Resistance Thrives in Darkness
[The following is a post from a couple of years ago that just stuck in my head, Let’s bring it back today as a “blast from the past” … ]
Resistance kicked my butt for almost a decade in my twenties. I’ve written about this in The War of Art. I crossed the country thirteen times in that era, driving my ’65 Chevy van, for no reason whatsoever except that I was running away from myself and my obligation to do my own work and follow my own calling.
But here’s the key point:
The reason Resistance won was that I had no idea it existed.
Resistance thrives in darkness.
Resistance loves secrecy.
Resistance’s most diabolical trick is that it masquerades so convincingly as our own voice.
When we hear ourselves thinking,
“You’re a bum, you’re a loser, you’ve got no talent … “
“Who do you think you are, dreaming of making a movie, starting a business, writing a book? You? Don’t make me laugh!”
We think that voice is us. We believe that these thoughts are ours, that they are an objective self-assessment offered up by our own selves. They’re not.
If you don’t believe me, let me show you the thousands of e-mails and letters I’ve gotten in which totally disparate, unknown-to-one-another individuals report the chatter they hear in their heads.
The voice is identical in every case.
Everyone hears the exact same thing.
The genius of Resistance (and why it’s so powerful) is it convinces each of us that that’s our voice.
If it’s our voice, we’ve gotta believe it, right?
If I could implant one solitary thought in the brains of every struggling soul on the planet, it would be this:
That negative, self-sabotaging voice you hear in your head is not you.
Those thoughts are not yours.
They are Resistance.
Everyone hears that same voice.
Resistance thrives in darkness.
Bring Resistance into the light and you defeat it.
The bum showed up at my door this week. I said, “Sorry, no time. Too many kids here. Move on.” (I’m editing my kid’s book.) Thanks Steve, in the past he would have gotten a foot in the door.
I love that you recognized him dressed up as a bum! Every day is Halloween for this “Ming”.
We must be Brutal.
Yes sir – Action not thoughts or feelings helps us feel like ourselves again the masculine urge!
Just as I’m stepping over the threshold to another level of risk in my art and offering – that old contraction comes! I know it’s resistance of course but nevertheless it’s lure is mesmerizing. It knows something big is at stake for me and for so many others I serve. Time to take a stand and recommit to what’s true and do the work!
Thank you for the reminder and inspiration Steven.
Ming The Merciless… priceless. I am keeping his name and his face in my mind. Yes! It’s all true! I don’t even have to watch the old movie because he has run roughshod through my creative life long enough. Be gone with you, MTM!
I named my Resistance Bob after my first ex-husband. Then, on the advice of Liz Gilbert (I think it was her??) I wrote Bob a letter. I keep it on my wall and when I feel the black mold creeping in, I stand and read it out loud. It always makes me laugh, which breaks the dark spell.
This is such a great idea!!!
Love this idea! Love Elizabeth Gilbert!!!
Love that Susan. Bob.
Thank you for helping us turn on the Light, teaching how to continue to work regardless of the presence of those dark ninnies.
They kind of tend to dissolve in that steady, determined presence and cease to torture.
Reminds me of the Wizard of Oz when the curtain gets pulled. And….it’s never a one off solution, since the darkness seems to have so many forms requiring ongoing – and truly Spartan focus – (reading Gates of Fire now to help break the trend of only reading War of Art…wow I love this book!) YET, the Light does empower. Thank you @SP.
Ok, I took a screenshot of MTM to keep on my phone. Now I can confront him verbally when necessary!
Awesome idea! Ditto!
I like how Steve says the “genius of Resistance”. It is genius. We must work harder and smarter than it. Being aware it is is there to sabotage and steal dreams is the first step!! LOL at Ming the Merciless. Mine take the shape in my mind of “Mean Girls”. Regina George’s in the brain. Those same mean girls from grade school that gave me fake invitations to parties or spread rumors when I was just quiet. I should be long past that, but Resistance loves to remind me of those embarrassing moments at 1 am in the morning: “they were right, you are TOO much TOO sensitive”…
Fighting back with the power of the pen!!
Today’s post reminds me of this lyric. When we feel broken down by Resistance:
“There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” -Leonard Cohen
Love the Leonard C0hen lyric–more light please.
Thanks for the poetic reminder.
Kate, yes, those stupid mean girls. How dare they still show up again and again? Who invited them, in the middle of the night?
Kate, I love this. Why would the brain hold on to these people and memories that only want to do us harm? Not productive, not conducive to self-esteem or moving forward. Whether mean girls, ex-husbands or ex-wives, bosses, parents, etc. what is it about the middle of the night?? When we are at our most vulnerable? Thank you for sharing just how upsetting it is to carry this alone when precious sleep would serve us better.
The ‘War of Art’ found me at a time when I was shifting the way I bring my work into the world. Resistance had shown up as depression before the big threshold crossing. I am again at a time of another threshold crossing and there is the rascal again. As always, perfect timing, thank you Steve. I know this rascal and all it’s sneaky ways, yet find it still trips me up. Time to re-visit War of Art and Turning Pro! These little gems are like a sweet and not so sweet (ass kicker) dear friend who understands the creative process.
Masterful assessment. Well put.
To quote the greatest writer of all time: Get thee behind me, Satan!
It is so hard to separate ourselves from our thoughts. “We are not our thoughts” as my first yoga teacher said to me–and it knocked me on my ass. We are however the ACTIONS we take. Action, not thoughts, as a respondent said above. Early in life my mantra was “I’m not creative enough…” to be a writer, filmmaker, critic–whatever. It worked until I picked up a pen, got into advertising in NYC, started my own brand consultancy. Yet every day, I have to force myself to put, as Steven says, “Put my ass where my heart wants to be.” Yep, hard. Yep, far more productive. And yep, you feel and think creatively when you do. Steve’s posts make my day and push me to start and start over. Thanks.
Good work putting Resistance on its ass, Gerry! Clearly you are creative both in problem solving and in new ideas! I like what Maya Angelou said about creativity:
“You Can’t Use Up Creativity, the More You Use the More You Have” …writers work out that muscle!
Love this quote, Kate. Thank you. The candle lighting ceremony–keep writing please–keep lighting the world with your words passes the flame.
Exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you, Steve!
Steven… You are my hero. I have lived in 12 states (which I did enjoy) looking for “my spot in this world” not knowing “my spot is within” until I read “War of Art”. I have read the book and read it again and finished “Do the Work”. I am also painting again! There are times I was 6 months past contract dates. I have even given deposits back because of resistance. I see the blessings of my journey, as difficult as it was. I cannot imagine the many blessings and “ah ha moments” you had on your journey as painful as it may have been. I do thank you for being the hero of resistance in your life and sharing it with all who have crossed paths with you and or your work!
Not today, Resistance!
May your message ring loud & clear, far & wide, Steven. Thank you for the reminder.
Back again for my weekly dose of smash-mouth Truth.
I’ll add alone to darkness. Not solitary, that is different. I mean isolated. When Resistance truly has its talons in me, I shrink away from life, from those who love me, I hide in shame and despair.
In the past few years I’ve been stumbling towards faith. When I first read “War of Art” I was a cynical agnostic. A more accurate picture might be a traumatized kid shaking his fist at God.
“War of Art” gave me new language to confront Darkness. Now, I’m pretty sure Resistance was in the Garden, or as another genius artist sang, ” …when Jesus Christ had is moment of doubt and pain, Killed the Tzar and his ministers, rode a tank, held a general’s rank when the blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank..”
Alone and in the dark is where Resistance reigns.
The ties that bind us, as a species, are forged when we confront adversity shoulder to shoulder, linking arms, holding hands.
This is why I come back with nearly religious zeal each Wednesday. I want to link arms, hold hands, and confront the enemy.
Yes, Brian. Resistance gets us when we are all alone. Solidarity defeats Resistance which is why I keep coming back every Wednesday. Together we are strong in spirit.
I’m nodding my head as I type this. There is a magic in numbers, then we need to do the work ourselves. The community is like water/air/nourishment to strengthen us to confront the enemy in our own dens/offices/studios/startups.
Your lovely posts are truth bombs as well. I liked your analogy last week. I hope you don’t mind me sharing, but I also used to shake my fists at God. When that got me nowhere, I completely denied his existence. I felt like he was ignoring my cries for help, so I will ignore him back. It wasn’t until I had nothing to lose that I had an a-ha moment. How about a personal relationship with God? I viewed the creator through a warped lens based on my earthly experiences and what I expected from people. It was all my little brain knew. God didn’t do those things to me. He didn’t allow them to happen. He carried me through it though when I surrendered! Like Steve’s post last week–letting go and letting love and the universe take control. Why is this concept so effing hard to do!?!? It’s a good thing creators have their outlets to ask these questions that could otherwise drive us crazy! Keep working…it’s inspiring!
I blushed! Thank you for the kind words.
If Steven had written ‘War of Art’ with Biblical language, I would have tossed it in the trash. Too hurt to hear that ‘pablum’ at the time.
His allegory was enough of a bridge to open my mind to powers greater than myself.
AMEN Brian, thanks
Just what I needed to hear today. As I approach a new project, a new threshold, I can hear resistance trying to drain my energy and block the light.
this is synchronicity, just yesterday I heard Lucia Helena Galvão commenting on this book, I really need this!
Thank you. I needed a reminder.
A daily battle to the death.
Cherished INDEED is your statement “Bring Resistance into the light and you defeat it”!!!
Here is another angle on resistance. That voice may also be trying to protect me, like “oh honey, with your past of drugs and alcohol you don’t want to go down that path of being on artist. Look what happened to Van Gogh, he ended up at age 37 climbing an apple tree and shooting himself in the balls.”
Yesterday I was a bloody mess with my art. I prayed and meditated mostly focusing on that I was a precious son of God who loves and adores me, that gave me artistic talent and wants to bless me beyond my wildest dreams. I then sat down and did a ink drawing till midnight. I woke up this morning, looked at it and said, “did I do that?” I loved it.
The Brain and nervous system are ancient and powerfully set to a philosophy. This is a philosophy that we need to know in order to control it. It’s based on energy and survival. Energy expenditure being key here. If we don’t have to do it -as in survival itself is on the line, then we won’t do it. Nothing in the known Universe expends more energy than it has too. That’s why New Year’s resolutions have such a poor track record.
Treat the brain like an orchestra with you as the conductor. Action forward.
In the “who do you think you are” department: I bet a lot of us have heard that voice from not only ourselves, but others. In my case, it made Resistance more powerful — it had found a mouthpiece in some of the people I’d looked up to (and thought I loved) the most.
I’m beginning to think that most of what comes out of most people’s mouths is nothing more than projection. I’m certainly guilty of it myself at times–but we project our own fears/insecurities/shames onto others.
It’s a lifelong quest to remember that!
Thanks for shining a spotlight on our arch-enemy.
I shared your words with my three college-age kids hoping they choose to include your thoughts in their arsenal to use against negativity for any venture or project or writing or choice they make. Mainly to let them know that they are not alone; that it’s not personal; it’s just what the evil genius, as you rightly called resistance, does—try’s to mess us up by resisting all that is light.
Thanks for the reminder. I was about to enter the Dark Side –
Brilliant as always.
Thank you dear Steve, the notion of Resistance lurking in the dark and being afraid of the light is very beautiful too. It gives hope and it reminds us the war between logic and the dark side of the instinct too.
I would add to the comment a small, general observation: there are days when Resistance is quite treatable, but there are other days when it is almost or completely unbearable. Maybe this connection of Resistance to the rhythm of a living organism, some days stronger and some days weaker, could be useful for someone to know and expect.
April is National Poetry Month, so there is a free online event coming up with…Rosanne Cash. I couldn’t wait to share it in the forums as I know you, Joe, Steve, and others enjoy her words. Have a wonderful week all!
Thank you So much for including me, Kate! I will do my best to be able to participate or at least support in any way. Make sure that you mention it to our other friends too, they must know -and I don’t know if they will all see it from our dialogue here.
Carpe diem <3
Well said, Steve!
I feel too that besides resistance, other more sinister forces, including individuls who are bullies and abuse others, thrive on secrecy and keeping it in the darkness. My first book is about shining a light.
We’re also not our feelings. When it’s bad thoughts/feelings you’re having, and you don’t want them, they’re not you, they’re resistance. Sometimes this realisation helps you to push through with whatever it is you’re doing, goal or direction you’ve set yourself.
Keep going! Keep doing what you’re doing!
This article is really very interesting and efecktive
Its good for me : Nuke
Im from argentina, so my english is not top notch, but every day i wake up take my black coffe and say to ressitance go fuck yourself, i know it will come back harder but man im ready for war..
Thanks for sharing this amazing article.
Thank you, Steven.
Thank you for reminder, Steven!
Much love and have a wonderful creative day!
Thank you. Just…thank you
In 2018, I was sinking further into depression, overweight, out of shape, my wife of 55 years slowly being affected by Alzheimer’s. I knew that somehow, I needed to pull myself together, so I enrolled in the Heroic.us program, started working out, eating right, sleeping right and in December 2019, I had lost 50 pounds and completed a Spartan race at Castaic Lake, near Los Angeles at 81 years of age. I had been dabbling at writing a novel for a few years but had never turned pro but thanks to the motivation found in the words of Steve and members of the forum, I got to work on it and it will be published May 16. Remember, your age or circumstances can never keep you from achieving your goals. All the best, Carl J Blackburn
In less than 100 words you just shared an awesome Hero’s Journey, and totally lifted my spirits. Thank you and well done!
Thank you Brian, your comments have inspired me to keep on keeping on!
I’m stunned… why not me too?
Carl, thank you.
Steven, omg, thank you.
I remember when I first read “The War of Art”. It was a door possible. What was I doing? I read it and read it again and ya know what? I think I’ll pull it out and go through it yet another time. I need it.
Shut the F up Resistance!
Carl, U R the Man!
Thank you Steven for your inspiration and know-how…you are a positive force in my life.
Carl, you rock!
For me ‘in the dark’ is synonymous with unconscious, inebriated, in denial, distracted, phone obsessed, name the pleasure-seeking/reality-avoiding behavior–and lastly which I never would have believed was such a crutch & mask to my interior–under the influence of nicotine.
The unguarded interior is much more interesting. Scary as shit, but also brighter in places than I could have ever believed. Often feel like a newly born faun on spindly legs, but they are at least underneath me, learning to walk without crutches.
Monsters are less scary when you can see where they were born, the den where they go to sleep. Their vulnerabilities become obvious, and the prey becomes the hunter.
Beautifully written, Brian. Thank you and likewise. If being “in the dark” feels so terrible for all of us, what is it about being a writer that seems to lure and latch onto, this (as I call it) “mode of NON?” UGH. Not today, though! I’m awake and aware.
In the book of Genesis when Adam committed ”High Treason” the world changed. At that moment Satan became the God of this world. His only job is to “kill, destroy and steel, John 10:10”
We are in a spiritual battle. Amen
Would you agree that sometimes Resistance speaks through our friends and (possibly) family? We don’t so much hear ourselves thinking “Who do you think you are, dreaming of making a movie, starting a business, writing a book? You? Don’t make me laugh!”…We hear it coming out of the mouths of people who have known us for decades, after confiding in them about a dream — Resistance as viral infection.
Patrick, I agree. It does come out the mouths of those we love. I can’t tell you how many times family and friends have commented on my being “retired” becuase I don’t have a day job at this time. I am not retired. I write full time. I remind them of this or ingnore their ingnorance. We have the choice though ultimately to let their comments get to us.
Resistance is basically part of the laws of physics. It’s indifferent, universal. It just is. It is the resilience of any entity, whole or system, the force that holds it together, that maintains its systemic integrity. The entity can be a behavioral pattern, your family or group of friends, you doing your day job. Anything, any object or system, both abstract or material, will resist forces that threaten to tear it apart.
And it has many manifestations: it’s in Newtons laws of motion, it’s in inertia of mass, it’s in quantumphysics, etc.
I am up early, determined not to give in to the “Voice of Avoidance” and this little gem popped up– exactly what I needed to read and acknowledge today. Thank you, Steven! Also, I was so reassured by all the comments and now I feel less alone with Resistance. That changed my entire outlook for today so thanks, everyone!
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