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  • Writer's pictureAnn Manning

Embracing Resistance

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

'Whatever is preventing you from writing the poem, is the poem.'

Years ago, I hurt my arm and ended up with a ‘frozen’ shoulder. There was pain, I couldn’t carry anything, nor could I lift my arm to the side higher than shoulder level. A friend referred me to a physiotherapist, who gave me a most surprising and transforming instruction: ‘Experience the resistance, be present with the resistance.’

At the time this seemed like crazy talk. It was so counter to anything I understood about being a person. Surely resistance is to be overcome not dwelt on? Nevertheless, I gave it a go, and, to my surprise, the practice was remarkably effective. Even the physio was impressed by the speed of recovery. In a couple of months, full movement was restored and there was no pain in my arm.

Inspired by this experience, I began to play with the idea of paying attention to resistance, applying it to my own experience in different contexts. What I have found most interesting has been the effectiveness of working with emotional resistance and discomfort.

While I have to retrain myself to embrace rather than resist resistance, I realise this idea first came to me somewhat spontaneously maybe forty years ago. At that time, I had a temporary job as a research assistant in a public service department. After drawing a number of graphs illustrating the findings of a recent survey, I was ‘rewarded’ with the task of writing reports describing the trend illustrated by each graph. It was a very basic job, and yet for two days I sat at my desk, frozen, unable to write anything.

Then inspiration hit. I grabbed a sheet of paper and began to write about the resistance I was experiencing. I wrote furiously and seven pages later I laid down my pen. The core issue that emerged was an underlying belief that my work needed to be brilliant. I couldn’t write for fear that I might fall short of these ridiculously high expectations. Once I had identified this, and recognised how out of proportion my fear was, I was able to (brilliantly?) complete the report writing project in less than an hour!

In the words of the great psychologist, Carl Jung; What you resist persists. If you think about it, pushing against resistance creates tension. When you drop the pushing and approach whatever you were resisting with curiosity and acceptance, the situation becomes more spacious. Embracing resistance can serve as a portal to healing, to new insight and creative solutions.

If you are inspired to try out embracing the resistance that you experience, I’d love to hear what you notice. You can contact me: ann@restoringhealth.com.au


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