Why We Resist What is Good for Us
To resist is defined as to withstand the action of or effect of. For this blog, we will be focusing on the resistance to change. Seeing how Fall has arrived, I thought the timing to discuss resistance to change for the better was pretty spot-on. Being the independent person that I am, change is something that I’ve looked forward to most of my life. (Fall is my favorite season.) While I thrive on daily rituals, I get bored easily when life becomes routine. So, you might think that by me saying this about myself, that I would not likely resist change. I would have agreed with you a few months ago, but my most recent experiences have shown me otherwise, not only about myself but in others as well.
So, let’s look at some reasons why we might resist change that is good for us. It is fairly widely known that as human beings we are motivated by two things – pain and/or pleasure. Some people are highly motivated by the pleasure you perceive you will receive upon doing something while others don’t move until the pain is no longer tolerable. Some studies show that there are more people motivate by pain than pleasure. When I heard that, I thought that just seemed so odd. Who wouldn’t run towards something pleasurable, happy and rewarding? On the surface, we probably all look at it through that lens. But, lets really dig into this. Here are some reasons, we resist what is good for us . . .
We’re afraid of losing our identities.
We identify with pain. We become our struggle. We bond over what we hate. (gossiping, Facebook bickering over politics, race, gender, etc.) It’s the trifecta for unhappiness, and the more we sustain it, the harder it becomes to work our way out of. I call it the “funnel effect.” When you start out with an “innocent” comment and then someone else chimes in and so on and so on, then before you know it, the weight of all that negativity has pulled you so far down that to get back to where you were (at the top of the funnel) seems too impossible. This is because we grow to identify with our problems. Who are we if we don’t have a battle to fight? It makes “being happy” seem boring, and undesirable. So we keep ourselves in a state of “wanting” and never “having.”
We’ve trained ourselves to feel happy with the “wanting” not the “getting.”
We get stuck in these patterns in which we find our happiness in dreaming up the next big thing, in working toward it, in lusting after it, in feeling like “getting it” is this huge accomplishment. The excitement of the possibilities are very alluring. Then after the high has passed, it’s not interesting to us anymore. Or as we get further down the road of achieving what we want, we meet a little resistance and we run back to our comfort zone. We’d rather stay in the space of what we “know” than venture further into the “unknown.” Once again, we fall into a “funnel effect” and it seems too difficult to get to where we want to go.
Why do we avoid that which we know is good for us? Why do we automatically resist, push back even though we know, deep down, that it’s the right thing to do?
This was my most recent experience that brought this topic to the surface for me personally. Back in August, as some of you know, I had an accident with my hand. I lost 90+% function of my right hand (and yes, I’m right handed). So, prior to this accident, I’d say for the past several months, I was feeling unsure of what was next. Basically in a state of indecision. I’m sure some of that thought process had to do with me coming up on the half century mark for my existence on this planet, but there was more than just my birthday. I didn’t feel like myself. It was as if I was almost living in someone else’s body.
So, when the accident happened on August 1st, it brought EVERYTHING to the surface. The physical pain of my hand, the emotional pain of not being able to do things as I normally did and not sure if I would ever be able to be at 100% again. But even deeper than that, it was the pain of where I was. I wasn’t happy with how I felt physically about myself. (FYI: this has ZERO to do with “appearances”) God gave me some pretty good DNA that I inherited from my family, not bragging and not taking credit, but I’ve always been athletic. Well, to label me athletic prior to my accident with my hand, would have been a lie.
So, two weeks after my accident, I found a “lily pad” (that’s what I call God’s grace). I came across Rita Catolino on social media. She was offering a 10-Day cleansing program. I followed her for several days, almost stalked her or another more politically correct description would be, researched her and was so impressed with her on so many levels. Her vulnerability, her Light, her bold determination to pursue excellence and her “invitation.” That’s what church people call it – those of you that have lived this church life know what I’m talking about . . . at the end of the service, the pastor stands on the congregation floor (comes down from the podium) and reaches out to the people and offers them an invitation to take Jesus into their hearts. Well, Rita wasn’t trying to convert people to Jesus, but she was inviting people to convert their old habits, shed some bad choices of the past and start fresh. And, thank you Jesus, I accepted!! (for any religious folk out there – please don’t write me and comment about me comparing Rita to Jesus – you have more important things to worry about, I promise!)
As a population, we know how to eat well and look after our bodies. It’s not rocket science, it’s just common sense. Yet the obesity rate continues to rise and we spend a fortune each year on quick fixes, diet books and supplements only to end up back where we started (or even worse). Or if an incredible opportunity comes our way, that we know is perfect and completely in line with everything we have ever dreamed of . . . we somehow find a way to self-combust, over-think it and run in the opposite direction. Why is that?
The answer – fear. That self-sabotage. It’s all coming from a place of fear.
The irony is that the fear is a good sign. That feeling that looks and feels like fear is simply your ego resisting what is not routine for you and it means you’re on the right track. The resistance is an indicator that a whole new level of awesome is about to be achieved. But you have to work for it. You have to move through the resistance. It’s not easy.
What gets us to open up, take that need to resist and turn the page to getting what we want?
I’ll use my experience as a pathway to a possible answer for you. I was motivated by the pain. You could say that I had hit a rock bottom for what I would no longer tolerate. Those doctors and researchers that are much smarter than me call it our instinctive side vs. our conscious side. Prior to my accident, I was existing in the world of my instinctive side. After my hand blew up like a blow fish and I couldn’t use it even to open a can of dog food to feed my pups, that was when my conscious side overruled my instincts. Here’s the “science” in layman’s terms . . .
The instinctive side assigns value using past experience and past evidence. It distills past experience and builds evidence to value a certain behavior. In contrast to the conscious side’s logic-based approach, if our past experience of exercise has shown that it’s difficult and painful and stressful, then we’re going to avoid doing it. We expect it to continue being difficult and painful and stressful, so we are instinctively against doing it since that’s what we expect.
Bottom line, it’s tough being us. Seriously! We have this constant chatter with our ego going on and that ego is solely based on self serving habitually learned behavior and responses. No wonder it’s so hard to get out of bed when you’ve been down and sad for more than 3 weeks in a row – HELLO – you just formed a habit, did you not??
BUT – there’s ALWAYS hope!! One of my favorite bible versus is when Abraham believed “in hope against all hope.” We are created to grow and evolve. Just like nature, when we become stagnant, we die – spiritually then eventually physically. So, I encourage you – whether you are dealing with deep sadness, physical pain, an issue with weight (too little or too much), or the many other emotions and issues that we humans are allowed to explore – you know what is good for you – pursue it as much, and as often, and as hard as you can. Don’t fall prey to your instincts and ego. Step boldly into your life!! For pushing through that momentary “feeling” of pain – you will be highly rewarded!! Be well and Live Excellence! xoxo