In self-discovery practices, there’s this idea that the path to deeper freedom is to go through our resistance. This often sets us up with an adversarial relationship to our resistance, as if all it does is needlessly hold us back. In this episode, we discuss resistance as we might reconnect with an old friend -- exploring how it shows up in all its forms, the path to developing a healthy relationship with resistance, and all the fun and foibles we can expect along the way.
"My kind of rule of thumb is go for the joy. If I don't want the resistance to change, how can I meet it most joyfully?"
Brett: Today, we are leaning into resistance, how it shows up and all its forms, the path to developing a healthy relationship with resistance, and all of the fun and foibles we can expect along the way. In self-discovery practices, there´s this idea that the path to deeper freedom is to go through our resistance. This often sets us up with an adversarial relationship to our resistance, as if all it does is needlessly hold us back. The other day I read an essay by David Whyte on the word denial. I highly recommend giving the entire essay a read. We´ll link to it in our show notes.
But his closing lines really caught my attention. "To live in denial is to be in very good company. Denial is a crossroads between perception and readiness. To deny denial is to invite powers into our lives we have not readied ourselves to meet." So Joe, David´s treatment of denial rhymes with something you say a lot, which is, “If you can't love the thing, love your resistance to the thing.” If denial is one form of resistance, seeing it in this light seems like a good pointer toward learning to love it. What exactly is resistance?
Joe: It is an interesting thing what David Whyte is saying. It's incredibly profound, and I think it needs to be said, because it’s usually the relationship people don't have with denial. It is typical that people are like, “You are in denial!” They are not like, “Okay, cool, you are in denial.” It is just something you don't hear. From the perspective of a war with yourself you always lose to see the benefit of the side, to not take the other side personally, to see the other perspective really allows you to have less of a war with yourself.
From that perspective, I really appreciate what David Whyte is saying, and I really appreciate that that's needed often. I would even suggest David Whyte would also probably say there is a time to see through your denial as well. I think the main thing resistance is not being at peace with what is. That´s a great way to describe it on an intellectual basis.
On an emotional basis, it usually amounts to not wanting to feel something. That's usually where resistance comes from in the emotional body. In the nervous system body, there is some fear there that resistance usually comes along to, even though it might look like anger or frustration.
But for me, the most important thing to think about when I am thinking about resistance is, it's a natural step in transformation. I get very excited when I am working with somebody and they get resistant, because I am like, “Awesome, this means we are on the right path.” And it´s their path. It's not my path. It's not what I think they should do or where I think they should be.
Impartiality is incredibly important, and the other wisdom of what David Whyte is saying is, it's when they're ready. What's interesting is, we are always ready for a new perspective, epiphany or seeing through something, but maybe it's not that and maybe it's not now or maybe you are seeing through something slightly different. No matter how wise your guru gets or the person you are listening on a podcast gets, they can´t be more wise or have more knowledge about you. No matter how wise you get, you don't get to have more knowledge than the person you are talking to about them or more wisdom. It's really critical to allow them their paths and not want them to be any different.
Brett: It seems like it gets really easy to judge resistance. If we are not feeling something, then we could judge ourselves for not being ready to feel it. Or we could make ourselves ready to feel it when we are not.
Joe: That's resistance. All of that is just resistance in sheep's clothing or in wolves´ clothing. All of that is just compounding. You can’t fight your way out of a war.
Brett: How can we tell when we’re ready? If we are feeling resistance, there must be some part of us that feels like it is not ready to experience or feel this thing we are resisting. How can we know if we indeed are ready?
Joe: I don't look at it that way. I look at it as part of the transformation, meaning if you watch a cell divide, there´s resistance there. If you watch a tree slowly over time the limbs move to find light, there´s resistance in that. If I took all the resistance or all of the tension out of your body, you would die. Evolution requires resistance. It requires tension. To me, it's not something to get in a good relationship or to get out of a relationship with. It's just to be with the relationship you are in with it at that moment.
Brett: What are some other ways that that shows up personally? What kinds of resistance are there? What leads to them?
Joe: Mostly what leads to the different forms of resistance that comes out is just what you have learnt, what you were brought up with. If checking out was the way you resisted feelings you didn't want to feel, then you check out. If fighting is the way to resist it, if being evasive, being defensive, sleeping, there´s infinite ways. Being super cerebral, so there's all sorts of ways that resistance shows up in the work that I do or just in a normal business meeting.
You see it all the time in business meetings, people having resistance. Then you see other people get frustrated with their resistance. Instead of cool, they are resisting something, what do they know? What is it that doesn't say yeah, let's do this in them? Where´s the wisdom in that? Maybe only one percent of it is wisdom, and 99% of it is ignorance, but there's some resistance in the wisdom. There's always some.
It is not so much about knowing when it is good or when it is bad or when you are ready or when you are not ready. It's really how to be with the resistance without resisting that, and then whatever movement happens. Again, what I think is so brilliant about that David Whyte poem is, it is one very clear pointer on how to stop resisting the resistance or what you quoted me saying, it is how to love the resistance. If you can´t love the thing, love the resistance.
Brett: It seems what you have been describing just now is a curiosity or wonder, and that seems to turn things on their head a little bit. If we see somebody else in our lives who is resisting something, often our tendency is to point out their resistance and be like stop resisting, making it bad.
Joe: In other words, change to make me happy. I want you to change right now to make me happy.
Brett: Yeah, we have all done that.
Joe: We have.
Brett: It is interesting to think about it from that different perspective of just being curious. Their resistance isn't bad. If they are experiencing resistance and we want there not to be resistance there, then that is a pointer to our own resistance, and there's a lot there to be curious about.
Joe: Yeah, and there's this beautiful thing is, encourage their resistance or encourage your own resistance. One way through is to get out of the Chinese thumblock and one way is to go into the Chinese thumblock if you know what I mean. Often if I am resisting something and I am in that struggle, I just struggle all the way, just go all the way into it. It can exhaust the resistance, or listen to it completely. Let it fully have its voice.
But there is this weird thing that happens with resistance. At some level, there's a way in which we don't think we have the new tool we need because whatever we are not wanting to change, whatever we are not wanting to feel, there's a way that we have been dealing with it that has worked so far. Maybe not great, but it's been working. So to change that, it is like what´s going to happen and then the other question is what´s going to happen to me.
If you´re not listening to that wisdom, if you´re not listening to, “Okay, so, I stop yelling at my dog every time it shits on my carpet, then am I going to have to live with shit?” Oftentimes if you listen to that resistance, you find out what tool is going to be there, or you can address that this part of you is disappearing, this part of you is wanting to transform. What do we see comes next? Can you invite it back if you decide this part of you wants to be back or wants to stay?
Brett: Bringing some of this back into my experience, a lot of times I will experience some resistance around procrastination. There will be something I want to do.
Joe: Hold up. Is procrastination resistance?
Brett: There´s different kinds of resistance. For me, I mean procrastination can, I think, happen for a lot of different reasons. I think that would be a fascinating episode to get into it, but for me it often shows up as this fear of feeling the failure of not getting it perfect. Then, there´s the resistance to my not doing it, and there's this fear that if I go into that resistance in the way you said, then it will just take over and I will be stuck in it. But what you are saying is it will exhaust, so I can go all the way into the resistance rather than setting up another opposing resistance that balances it and keeps it stuck.
Joe: That can work if it is fully allowed to move. But the question I would ask is on the procrastination is, what is procrastination without any resistance in it. Not any resistance to it, but like if you feel the procrastination in your system and then you feel what procrastination becomes if there´s no resistance in the procrastination, what happens?
Brett: Sometimes it changes into…
Joe: Not sometimes, right now, what happens?
Brett: I am not feeling procrastination right now, because we are recording a podcast actively at the moment.
Joe: Right, but if you did?
Brett: Let me bring that feeling.
Joe: There´s something you are procrastinating right now.
Brett: Yeah, so feeling into a thing I am procrastinating, there just comes a feeling, a sensation in my body of a little bit like anxiety and then the anxiety moves and becomes some kind of energy, the get up and goesies.
Joe: What is that experience if there´s no resistance in it?
Brett: It feels like the impulse to do something.
Joe: That is what makes me ask the question. What is procrastination without resistance in it?
Brett: The experience of procrastination has the impulse to do something. Otherwise, you wouldn't be actively think about procrastinating it.
Joe: Exactly, you could not be doing stuff. I am not doing stuff right now, but it doesn't feel like procrastination. But as soon as I feel like I should be doing it, then there's the feeling of procrastination that comes. I am not launching a thermonuclear missile at this moment, and I don't feel like it is procrastination.
Brett: Me take a nap and then fires the missiles. From the conversation, I am feeling the thing I resist in procrastinating is the fear of whatever consequences of getting it wrong and that fear, if I am not resisting, is actually an excitement about doing something new.
Joe: Now, what´s the wisdom in the resistance? If you love the resistance, what´s the resistance in it?
Brett: It seems like the wisdom in the resistance is, “I am doing something new, and when I am doing something new, I would benefit from being aware that I might take steps that have unintended consequences.” I can just be aware of those things.
Joe: Exactly, so there's some wisdom there, and if you incorporate that wisdom into whatever is happening, that is the next step in the transformational process. There´s a step of resisting. That's part of transformation, and then there's the step of the integration of that resistance. It's also part of the next step.
It's an interesting thing. Earlier, I said you can´t fight your way out of a war, and I am sure somebody in their mind is like yes, you can. You fight a war. You win, and then the war is over. But you have to stop fighting. If you kept on fighting, the war would keep on going. Then this is what we do is we layer procrastination, which is a form of resistance. I am going to resist that. That's another war, and now I am going to tell myself I should stop having a war with myself around procrastinating. I should stop resisting procrastinating. I have now created a third level of fight. That's usually the bind we get into.
Brett: It feels like we can get addicted to or just used to being in that fight.
Joe: That's right. There´s a way to look at all of spiritual development. I wouldn't proselytize this, but there´s an interesting mind and body experiment to do if you could look at all development, is just how much the fight can go away in a day to day, minute to minute, second to second thing. There´s an addiction to that fight.
When I do business with folks, one of the things I read when I am interacting with them is just how much fight is in them. If you see somebody with a lot of fight in them, they always have a couple of people they are at battle with. Achieving goals is a battle. You are like, “If I am doing business with this person, I have to be completely okay with the fact they are going to do battle with me or they are going to create a battle I am going to get involved with.” How much fight is in a person? That's usually based on how much fight they had as a kid, how much being alive or being loved was a battle.
Brett: It seems like there's a preference for embodying some way of being in which we are not fighting ourselves and interacting and collaborating with people who are not fighting themselves. How do you hold that without partiality?
Joe: Beautiful, right? Then immediately my mind comes to the Bhagavad Gita, where it is like where our hero or main character says, “I don't want to fight my brother.” Krishna, I think it is. I am going to surely offend somebody. He comes down and says, “Now you got to fight.” This is– there´s no life without tension. There´s no life without resistance. You don't get to do that. You don't get to transform or grow. If you want no resistance, you get death.
The idea that you want less of it or more of it is just another way to reify it and be in the fight.
Brett: How do we not use this to justify being in a fight?
Joe: Yeah, how do you drop a hot frying pan? How do you describe that to somebody? How do you just not swing the sword?
Brett: A different example than dropping the hot frying pan is how do you let go of a DC current when you are being electrocuted and it is actually making you grab harder.
Joe: That is really more accurate. I like it, because it ruins my nice little answer to the question. The problem with the question, “How we do it?”, is as soon as you think there's a way to do it, then it becomes a should and it becomes part of the battle.
Brett: Or a strategy.
Joe: Yeah, the strategy, and then you are looking for a result and all of that stuff. You´re really looking to do the exact opposite of that. If you put in your body this sense of trying and struggle, and you feel that in your whole body, and then without thinking about it, you immediately feel the exact opposite of that feeling, that's all that's necessary is the exact opposite of that feeling even in, say, your procrastination. It's that. There´s 1,000 ways to get there, except for there's no way to get there. There´s 1,000 ways to realize you are there. There's no way to get there. That´s I think the better pointer.
Whether it´s David Whyte´s beautiful pointing of denial of denial, or whether it´s the pointing of love your resistance or if it is a pointing of just drop the frying pan, they are all just pointers to just stop fighting.
Brett: If you have a relationship where there´s some fight in it, rather than making the fight the problem and trying to fight the fight, just recognizing there´s fight over here. Is this something I can hold? Is this something that is okay? Or do I need to draw a boundary and go something else, work with different people? You could do that without having to change somebody.
Joe: I would say if you are in the question of that, you´re in the resistance.
Brett: Oh, enlighten me.
Joe: There´s moments when somebody acts a certain way and it's really clear to you. You are just like no, that doesn´t work for me. If you want to do that, you´re welcome to but just not at me or near me or I am going to go, whatever it is. You are not changing them, but you just don't allow that in your world. In that case, there's kind of no resistance. You are not in your lesson. You are not in your transformation. It's just like I know this thing for now is this way for me.
But if you´re like should I do this or should I do that, maybe I could do this, typically the one people have is, “Should I just draw the boundary or should I learn to accept it?” Is it more enlightened for me to draw the boundary or more enlightened for me to accept it? If you are in that question, you are in the transformation. Therefore, you are in the resistance. You are trying to solve it. You are trying to fix it. You are trying to make it different than what it is.
Brett: What if it is not from a perspective of being the most enlightened you can be? Just, you are making a business decision, and you are like, “Is it better for the business if I go option A or option B?”
Joe: Same thing. It doesn't really matter what the end goal is. When I say more enlightened this or more enlightened that, I am saying it could be which would make me happier or which would be more profitable or which would be– But in all those places, it is where we are in our growth. We are in our transformation. Think about the problem you have in business six years ago, and how it was like this big, “Oh my God, what am I going to do?” Now you face that same problem in different ways once a month and it's, “Now what am I going to do?” Whatever that transformation is has occurred.
When you are meditating and early in meditation, you notice that you lost track of yourself in the meditation. There´s a fight. “I shouldn't…Why am I doing this? Why am I still sitting here?” Then later there's no fight. There´s just like, “Oh, here I am.” You recognize the moment you see you have lost yourself, you have found yourself. You are not in that fight like that anymore. The resistance is that you are in your transformation. There´s a way to look at resistance and go, “Yeah, I am in my transformational process. Good for me.”
Brett: Yeah, it´s like bumping up against our edges and a sign that you are growing, but it really doesn't always feel that way. It often feels like a sign that you are not growing.
Joe: Yeah, it's that tension between the two things. I want it to be different. There´s a frustration. Even like little kids when they are learning to walk, they get really frustrated with themselves when they fall down, not at the beginning of the transformational process but in it. They get really frustrated.
Brett: What about the resistance to the wanting to be different itself? Because wanting to be different also has its own wisdom, and that can be something to resist on its own.
Joe: This is an interesting one. Oftentimes, not that it needs to be this way, but oftentimes when somebody is beginning their journey, before they get on the journey, they are like self help, spirituality, blah, blah, blah. Then they want something to be different. Then at some point they are just like, “I don't want anything to be different. I just want to be me. I want to be as me as me can be. I want to see what I am.” There´s this acknowledgement that evolution happens. There´s acknowledgement that development happens, but it is not particularly wanting to be different. It's not wanting to improve. Generally, that seems to be the progression that people go through.
My guess is, it is very necessary. It is very necessary for someone to have the phase of wanting to be different, and then there's this phase that it's very necessary that they see that that level of friction no longer serves them. That level of resistance no longer serves them, and so then they move into a different level. I think it is like almost anything we do whether it's recording sound or making movies or doing business. The more we do it, the more sensitive we become, the more refined we become in it and the more it is done with discord, the more it becomes unpalatable for us.
A great musician hears something that´s a little out of tune, and they are like oh. Me, I am like what, out of tune, I like it. It has got a good beat. You can dance to it. Whereas I might sit with somebody and notice a little bit of tension in them that they wouldn't notice for 30 years or 10 years or two minutes, who knows? But as you do the work, you become more sensitive to the discord. In that, the discord of I want to be different, it stops becoming an accelerator and you start seeing it as a break. But don't go rush.
I think this is what David Whyte is saying. Don't go rush and try to get to the place where that want is gone. It's got its wisdom. It has its movement. Let it have its dance. Enjoy its dance.
Brett: A question that comes up for me is what part wants to be different. In a lot of these episodes, we have arrived at this place where if you stop wanting to be different, if you let go of your ideas of being different, you will naturally change and you will naturally grow.
There´s a part of you that does want to be different. You could look at evolution, and species want to be different. There´s just not like a knowing somewhere of how that's going to go. It seems like if we are wanting to be different, and we have an idea of what different would look like for us, then we are using our intellect, which is a limited logic-y form of it.
Joe: It might be a great form of it, too. It doesn't really matter, because a tree is going to grow the way a tree grows. We are going to grow the way we grow. I don't know, correcting is– because my intellect says so or my mind says so. This is the soil. This is the sun. This is the seed. We grow, and it doesn't mean we give up our ambition either, which is interesting, or our will. The sensation is more, that the ambition and the will belongs to something greater than us. The feeling is it is more of a universal will or a universal ambition. In some aspects, far more gentle, and in some aspects, far more powerful.
Brett: What do you mean by universal power without jumping off the woo train?
Joe: You are going to try to stop me from jumping off the woo train?
Brett: I am going to show our listeners that I am trying to keep you on the tracks.
Joe: It´s a felt sense. It's an experiential. It's like trying to describe. There´s a moment in which the sense of self changes in a kid. There´s a point where you ask them if they want GI Joewith a kung fu grip for Christmas, and they are like yeap. You are like what mom wants. She wants GI Joe with a kung fu grip. Dad wants GI Joe with a kung fu grip. Then at some point, they differentiate themselves, and they see their mom and dad might want something different than what they want for Christmas.
That sense of self develops, and it seems to get bigger. It goes from I am me, to I am my family. Even in the distinguishing nature of it, to I am my nation, I am people, I am the ecosystem. As that sense of self changes, the parts of you belong to the bigger thing. You can see this all the time where people get lost in I am the nation or I am my political party, and if they feel offended, it is not just them that are offended. It's their nation that should be offended. It is projected that way.
I think it's not anything different than that. It's just that the sense of self becomes bigger than you. It feels more universal or something like that. It feels more like one-ness.
Brett: That makes sense. It also points to how this path can lead to better collaboration because you could start by, “This is me, I am me. I have my problems, and everybody else is in my way.” to, “Hey, we have the same sort of problem.” Everybody has got their own position that they are experiencing it from, and we can share and integrate all of our different sources of information and come up with something more complex as a result.
Joe: Yeah, there are levels of it that are better with collaboration, and levels of it that are not as good with collaboration. Then there are middle stages that are kind of strange. For instance, oftentimes at one stage of seeing the world, you might go into consensus and think everybody´s voice is equal, and then that obviously is a great way to destroy an organization. There are manuals of the CIA written in the 1950s about how to destroy an organization, and consensus building and committees.
Brett: Wow, tell me more about that.
Joe: It is a great document. Basically, it is like a document that was written in the 40s or 50s. The CIA had a go in and destroy a business in a country where you want to destroy that business. It is like delegate all decision making to committees, make sure the committees are all over six people. If you go into super dysfunctional organizations, that´s what is happening all the time and sometimes designed that way. Maybe congress and the senate are designed to be not entirely effective, because you only want the really most critical laws to pass. But a lot of the nonprofit world is created this way where offending somebody or making a call without everybody's agreement is very bad or considered very bad. Then they become very ineffective in their work.
I would say eventually collaboration just becomes nature, but depending on where you find yourself in that process.
Brett: I guess it is important, collaboration remains collaboration among individuals with different perspectives rather than an assumption that everybody is the same and should end up with the same decision.
Joe: Or has the same authority or has the same expertise. It is that integration of. There´s a great way to say it, which is that selfishness is the engine of unity. It's the selfish gene that makes the human, and it's the selfish human that makes the human race. It's all these selfish cells and bacteria and fungus that are all making this beautiful earth, so the interdependence is created by our selfishness. It puts you in that same perspective of without tension, there is no evolution. Without resistance, there´s no transformation. Without selfishness, there´s no unity.
Brett: I think I can hear half of our audience flipping out about this right now, and there must be ways for selfishness to lead to more connection and collaboration and selfishness to lead to more resistance and fight. I think that could be a way to bring us back to resistance. A lot of the things we have talked about in this work is impulse resisted turns into a contorted impulse, that leads to disconnection, and a lot of the behaviors people consider selfish in a bad way or in a harmful way.
Joe: Yeah, I mean the key to being really good at selfishness is to really understand the underlying want. The first want is, “I want to go get drunk and screw as many people as I can.” That doesn't actually satisfy you, and so then what´s the deeper want? Then, what's the deeper want? Hopefully, you don't have to play them all out, and eventually you find the deepest want. Even close to the deepest want ends up being a deeply compassionate thing for the people around you as well.
There´s this idea that I have to choose between being good to me or being good to you. I don't find that experience. I find that when I am truly being compassionate with myself, almost always that action is truly being compassionate for the people around me.
Brett: It seems like that also continues to relate to resistance, because we might think we want something we are used to wanting and we just get stuck in that groove. We want to start defending that want, because we have already gotten so invested in it. When we start to say that maybe we want something different, that could be the seed of denial.
Joe: Or don't take that away from me, or it becomes the surrogate of something. There might be some political future that we have that most of America doesn't want anymore, but the transformation of it is so scary. The same thing in ourselves. I don't want to be watching television three hours every night anymore, but then I sit with myself for the first 10 minutes. I don't want to feel that, so boom, back to the television.
It is almost like it is not selfishness that's the problem. It's almost just undeveloped selfishness is the problem. We are competing against it. It's really strange. Every time I hear somebody call themselves selfish in a session. Maybe not every time, but I will say something to the effect of when your parents called you selfish, what did they really mean? Almost to a T what they all really meant was, I want you to do something different. That's what it means. I have never called my kid selfish. It is usually just a parent saying I wanted you to do this, and you did this other thing. You are selfish. I am not even sure I believe in the word selfishness in that way.
What I really like is, what you are saying is, that there are moments of resistance that will move us away from and will create an evolution of us where we can see more clearly what´s going to make us happy. We can see more clearly what's going to bring us peace. We can see more clearly what creates harmony amongst the people we love.
There's something very true about that. One of the principles I live by is embrace intensity. That's exactly for that reason, which is that intensity, that resistance is– I have found the more I embrace it, the more I run towards it, the more I run into it and through it, the more I love it for what it is. The less I resist it, the more at peace my life becomes, the more loving I become, the more generous I become. For those people who don't like what I am saying, great. Beautiful. There´s some resistance to run towards. I am not saying agree with me, but feel it.
Brett: That brings back to one of the kinds of resistances is, when we start to recognize something is true that we didn't want to be true. We recognize a deeper want that isn't convenient for us or doesn't seem convenient for people we are in agreement with. Some of this advice or a tool is to embrace intensity. What else can we do to recognize those moments, give ourselves the compassion to feel that resistance, not problematize it and then embrace that intensity?
Joe: In a weird way, that´s like all the work that all spirituality and all psychology and all psychotherapy– It is kind of answering that question. That's all it really is. There´s our natural movement towards ourselves and our own evolution, and there is the resistance. The question is how that resistance gets met. What's the most effective, efficient or joyful way to meet the resistance? My rule of thumb is: Go for the joy. I don't want the resistance to chance, so how can I meet it most joyfully? If you think it is like fake a smile, you'll notice that's not very joyful. It's more to ask that question.
Then there's also the question of who is resisting or what is resisting. That´s a great question as well. How do I love the resistance? That´s a question. How do I find the wisdom in the resistance? All of those things are hacks. The one that's most commonly not seen is, “What´s the feeling I am resisting. What's the thing I don't want to feel?” And go and feel it.
Brett: I guess in the case of procrastination or some forms of resistance is the resistance itself, which brings me back to what you said earlier in this episode, about just going all the way into it, which seems counter-intuitive at first. But it makes more sense in this context, because you can just enjoy going into the resistance and be like this is what it's like to feel this resistance, great.
Joe: With procrastination especially, it's really unique. That's the thing. Each form of resistance has its own little nooks and crannies. For instance, procrastination, the reason it becomes like an AC current instead of hot frying pan, so to speak, every time you think about doing the project, you are giving yourself a negative reinforcement so why the fuck would you want to do it. Okay, I am thinking about the project, and now I am beating up myself for not doing it. The project is associated with beating yourself up.
Think about it. On a mammalian level, a dog comes and every time it sees you, you kick it in the face. It doesn't want to see you anymore It doesn't want to be around you. It doesn't want to approach you. Every time you approach a problem, and you kick yourself in the face. Procrastination can be really easily solved if every time you think about the problem, you then envision yourself enjoying the shit out of doing it instead of why haven't I done that yet. Positively reward yourself every time you move towards that thing instead of negatively rewarding yourself.
I think this is generally the way in which the AC current happens instead of the hot frying pan, like that reinforcement that occurs. Generally, our resistance is painful and unwanted, and we associate it with the thing. I worked with a woman once who lost her dad when she was a child, and every time she thought about her dad, it hurt so she just doesn't think about her dad anymore, which is a world of denial, world of pain and of unfelt emotions, severe rigidity. All that stuff is happening. It is all because she unconsciously negatively reinforced herself, caused herself pain every time she thought of her dad.
Brett: Caused herself suffering, not just letting herself feel the pain of losing her dad.
Joe: If we are making the distinction the way Buddhists do, yes, which is suffering is the resistance to the pain.
Brett: Something that has been helping me lately with things I am putting off or procrastinating is, sitting with what it feels like to be avoiding doing it, which invariably feels less good than actually doing it, even though the perception is doing it, I am going to feel confused. I am not going to know what to do. I don't have the answers. But actually doing it, like writing something, like writing an email, even if you don't know what you want to say when you sit down and do it, starting to type feels better than staring at it and kicking yourself in the face.
Joe: Even in the [crying noise], you are kicking yourself, which is what is causing my smile right now. I love not knowing what to do and getting it wrong.
Brett: That´s a funny double bind. I really actually get bored immediately once I know what to do.
Joe: Exactly. If I have an email all laid out in my head, it is far more likely to take me a little time to get to it. If I am like, I have no idea what to say here, then it is more likely for me to actually do it, which just lets you know how arbitrary the whole thing is. It is the whole thing, is this arbitrary notion of what we define as what feels good and what feels bad. We define that because of our past history, because of an idea we hold about it.
As that stuff starts evaporating, as we see through our ideas, as you are experiencing this podcast, hopefully this podcast has just destroyed a couple of ideas you had. That's the idea. It just pummels them, and then you are like, “Wait a second, I don't know how to feel. I don't know what to think here.”, and you are left in that place. As that occurs, all of a sudden we can create the relationship we want with it, not the one we were taught.
Brett: One of the ideas I had was, I have had so many stories I have wanted to write about my adventures and experiences, and I have spent so much time thinking about what I would write. At some point, I just never did and then the moment passed. I am realizing now, triggered by something you said earlier, that in a number of those cases, I was figuring the whole thing out in my head and then eventually I knew exactly what the story was. And then it became uninteresting and receded into the background. I never actually wrote it because I wasn't actually writing when I was doing the figuring out, so nothing ended up written down.
Joe: To tie it back to resistance, this is the whole I have this idea of how it is. Even that can be a form of resistance, just like you said at some point becoming better, the idea of becoming better. The idea, not the actuality, but the idea of becoming better has too much friction. The same way this can have too much friction as well. It starts becoming unpalatable.
Brett: I definitely feel right now a lot of the ideas and perceptions I had about myself are somewhat broken right now after this conversation.
Joe: Somebody was frustrated with me the other day. They were like you did all that. Now what I am supposed to believe? I am like nothing. Stop trying to construct a reality around yourself. See what's there.
Brett: I am definitely sitting in a lot of questions now, which I am looking forward to getting into. Tell me about a time you struggled with some resistance for a period of time, and then suddenly found a way not to do it or just simply stop doing it.
Joe: In my 20s, I smoked a lot of pot. I don't know if it was a lot compared to what I see nowadays, but I definitely had a pot habit. Mostly it was on the weekends, and then there was a short time it was daily when I didn't have this job. I beat myself up over it so bad. I mean I remember just like the critical voice in my head got so loud, and I became so abusive.
I see that now a lot with pot smokers generally. Depression over prolonged use seems to be part of it. They are not motivated to do stuff. They are constantly seeing the faults in themselves and the world. I was just like fully in it, and no matter how hard I fought to get out, it just drove me deeper into it because the more that I was abusing myself about it, the more I wanted to escape myself and the more I smoked pot.
That was a cycle I was in, and at some point along the line, I just realized what is it that I really don't want to face. What is this self that I really want to face? It was really early on in my spiritual journey. I think just after my first meditation retreat, or a couple of years. I have a bad sense of time. I just ran into that. I just ran into that feeling, and it turned out to be sadness was really the thing I didn't want to feel. It was just some emotions, some anger, some sadness.
Then I ran towards it, and then pot just became, I don't want to fucking abuse myself like that. Then it was like, I like it once a week. I cleaned my house, and then– Anyways, by the time I was like 28, something like that, it was like the habit had almost completely disappeared and then it completely disappeared. I look back. I am like wait, I didn't try at all to end this thing. I didn't at all try to stop it. Now it holds absolutely no appeal. I look at it and no. Someone offers it to me at a party or something, there´s zero appeal. There is no temptation. There is no will power. There is just a lack of interest.
The more I resisted the habit of pot, the addiction of pot, the more it grew, the more shame grew with it. As soon as I looked at the underlying thing and embraced the intensity, then the whole thing just kind of disappeared, just dissolved without will, without trying. It just undid itself. I find that generally that's the case. There's a place where I am in the fight. There´s some resistance, not resistance, some intensity underneath that´s wanting to be embraced.
What's interesting about that is, I used to think there was some rush in that. I used to think, oh my God, I have got to embrace all the intensity. I have to fix all the issues. I have to stop all the resistance. I realize.
Brett: There's only so much time.
Joe: Yeah, there's only so much time. I realized it doesn't really matter if you do. It will stay there. It will wait for you. If you don't solve your pot addiction today, it will be there tomorrow. There's no rush. Whatever it is that you want to transform about yourself, it is going to stay there. The problem doesn't go away until it is addressed. You can be patient. That in itself was just another way to let go of another level of resistance, another fight in me.
The way I think about it now is, I can't let go of resistance. It is letting go of life. I can't let go of that tension. The question is, “How I hold it with the most gentleness and love? How do I hold without ever letting go of it, without ever losing contact? Without ever losing the intimacy with resistance? How do I hold it as lightly, as gently, as lovingly as possible?”
Brett: I really like that. That sounds like an episode.
Joe: We´ll see.
Brett: Thanks for listening to The Art of Accomplishment. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please subscribe & rate us in your podcast app. We would love your feedback, so feel free to send us questions and comments. To reach out to us, join our newsletter, or check out our courses at artofaccomplishment.com.
David Whyte: https://davidwhyte.com/pages/consolations
Simple Sabotage Field Manual (CIA, 1944): https://www.gutenberg.org/files/26184/page-images/26184-images.pdf
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