Monday, 15 December 2008

Is Resistance Futile?

There is no shortage of ‘movements’ in the world that exist as a form of resistance. They tend to attract those who don’t like something that is happening in life. Political, environmental, economic and social issues all have their ‘resistance movements’. The mission of their members is to agitate for change. But is resisting the most effective way to create a better way forward. Is resistance to the way things are the most effective method to make a creative contribution to progress, whatever your definition of progress may be. As most of us will spend a significant amount of our life ‘in resistance’ to something or someone, without consciously realising it, its effectiveness is worth exploring.

There are a number of reasons why anything from a moment to a lifetime of resistance will cause a self inflicted catastrophic collapse of contentment!

You are trying to CONTROL what you cannot control

If you look underneath your resistance to anyone or any situation you will notice you are trying to control what you cannot control. Whether it’s another person, your immediate circumstances, a far off situation or some controversial issue, your resistance has its roots in an attempt to control the uncontrollable. You cannot control another person, ever. And most issues and situations include other people. However most of us will grow up with a belief that we can control what we cannot control, that the world should dance to our tune, that people and situations should do what ‘I want’ and go the way ‘I want’ them to go. And if they don’t I will not be happy. And so resistance is a sign that we are killing our own happiness.

You are giving rise to CONFLICT

Where there is resistance there is the birth of conflict. Two parties in resistance to each other co-creating conflict, which is why, as that old saying goes, resistance leads to persistence. This happens between people, teams, organisations and nations. Eventually resistance escalates into war. But few notice that the war happens both ‘outside’ (between parties), and ‘inside’, within the consciousness of each party. Being at war with others and with ones self is obviously an unenlightened way to live, but even when we realise it’s unenlightened we still resist. Just thinking, “They ‘should’ not be fighting, they ‘shouldn’t’ be resisting each other”, is to resist those that resist!

You have CLOSED yourself to others or a situation

When you resist the other person or situation it means you are closed to them. You have gathered your self around your opinion, position or perspective and you are not open to the others ideas or way forward. You are saying there is only one way forward and it’s ‘my way’. This generates much inner tension. Not only are you closed but the other is also perceived as a threat. And as you subtly send them that perception it’s only a matter of time before they return it. Unless of course they understand that resistance is not the most effective way forward.

You are being JUDGMENTAL

Whenever you resist anything or anyone it means you are in a judgmental state. It means that you disapprove of the other and you are saying they are wrong and you are right. This judgmental stance destroys your peace and easily clouds your ability to discern clearly what is really happening. Which is why judging others is a form of arrogance that breaks our connection.

STRESS will be your companion

Resistance simply means you are stressed. And like all forms of stress it is self created and can therefore be easily alleviated. But it’s our belief that others are the cause of our stressfulness that sustains our resistance to them, so we create a self-reinforcing mechanism within our consciousness that sustains our resistant attitude and action. However, stress as resistance is so prevalent we believe it’s OK, even natural, even good!

ANGER and FEAR will be present

Take a moment whenever you are in resistant mode to see the ‘emotional’ content underneath and you will always find either anger or fear, and perhaps both. These are the ‘unhappy emotions’, which if sustained, will eventually affect your health and well being, not to mention your relationships.

You are likely to be SUPPRESSING your emotions

The place where we often do the most resisting is within ourselves. They are brief moments not of self-denial, but when the self denies the emotions it is feeling. To resist our own emotions is to suppress our emotions, and as we all know the pressure of accumulated suppression will one day find its way out either through an emotional explosion or physical illness.

Resistance is tiring and eventually it becomes obvious that it’s an extremely unenlightened way to live, not to mention an unhappy way to be. The alternative and more enlightened way is of course acceptance.

To many however, acceptance sounds like acquiescence. But it’s not. For example acceptance does not mean I agree with you. Actually I have a different point of view than you, I can understand that you might have a different point of view than mine, so I accept that difference, I accept that you have your own point of view, I don’t agree with it, but I accept you have it. Resistance arises only when I try to change your opinion and make you see and agree with mine. As I move into acceptance I no longer try to ‘control your opinion’ and that obviously facilitates a more positive exchange between us.

Neither does acceptance mean condoning what other people have done. Acceptance just means the deed is done and it cannot be changed so how do we move forward. To respond with resistance to an event that has already happened is an attempt to change the past, which is impossible, unless you are a time traveller! To say, “But this is unacceptable”, is in itself futile, as what has already happened will have to be accepted eventually. It’s just a question of how long it takes!

Effective INFLUENCE is only possible when there is acceptance of the other

While we do not control others we do influence each other. In fact it’s your job if you are a parent, manager, older sibling etc to influence others. But influence is not control. As soon as the other senses you are attempting to control them they close up and you lose your influence. Whereas if you simply accept them as they are, they are likely to stay more open and you will therefore have greater influence. Here lies the subtle line between control and influence.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION can only begin when one side accepts the other as they are

In any conflict situation resolution is impossible until one party gives up their resistance and accepts the other as they are, even if it’s for a few minutes. Only then can the conversation, the communication, begin. Only then can the journey towards resolution commence. Acceptance is not the only step, just the first step, but often the hardest. Its here that acceptance is most often mistakenly seen as agreement or acquiescence.

Acceptance is sign that you are OPEN to the other

The shift from resistance to acceptance is also the moment you become open to the other. And when you open to them they are likely to follow and become more open to you… eventually. You only need to be free of ‘wanting’ and ‘expecting’ them to open to you. And as we all know mutual openness is one of the foundations of a relationship that works.

Only in acceptance can you RELAX into the relationship

It is only when you accept the other as they are, regardless of what they have done, or indeed what they may do that you can relax into the relationship. They may not reciprocate immediately but that’s OK because you know you are not responsible for their actions or feelings, and you are no longer dependent on what they do for what you feel. Easy isn’t it…! : )

Authentic acceptance means LOVE is present

Acceptance returns you back to your true state, your true energies, and the shift from anger and fear to love and peace is complete. In fact acceptance is an expression of love that is not possible until you are at peace with your self and with the world. To be at peace with the world sounds easy but it’s not possible until the habit of trying to fix the world has gone. True and genuine acceptance is love in action. And when it is directed consistently over time towards ‘the other’ they feel it and will likely return appreciation. A common memory from childhood for many of us was to be on the end of our parent’s resistance as they tried to control us, while at the same time being the receiver of our grandparent’s acceptance. Hence the warmer feelings we would very often have towards grandma and grandpa! They had long since retired from the parental ‘control patrol’.

In many ways it’s a simple choice between resistance and acceptance, but not an easy one to make after a lifetime of habitually resisting someone or something. It’s doubly hard for those who believe resistance is the only way to ‘make things better around here’ where ‘here’ can be the whole world. But the paradox lies in the fact that life is relationship, a large degree of success in our relationships depends on our ability to influence others, and ‘effective’ influence is not possible unless ‘the other’ senses, feels, sees that they are being accepted unconditionally. Only then is a creative and meaningful engagement possible.

Question: Who and what situations do you sense you are resisting most in your life today (List 3 examples)

Reflection: Why do you think your resistance is arising in each case?

Action: What would acceptance feel like and look like in each case. Experiment by practicing this week.

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Methods there are many, principles but few, methods often change, principles never do