The Opposite of Resistance
Here’s a subtle but crucial point for us to hold in mind as we slog through the trench warfare of the artist’s journey, battling Resistance every step of the way.
Remember: Resistance arises second.
What comes first is the idea, the passion, the work we are so excited to create that it scares the shit out of us.
Resistance is the response of the frightened, petty, small-time ego to the brave, generous, magnificent impulse of the creative self. Resistance is the shadow cast by the innovative self’s sun.
What does this mean to us, as we duel our demons? It means that, before the dragon of Resistance reared its ugly head and breathed fire into our faces, there existed within us a force so potent and so life-affirming that it made Resistance freak out and load up the sulfur and brimstone. Resistance isn’t the towering, all-powerful monster before whom we quake in terror. Resistance is more like the pain-in-the-ass schoolteacher who won’t let us climb the tree in the playground.
But the urge to climb came first.
That urge is love. Love for the material, love for the work, love for our brothers and sisters to whom we will offer our best. In Greek, it’s eros. Life force. Dynamis, creative drive.
That mischievous tree-climbing scamp is our friend. She’s us, she’s our higher nature, our Self.
And she’s senior to Resistance. She outranks Resistance. She’s got more juice than Resistance.
When fear and self-sabotage threaten to get the best of me (which is plenty of times, believe me), I sometimes flash on Charles Lindbergh in his younger days, when he was struggling to find the backing for his solo transatlantic flight.
What massive Resistance must Lindy have faced, trying to get the Spirit of St. Louis off the ground. “You’re too young, you’re too inexperienced. You’re broke, you’ve got no credibility, you’ve got too many competitors. You’ll crash, you’ll drown. What you’re trying to do has never been done and never will be!”
Lindbergh wasn’t Lucky Lindy or the Lone Eagle then; he was just a gangly young mail pilot from Little Falls, Minnesota. He had to listen to those voices, not only in his own head, but he had to read them every morning in the newspaper and endure them shouted at him with conviction in meeting after meeting.
How in the world did he persevere in the teeth of that Resistance?
Lindbergh must have heard the scamp in his head too. She was the opposite of Resistance, and she carried more rank. “Holy cow,” that cheeky little daredevil told Lindy, “What if we could pull this stunt off? What if you could fly the Atlantic alone? Would that be the coolest thing in the world, or what?”
The opposite of fear is love–love of the challenge, love of the work, the pure joyous passion to take a shot at our dream and see if we can pull it off.
Thanks for the reminder: Love bears all things; love believes all things; love never falls. It is easy to think that Resistance came first, but when we remember that there is an unending well of love to shore us up, fuel us, we can do anything, because love is God…
Thank you so much for the weekly kick in the ass. How does somebody go about getting you booked for an interview?
Hi Steven, Another great blurb from you on resistance. Thanks! Loved reading the War of Art. Have thought about it’s wisdom many times since.
Excellent…thank you! Monday I passed by 25,000 days on the planet (68+) and am continuing to lead a non-profit…and…have begun two new LLCs this year. Some friends are trying to encourage me to sit in a rocking chair…but…there is way too much to yet do with my life. Thus, your post was a breath of fresh air and encouragement to a man who feels as alive as ever…and like he’s just beginning (though much has been experienced and accomplished already). I’m sending your post to my friends who have encouraged me to join them in their rocking chairs. I’ll visit them…on the way to my next adventure, which will be today! Again…thanks…and know an olde fan eagerly awaits your Wednesday ponderings.
Wes, usually my Wednesday morning “shot” comes from Steven, but your response was like a surprise double-shot. You’ve got 25 years on me, but honestly, I hope I merit to grow “olde” like you. Burning daylight, gotta run!
You always manage to say the right thing at the right time. Just when I need to hear it.
Thanks Steven, that’s exactly what I needed to get started this morning. I am in NYC again, writing a book and I am battling the biggest resistance in my life ever, because writing my own book, all by myself is what I love most. Thanks.
Of course if you are doing something you are passionate about there is far less resistance. Great post. Very thought invoking.
It’s the same inner critic that makes us stop climbing trees isn’t it. Thanks, I needed this boost.
Of course, some of us never stop; Joan Baez has fallen out of her tree. Good for her, I mean, I hope she’s okay but good for her.
“The opposite of fear is love.” This is a profound point in an important post, and much appreciated.
One of the great spiritual teachers of the ancient world wrote this: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
The Greek word used here for love is agape, which is “divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love.” Agape is the highest, deepest, and best of The Four Loves, which also include eros (romantic or sexual love), phileo (friendship), and storge (affection).
As Mr. Pressfield so effectively teaches here and in The War of Art, when we fight the Resistance and pursue our creative calling with all that we are and all that we have, letting God’s Spirit work in us and through us, we receive help in the battle in the form of love, power, and self-discipline—formidable allies!
Thank you for the reminder. When resistance wins, when we shrink our dreams, when we don’t persevere and take on the big challenge, the world loses.
All there is to do is notice what’s going on, and then choose.
Brilliant hard-core wisdom….. thank you!
You’re so right! If you don’t LOVE what you are doing and have faith in it, resistance will win. You have to believe!
What a great blog this was. Really enjoyed it today…. as I start to write an entire third year college program.
This is the best, truest, and most helpful thing I’ve read in ages. Thank you.
I recently finished reading The War of Art and really got a lot out of it – thank you for writing it. It helped me turn a corner in a burnout cycle I was mired in for some time. I remember reading about this idea in the book, that Resistance came second and any move away from the Muse could be done with ease (because there would be no Resistance). Yet Goethe’s quote which is also in the book “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”, suggests that if we work to pursue our dreams and channel our purpose, they will unfold powerfully. Which brings me to the question I’d like to ask. I have no shortage of ideas, in fact I feel like I have always been blessed with a constant and powerful flow of energy, ideas and inspiration from or though the Muse. My biggest problem, the greatest form of Resistance I have experienced is from this. I am tempted constantly to start new projects, good, meaningful, worthwhile ones. And when I do this too frequently I complete nothing, or at least I move much too slowly in my work. And when I have too many projects going at the same time I feel overwhelmed and get paralyzed. I didn’t see this form of Resistance mentioned in your book and I wondered how common it is and if you have any advice about how to deal with this kind of Resistance? I don’t want to discard these bursts of creativity, or to seem ungrateful for the creativity and ideas that come so easily to me, and yet I have to make choices and be focused in order to complete anything. Thanks for any thoughts you may have on this. -Portia
Portia, I have one primary criterion that I use myself. 1) Which project am I most scared of? That’s the one to do. The more important a project is to our evolution, the more Resistance we will feel. Do the one that elicits the most Resistance.
I have secondary criterion too. 2) Which project seems the craziest, meaning the one that’s most unlike how I think of myself. The “call” for that project is coming from a part of myself that’s new, that I’m still unconscious of. That’s another very good place to go.
Hope this helps.
It’s so funny that you wrote about Lindbergh this week. I’m one of the people who responded to your “When It Works” call for responses. (Thanks for the book, by the way.) I wrote about my friend Chase, who starred in a production of my play, “The Blouse Method,” and his friends who made a bootleg copy of the show.
Anyway, here’s what’s so funny-weird-ironic: I got the idea for “The Blouse Method” while visiting the Lindbergh museum in Little Falls! My Dad really wanted to drive up to the museum, so I tagged along. They were under renovation at the time, so they had moved a bunch of memorabilia into the basement of the Lindbergh house, and had made a makeshift “theater” with some mismatched chairs facing a small television set. It looked so pitiful, I just laughed, and then there it was–the idea. In that moment I saw the whole play.
I only had four weeks to write the play, and I was holding down a full-time straight job at the time. Needless to say, the resistance was super high. I think if I had six months to write it, I may never have followed through with the idea. Tight deadlines force you to push past resistance.
Since you mentioned Lindbergh I just had to share that little bit with you.
A big thank you for all you do from Nyack, New York!
Two weeks ago, I solidified the concept for my book. It’s a memoir and I’ve been struggling with how to structure the whole thing for longer than I care to admit (over two years!). The Muse finally delivered and in a flash I knew how to write it. Great, right? Well, not so fast…
I pounded out the intro and the first two chapters in pretty short order. And then my computer blew her motherboard and my files – EVERY SINGLE MOTHER’S SON OF THEM – became trapped inside of her, threatening to go with her to the grave.
THE worst bout of Resistance I’ve ever encountered ensued (I’m not exaggerating). Suddenly, my entire life sucked and I began to stomp around, crying and flailing. How could I even consider continuing the 5+ year pursuit of this pipe dream when so many other things in my life were broken? Surely my computer dying was a sign from God to wake up, smell the coffee and go and get a real job.
The most amazing thing was that I knew it was Resistance but I felt powerless to do anything about it. It was using logic and reason to wage its war against me and I was buying it hook, line and sinker.
Eventually (yesterday) the lost files from my computer were retrieved and I had to make a choice… Do I continue to write or do I throw in the towel? Can I handle the prospect of failure or, perhaps worse yet, the prospect of success?
In the end it was love that won out, just like you said. I LOVE writing. It keeps my train on the tracks and it feels like a gift from God. That’ll have to be enough. It is enough. Even if I never get paid for a word I write. Even if I have to go and get that job and write at night on no sleep while my house sits dirty. Even if Resistance uses everything it’s got against me, over and over again, I’ll fight back or wait it out until I get the courage to begin again. That’s what I choose.
If it weren’t for you and that brilliant book of yours, I’d have quit a long time ago. Thank you.
Lovely kick-in-the-pants I needed! Thank you.
Perfect timing! Thanks so much. I really needed this today. I just need to remember to remember it, in future!
I’m close to Wes’s age group, definitely get the “pull” of the rocking chair multitude but have enough Pay It Forward plans to keep myself busy ’til I’m at least 150 years of age and will certainly have added more to my list by then. With inspiring reminders such as yours to fuel me and keep me in awareness, I know I’ll stay on my journey — many thanks!
Thanks, Steven. I shared this post on my own blog. I also appreciate your advice to Portia.
I just finished reading The War of Art, life-enhancing, and decided to check out Steven’s website. Wow…just read the post for Wed and now I feel like I’ve found a new Tribe!
There’s definitely a theme but I’m glad I read each response for everyone contributed their unique essence to a hugely important subject.
Thank you, Steven and each contributor!!!
Love your work! Keep it up 🙂
Thank you ! Your words really help.
“Resistance is the shadow cast by the innovative self’s sun.”
This reminds me of a quote from Helen Keller:
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow. ” It’s so often easier said than done!
Awesome, as usual. What a great view on the world, work, art and resistance. Thanks for overcoming yours, and helping me with mine…
Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. The criteria you suggest – ranking projects by the intensity of the fear associated with them and/or giving weight to the crazy factor (risk of doing something uncharacteristic or risky), is a practical way to handle the feeling of being overwhelmed by being pulled in so many directions by good ideas and new projects — the cumulative effect of which can result in a very large mass of paralyzing fear. Very helpful, thanks so much! -Portia
Reading The War of Art now. I love the straight forward wisdom that you share!
So, advise for the resisdemon who says I barely have time to get dressed, be at work on time and am dumb, numb and burnt out afterwards.
The only creativity I can muster is hiding in a 22 once can of Sapporro and the best he can do is invite his family for another.
Maybe a more brainless job that permits writing.
I’ve cleaned schoolrooms and drove a cab and neither really left time or energy.
No wonder so many historic authors were well of to begin with.
Am I being resistant?
I fear I love this post.
Exactly what I needed; thank you Steven, thank you!
Air Compressor Reviews 2011…
[…]Writing Wednesdays: The Opposite of Resistance[…]…
Great! I found this by accident believe it or not and I finished ‘the war of art’ this morning. I was searching for inspiration on periscoad and this popped up. Perfect for my day of writing. Thanks
Awesome post! Just awesome! Staying focused on what came first. To use your expression- that’s soul discipline. I love the truth you’re so artfully revealing!
Thank you for the War of Art mini course and the link to this post (love got there first) and the link to Roseanne Cash’s dream (Yowza! I love those rare dreams, those gifts from elsewhere, that unscrew my head and put it back on, sort of like a brain transplant without the mess).
Before you can meet Resistance you have to become acquainted with Motivation. Psychiatrists tear their hair out when despite all their expertise they fail completely to motivate some people. They are Resistant to Motivation. They do not possess the Thought, the arrow which motivates the deed. The song was spot on you gotta have a dream if you don’t have a dream how you gonna have a dream come true?. Then there’s laziness and sometimes it’s not Resistance. It wasn’t Resistance that stopped me travelling it was duty. I had to bring up two children. However, spot on in other areas. I write non-fiction. No problem. No Resistance. Easy as falling off a log but what I want to do is paint. Nothing is stopping me except of course Resistance. I am not a dabbler. I am bordering OCD. I know that when I finally grab the bull named Resistance by the horns, that is ALL I will do. I am confident that one day self-disgust will overcome Resistance.