaps most controversially, trusting my resistance.
You heard me. I trust my resistance. And I trust yours, too. Resistance is an intelligent adaptation. It knows what its doing, and believe it or not, it has your best interests at heart.
* * *
Your resistance is protecting you. The only problem is, it’s often protecting a version of you who’s two or three or four years old—or even younger. It was hired a very long time ago to make sure you survived.
Most of the time it’s protecting one of three things:
- It’s making sure you’re still going to be loved.
- It’s making sure you will still belong in your family, your community or your relationship.
- It’s making sure you will stay safe.
It doesn’t care that you’re sitting here, 30 or 40 or 65 years old, and your survival is no longer on the line. It doesn’t care that you have a great story or a game-changing message or a collection of heartbreaking poetry to share with the world.
It doesn’t care that creative expression is busting you at the seams, and that sitting down to write every day is the very thing that will bring you alive once more.
All it cares is that you’re still breathing.
Promising yourself you’re going to do better tomorrow is not going to dissolve this deeply loyal protector within. Your internal resistance system was built Ford tough.
So stop beating yourself up; it’s not doing you any good, anyway. What you need now is self-understanding, not more aggression. Even if you were at war (which you’re not) the only antidote is love.
* * *
Love, in this case, means first acknowledgment, followed by attention.
Here’s a practice. Take the 20 minutes or hour when you’re, ahem, not doing the writing you said you wanted to do. Sit down, breathe, and introduce yourself to the best friend you never knew you had.
“Hi, Resistance. First, I just want to say thank you.”
“I see that you have been protecting me for many years. I’m here to tell you that your work is working! You’ve kept the gates locked up tight, and I can confirm that I AM STILL ALIVE! You’ve been doing a great job.”
“And that said, we need to have a talk. See, there’s this book I’m supposed to be writing.”
“I mean, it’s not really me who’s writing it. It’s kind of—well, it’s kind of God. Or whatever. The Universe? Anyway, it needs to get through the gate.”
“So in exchange for you letting me write this book, I’m going to offer you some high-octane TLC. I’m going to attend to YOU for a change. I am going to ask you to tell me what kind of attention you would like. And then I promise to listen for your answer.”
“Maybe you like prayer. If so, I will say a little prayer for you every day.”
“Maybe you like gestures of appreciation. In that case, I will [light a candle for you, sing you a song, take you on a walk] every day.”
“Perhaps you’d like for me to put a little card with the word ‘resistance’ on my altar, so you feel seen. If so, I will gladly adorn the card with several pink hearts in your honor.”
“And of course, I would love to add you to my daily list of gratitudes. You know, for keeping me so safe, lo these many years.”
“Because you’re amazing at what you do.”
“But now I need to write, and I need your help.”
* * *
Listen with your heart, your mind, your body. Ask your resistance to let you know what it needs. Let it inspire you with its unwavering dedication to its mission. (We could all learn a thing or two.)
Then one morning, just as the birds are starting to sing outside your window and dawn is opening into day, listen for the sound of a rusty gate swinging open. And soon, for the tiptoe of your inspiration to write announcing its return. For once your resistance knows that it is loved, it is safe, and it will always belong—it will melt into the warm embrace of your deepest desire.
Resistance is not the enemy; it’s deeply a part of you. Trust it, honor it, and learn to love it. The writing can’t help but follow.