“Resistence is futile” is a phrase I first heard as a child in a Dr Who science fiction TV series. These sinister words were broadcast by the “Daleks”, a hostile alien species as it attempted to conquer the earth.
When we come to our thoughts, feelings and emotions, resistance really is useless. In fact, resistance is the primary cause of suffering in the life of many people.
A phrase attributed to Carl Jung expresses a very Buddhist sentiment:
“What you resist, persists”.
Peace in our hearts, contentment and happiness depend not on rejecting the parts of us that we don’t like, but on our wholeness, that is to say, our ability to explore, understand and accept all of ourselves. Not accepting, instead resisting rapidly becomes a major obstacle to our progress along the path of growth and self-realisation.
A feeling arises (eg. shame, abandonment, rejection). Our immediate emotional reaction to this feeling is fear. We try to push it away creating more fear and now anxiety and even panic. Our perception is now distorted by these feeling and emotions, generating even more fear anxiety and panic. Even though resistance does not work (it is causing more suffering), we do even more of the same and we create for ourselves a loop of suffering. The harder we try, the worse it gets. This loop can even power an addiction as the anaesthetic effects of alcohol, for example) (not feeling, not thinking) seem preferable to this suffering. Whatever drug is chosen this will eventually create far greater suffering than if we simply faced, experienced, and integrated the original feeling that we are trying to escape.
The irony of all this drama and suffering is that it is self -generated. The good news is that if it is self-generated, then it is also in our power to free ourselves of this suffering.
The first step in this process is to stop resisting. This is easier said than done as fear of what we imagine we might find feels terrifying, as if we are throwing ourselves into an emotional black hole which will destroy us. We fear for our lives.
Instead of trying to “problem-solve” the emotion/feeling, we adopt a mindful attitude which helps us to observe this feeling as it arises, with equanimity, curiosity and kindness to ourselves, as we understand that this is an uncomfortable but necessary task; a part of our path, a part of our process. We also create a gap in which, instead of responding to and repeating a situation in the physical world or a feeling from the past or repeating an emotion as a reaction to that feeling, we can choose a different way to respond. Instead of resisting or avoiding it, we allow a space for the feeling to simply be. We start to make friends with it – “have a cup of tea” with it.