Webster’s definition of resistance the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.
A psychologist’s definition resistance is the phenomenon often encountered in clinical practice in which patients either directly or indirectly oppose changing their behaviour or refuse to discuss, remember, or think about presumably clinically relevant experiences.
In clinical practice herbalist need to support a client’s in taking their medicine. It is not unusual to have a client say they were too busy to make their tea, or they never made it to the grocery store to pick up the avocadoes or they kept forgetting to take their tincture or they leave their medicine in their desk drawer at work so they cannot take an evening dose.
There are many, many reasons for people not taking their medicine. Sometimes the medicine is to bitter. In that case I recommend taking it with some honey. Sometimes the client dislikes the taste of peppermint and I substitute another plant. If the client finds the protocol too complex, I simplify it. Sometimes, no matter how the herbalist supports the client, she continues to find reasons not to take enough medicine to effect change. In this situation the herbalist and the client is facing resistance. Resistance is much trickier to work with than recommending honey to off-set a bitter taste.
The only way to help a client overcome resistance, is to learn about resistance in your own being. Following these steps to discover resistance in yourself.
Identify one thing you have done in the past that was both interesting and supported your well-being. Remember when you stopped doing this activity. This activity might have been meditating 10 minutes during the day, writing down dreams in the morning, going for a walk or sipping an evening tea.
Now ask yourself why you stopped doing this activity. What was the reason you told yourself about ending the activity?
Give yourself a quiet moment, centre in yourself using your breath and then tell yourself the reason you stopped the activity. If the reason you no longer write down your dreams, or meditate, or walk is true you will feel yourself sink into your body. If it is not true, you will experience a flurry of mental activity that shores up the story you have told yourself. If this is the case, you have discovered resistance!
Sometimes I think resistance is like coming up against glass wall. You can’t see it, but you can feel it.
The important thing about resistance is—it is an initial sign that healing is moving deeper into your body/mind. Resistance is like the guardian to the cave of inner knowing. Resistance asks you, “What are will you give up in order to receive. What price are you willing to pay for being whole, healthy, creative, joyful, etc?” It is the moment when you ask yourself - Am I willing to surrender to this change?
The challenge with healing is we never really know what change it will bring to our lives. It is impossible to know exactly what we will find in the cave of inner knowing. We can easily use expressions like wholeness, authenticity, love, healing, connection and other vague warm and fuzzy terms to express what we believe or hope to find in the cave of inner knowing. But if one does not know these ways of being while standing on the threshold of change, the discomfort of change (also called resistant) can cause one to turn away from entering the cave and choosing the path of distraction.
Standing on the threshold of a deeper healing we are asked to surrender our current truth for something unknown. This is uncomfortable. The greater the change is, the greater the discomfort becomes. In order to avoid the discomfort we stop meditating, writing down dreams, journaling, taking our flower essence, or whatever it is that is helping to bring in the new way of being and get busy. Somehow we believe “If I stop doing what is causing the discomfort everything will be okay.”
The path of busyness or Netflix binging or box of donuts or a new love affair or shopping works for a while, maybe a day, a week, a month, maybe even a year. The further down the path of distraction we wander the more the threshold of the cave of inner knowing becomes a misted over. Then suddenly one morning one wakes up feeling stuck and knowing something has to give. Probably what needed to be surrendered to enter the cave of inner knowing.
Struggling in stuckness, one seeks another healing modality or return to the one left behind. The process starts all over again until resistance is meet. Standing on the threshold of change, one more time you are asked to embrace the discomfort of resistance, surrender or leave behind the healing. It is up to you.
Inquiring into Your Soul’s Desire: Overcoming Resistance
This is a journaling exercise in which you answer three questions. As you answer these questions in your journal let yourself write without a censor and try not to take you pen off the page. See if you can write two full pages for each question, notice when resistance arises and just keep writing, even if its just “I don’t know what to write.”
You may want to allow a week between journaling each question. In other words, this exercise does not need to be done in an hour. But if you want to, it can be.
Question 1: Who are you?
Question 2: What happens through you?
Question 3: What’s missing?
Question 4: What is your soul’s desire?
Question 5: How does your spirit support your soul?
(This exercise is an adaptation of “Who are you?” from Joanna Macy’s book Coming Back to Life.)