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Resistance | The Invisible Barrier to Healing (That Begs to Be Seen)

Borderline Personality Disorder

“I‘m sorry, Bill, but I need to cancel Thursday’s appointment. I know it’s the second cancellation this month, but my track record’s good. What can I say? Things keep coming up. I’ll be in touch.”

When a client plays the resistance card – consciously or unconsciously motivated – s/he and I have likely come dangerously close to material held very near and dear. So off go the alarms and “You’re not welcome here!” booms through the P.A. system.

Happens all the time. At least our friend left a voice mail. Often, clients won’t bother to call, or will flat-out forget the appointment.  Or could be the client who typically engages in session sits there as we begin and says, “I really don’t have much to talk about today.”

It’s called resistance. And though it’s an invisible barrier to healing, I believe it begs to be seen.

Let’s Review Acceptance

Last week I posted Acceptance | The Missing Piece to the Healing Puzzle. The article was based upon the workbook Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, by Steven C. Hayes, PhD with Spencer Smith. Great read, and I often use it with clients.

In that piece I submitted it’s natural to fight for the fix when we encounter a problem. But though that’s the way to go with external issues, it’s a sure fail when it comes to internal pain. In reality, trying to force the fix only makes matters a whole lot worse.

The alternative is acceptance. For much more, check-out the article.

So we have acceptance covered. Seems only fair to hit the other side of the fence – resistance.

Resistance | The Invisible Barrier to Healing

It’s so important that you understand what resistance is, and how it looks. Fact is, it may be going-on in your mind at this very moment. If it is, it may be keeping you from seeking help for your emotional/mental circumstances. And if you have an active relationship with a therapist or psychiatrist, it may be inhibiting your progress.

Yes, those invisible barriers to healing.

Sigmund Freud began using the term “resistance,”  referring to patients who blocked memories from conscious memory. And that posed a major problem because his “talk therapy” required patients to have memories consciously available.

Over time, “resistance” morphed into meaning a patient’s/client’s direct or indirect opposition to the therapeutic biz at hand.

So what does resistance look like? It comes in all shapes and sizes, actually. How ’bout some examples?

  • A client who’s been engaged in the work at hand suddenly begins to cancel or forget appointments.
  • The typically verbal client has nothing to say or presents as though totally bored or out of it.
  • The client has no problem talking, but is all over the place in an effort to distract and divert.
  • A homework assignment has been ignored, or is carelessly done or incomplete.
  • The client presents with an unusual edge toward the therapeutic process – even the therapist.
  • Out of nowhere, the client suggests it’s time to wrap-up the session – or the entire treatment process.

Signs of resistance, all. And a good therapist will catch ’em, and roll up her/his sleeves. By the way, any of them hit home?

News flash! It’s my opinion a client may well be at the very gates of a therapeutic breakthrough when resistance presents (and is detected and addressed by the therapist). No way do I perceive resistance as a negative and get my ‘lil ‘ole feelings hurt. It’s opportunity time. The rubber has met the road and there’s work to be done.

When a client plays the resistance card – consciously or unconsciously motivated – s/he and I have likely come dangerously close to material held very near and dear. So off go the alarms and “You’re not welcome here!” booms through the P.A. system.

And you know what that means? The therapy is working.

Does this make sense to you?

And That’ll Be That

In Chapter 1 of Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life, Dr. Hayes asks the reader if s/he will be willing to move forward if it’s perceived what’s about to be read may transform their lives for the better. If the answer is no, Hayes proposes…

If it is not (remember: be honest), it would be worthwhile to know how deep your resistance to change may be, and it would be worth considering whether such resistance is in your best interest.

But how in the heck can you make that decision if you don’t know what resistance is? Hopefully I’ve filled-in some blanks.

It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to manage – major depressive disorder, panic attack symptoms, anorexia, borderline personality disorder, chronic stress, compulsive behavior issues, and more. Resistance is a phenomenon you need to understand and internally research.

I believe it’s an invisible barrier to healing. And I believe it begs to be seen.

Take a long, hard look, k? And, hey, if you come up with what you know are resistances, would you share in a comment?

Need some help connecting-the-dots and securing direction. Please read about my consultation services.

Speaking of reading. How ’bout 600+ Chipur titles?!

  • Beth Wilson

    Ah Bill, another arrow to the heart with this post! In fact, I am absolutely sure there is something I’m resisting right now because I’m having some abnormal and persistent health issues. I keep saying, “Yeah, I’m going to slow down, going to meditate, going to breath deeper, yada, yada.” Well, the tipping point is approaching. For someone who writes about presence and mindfulness, I feel a bit ashamed admitting this to you, but hey, they say plumbers have the worst pipes, right? A work in progress, yes that’s me.

    So great to connect with you again. And I am serious when I say thank you for this really good post about resistance.

    • Ah, got a million of those arrows in my quiver…

      No need to feel ashamed, though I appreciate your being forthright. Heck, the reason we can write so well about our chosen areas of healing expertise is because we’ve suffered for such a long period of time – and it’s gonna’ pop-up every now and again. Right? It takes great insight and inner strength to spot our resistances and “confess.” And it applies to the emotional/mental and physical.

      Yes, it’s good for us to connect once again. Let’s continue to frequent each other’s blogs. Thank you, Beth…

      Bill