Facing resistance and taking the leap


Steven Pressfield writes in his book “The war of Art” that ”Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.”

We experience resistance in the shape of fear, worry, anxiety and doubt. And we hear it as those critical voice in our heads that tells us that “It’s too hard,” “It’s not going to succeed,” “I’m not good enough,” “There’s no use in trying,” “Others are already doing it better than I ever could” and so on and so forth.

Resistance is that joy killer that pushes us down with self doubt as it’s main weapon and extinguishes the flame that starts to burn with a new idea before we even have the time to consider it. Resistance is what convinces us to stay in the couch watching meaningless TV-shows instead of developing and implementing our ideas even though we are fully aware that it would be significantly more rewarding if we did. Resistance is what questions everything we want to put an effort into doing and tempts us with appealingly undemanding alternatives. Resistance is what frightens us to paralysis and prevents us from exploring ourselves and the world around us. Resistance is what prevents us from becoming who we wish to be.

Photo: Mari Gutic
Photo: Mari Gutic

My resistance has for a long time stalked me in everything that I do. It has made important things seem unimportant, valuable ideas to seem worthless and meaningful goals to seem ridiculous. My resistance has prevented me from being prepared when opportunities that I have dreamt of my whole life have appeared, and it has stopped me from accepting them. It has nagged and nagged; “You’re not ready,” “You will fail,” “What will people say?” “How will you solve it if things go wrong?”

My resistance has pushed me down, devalued me and bullied me. It has made me stay in destructive behavioral patterns, doomed-to-fail-relationships and unrewarding jobs longer than I have wanted to. And now, when I have finally found the guts to challenge it by canceling the contract to my apartment, it’s stubbornly preventing me from enjoying the decision by drowning me in fears and feelings of anxiety; “How will you make it?” “Where will you go?” “What if you don’t manage to find an apartment later on?” “What if you run out of money?” “You are wasting time!” “You are being ridiculous!” My resistance even laughs at me – loudly and scornfully.

Normally I would become quiet. Pull back. Believe the resistance. In many ways I still do. However this time, after a fair amount of planning and doubting, I have decided to refute all those convictions and act differently. This time I choose to challenge my resistance with action. So this time I laugh resistance straight in the face and quit my job. The word “rebel” is written big and clear on my forehead. This time I’m the one smiling scornfully. And it feels AMAZING.

For ten seconds.

Because obviously resistance immediately replies by filling me with intense feelings of anxiety. I make sure to breathe and remain firm on my feet, determined and ready to accept it all. Allow it to exist. Deal with it. Manage it. Anxiety is all right. As one of my professors once said; “Let the fear exist, it’s ok that it does. Accept it. It’s trying to tell you something about yourself and about what is important to you. Hear it out. Make anxiety your friend.”

Resistance stems from a fear of change, a fear of deviation from the familiar road. Because no matter what the familiar road is like – easy or difficult – we know it by heart. We have adjusted to it and we know that we are able to cope with it. A change, on the other hand, includes uncertainty and uncertainty is scary for most of us. We’re not sure if we will be able to deal with whatever awaits on the other side of that uncertainty. Because of that, resistance actually tells us which road we need to take if we want to continue growing, developing and expanding our comfort zone.

So that’s what I’m doing. And while a majority of people would describe my decision as foolish I feel proud. Fearful, but proud. Satisfied. Nervous. Free. Scared. Anxious. Doubtful. Worried. Calm. Free. Terrified. And free. Everything at once, finally resulting in some form of neutral state. Much as if the feelings cancel each other out in the same way as two sound waves of the same frequency and opposite amplitudes cancel each other out due to destructive interference. Both exist yet neither one is making itself heard.

So there we are, my resistance and I, laughing at each other. Until my boss asks if I would like a leave of absence instead. “Sure, why not?” I say. Resistance and I have found a compromise. Darn it. I can feel the word “rebel” being erased from my forehead. But that’s all right, because the word “free” is floating around on calming waves inside of me.