There is a great little book by Steven Pressfield called The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. I’m reading it again, because I have a lot of projects in the works, and I’m being pummeled by resistance. If we are going to do anything creatively, if we are going to move deeper along our spiritual path, we are going to have to come to terms in some way with resistence, that counter-force inside that seems hellbent on tripping us up when we are committed to moving forward. Pressfield’s book is chock-full of good advice on how to move past resistance in the world of writing, and the title is very clever, turning the title of the classic Sun Tzu work, The Art of War upside down.
But here’s the thing I’ve been wrestling with. Is resistance some outside force that we must conquer, (as comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it!”) or is it a natural part of our human nature, which, instead of battling, we’d be better off “tending and befriending?” (Now that women have been included in the previously male-oriented studies of stress responses, behaviorists have come to recognize, in addition to the well-established fight/flight/freeze response, another, healthier method of coping with stress the feminine way – tending and befriending. Click here if you’d like to read more about this).
Personally, I don’t like being at war with myself. It is exhausting! And that “house divided will not stand” quote is true. Many a project of mine has been derailed by my war with resistance. I’ve had victories, too, of course, but the notion of war, especially inside my own skin, is one I’d prefer to let go.
Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh recommends engaging our resistance (fear) like a loving mother engages a wayward child. Correction must be made, obviously. We can’t let the child call the shots, but perhaps the correction can be done with tenderness, with kindness, with respect. The tone of our interaction could be, “Ok, my darling, let’s take a look at this,” instead of, “I will kill you, you f’ing mule!” 🙂
Either way – whether we choose the warring or the tending paradigm regarding resistance, the first step is to get to know it. What does it look like? What are its characteristics? What are its tactics? When does it strike? What specifically does it whisper? How has it tripped me up in the past?
There may not be a more important “persona” we need to get to know!