Resistance is a term used in psychotherapy to indicate actions by the patient that block progress in therapy. The patient often is not conscious of the resistance, and part of the therapy may be to bring the resistance into consciousness.
Examining resistance can be useful for people practicing a spiritual discipline too. We may know, for instance, that regular meditation would benefit us, but something gets in the way. We may find ourselves too busy, too sleepy, preoccupied with other pursuits, or we may just forget that we had wanted to meditate today. Until we become aware of our resistance to our meditation practice, we are likely to continue our self defeating behaviors, in spite of our conscious good intentions.
In therapy, the therapist might help the patient recognize and work through resistance, so that the patient can move on to a higher level of functioning. A spiritual teacher can do the same thing for those lucky enough to have a personal relationship with one. Many of us, however, are practicing on our own without a guru or spiritual director to guide us individually. It is up to us to examine our behavior patterns and work through the resistance.
Assuming that you are not living the perfect disciplined life, let’s look at how you resist attaining your spiritual goals.
Ask yourself what you would like to be doing as a spiritual practice that you are not. For instance:Visualize yourself performing the activity. In your mind’s eye, see yourself doing what your goal requires. What is your response to this imagining?
- I will meditate for at least twenty minutes twice a day.
- I will journal every day.
- I will pray morning and night and before every meal.
- I will review my day each night before I sleep and think of how I might have done better.
- I will attend services every week.
- I will practice yoga every morning.
What are the thoughts?
What are the feelings?
Sit with those thoughts or feelings. Look at them carefully. Do they evolve? Where do the thoughts take you?
What are the alternative thoughts that contain your resistance? In other words, what thoughts do you have that oppose the goal? Get clear on these. You may need to re-evaluate your goal. Is it really something you want?
How does the goal fit with your beliefs?
Do you believe this is an attainable goal?
Is it a worthwhile goal?
Is it your goal or someone else’s goal for you?
If it is someone else’s goal for you, do you want to make it yours?
What are your priorities for spending your time?
What would you have to give up in order to attain your goal?
What would you not be doing if you are doing this activity?
How would you need to rearrange your life to attain your goal?
Do you need to change your daily schedule to accommodate the activity?
Do you need the help of other people with your goal?
Do you need to talk with them about supporting your goal or at least not interfering with it?
What could you do to your physical environment to make it more likely you will do what you need to do to support your goal?
Do you need to change your living space somehow?
Do you need physical reminders to do what you want to do?
Are you able to state your goal clearly and put your emotions behind it? If not, keep looking for your resistance.
After a period of time, review whether you have been achieving your goal. If not, look at your resistance again. What is blocking you?
© 2000 Tom Barrett