In my life, it seems that resistance can come from three places, and only one of those requires me to dig in and continue the force of resistance. I want to talk about the second of those three places: a source external to me.
If we live long enough, we will have experiences in which someone or some system exercises their power over us in a way that stops us cold in our tracks. This could be an employer handing down a new “company policy” that forbids something that was until that moment standard operating procedure. In this instance, the resistance we experience is not coming from within us (immediately) but is coming from some source outside of us, and when that source has power that it can exercise over us, we may find ourselves facing what feels like an insurmountable brick wall.
In these kinds of situations, the external resistance can certainly invoke some ego resistance as well (see Part 1 of these reflections), and it might move over into a third kind of resistance (see part 3) but for the moment, let’s consider the brick wall. Someone with the power to do so has created a barrier to us doing something that we are inclined to do. Now what?
In my own experience, I want to start with a “check in” with the source of the resistance. Have I misunderstood? Has my engagement in the newly forbidden activity been unknown or somehow caused a problem that has provoked this new resistance? Can we step back and reconsider? Is there a way around this new obstacle? Is there some way that the obstacle could be removed in the near future? These are all forms of negotiation, and occasionally they may work. I’ve engaged in them at work with administrators who issued a new policy, and in the process of negotiations, I was able to make them aware of how that unintentionally negatively affected members of my department. In light of that, a new way was found around the obstacle. In other situations, after all the negotiating, I found myself facing a brick wall. Impenetrable and unmovable. That is a hard moment because in that place I have found myself having to decide on major life changes. My path cannot proceed in this direction. I must change my course and find a new direction.
In this instance, resistance has become the cause for a total change of course. That’s not easy. It may not happen quickly. Mourning and loss are involved, and at some point, I have the opportunity to embrace with joy a new path. This sort of resistance will show me, eventually, that very often joy arises out of sorrow, and that the two are almost never far from each other.