Terra Frma advisor and trauma therapist, Lisa Young, breaks down psychological resistance – how it works and what you can do to rise above it.
Why do you resist what’s good for you?
Maybe you want to exercise more but can always find reasons not to. Maybe you know you need to spend less time checking email and more time with your family but continue to find yourself distracted.
Preparing for natural disasters makes sense. It’s important and makes a huge difference when the unexpected occurs. Yet, could you truly say you’re prepared for a natural disaster?
When we know we should do something but haven’t, what holds us back?
Why You Resist Even When You Know Better
Each of us works from an intelligent, natural design for health, survival and healing. This is important to remember because this design and the functions of the design are always at play.
People often ask me, “Why do I do this when I know better?” This invisible wall we run into, or quicksand that keeps us from doing what we know we should do, is called resistance.
Resistance is actually part of our psychological anatomy. It serves an important purpose, in part, as our internal alarm system. Survival is our internal system’s primary agenda. Resistance is part of our psychological anatomy to help us survive.
We often stop short when we begin to feel it. We think, “Oooh, I don’t want to do that” and then turn around, go in a new direction without further exploration. Sometimes the logical side of us begins to nag and we hear ourselves saying, I know I need to get this done, but I just can’t talk myself into it.
Imagine that snakes are a known issue around your home. You walk around the house and see something that looks like a snake on the ground. You jump back, ready to run and then realize it’s a hose. It’s the same hose that’s been there all summer. Rational? No. But that’s our survival instinct taking over.
The same goes for preparing for the unexpected. You know you should organize your documents. They’re sitting right there. But you avoid them because the task feels uncomfortable, even scary, so your internal alarm system protects you from the uncomfortable, from the snake in the grass.
If you know you want to be more prepared for an emergency but can’t seem to make yourself do anything about it, you may be facing resistance. But you don’t have to get stuck there.
Here’s what you can do.
4 Steps to Rise Above Resistance and Be Ready for the Next Natural Disaster
Committing to preparing your home and family for a natural disaster means being willing to think about the worst-case scenario. It is natural to want to avoid feelings of powerlessness, fear and loss, even if it’s a hypothetical situation.
Remember, building resilience with Terra Frma is not about thinking about future tragedy and trauma. This is about preparing for emergencies so you can maneuver through them and practice self-awareness in case an event happens. This is about acknowledging fear, but not letting it dictate your actions.
Next time you feel the itch to avoid, procrastinate or deny, grab a pen and paper, friend, voice memo or clean mental slate and write down the tasks you know you should be doing, but haven’t. Discuss or list why these things are easy to avoid and get ready to rise above your resistance.
Hit The Pause Button- Acknowledge the Resistance
Next time you feel the tell tale signs of resistance, instead of immediately redirecting your attention elsewhere, take a moment to stop and breath.
Here are some clues you may be resisting: When you notice yourself clamming up, thinking things like, “I’ll do that later,” or “I can’t do that,” or some shade of denial like, “That’s too extreme” or “That won’t happen to me.”
If you catch yourself in one of these thought spirals, pause. Remember the protective intent of this uncomfortable feeling so you can work with it, not against it.
Get Curious- Ask ‘Why?’
That resistant thought or feeling you were having? Listen to it. Replay it in your mind and ask Why do I think this? It’s important to hear both sides of this conversation. You can have your own inner dialogue, or write out the questions from the perspective of this protective internal guard called resistance.
You can turn to a trusted friend who can ask “Why?” without triggering defensiveness. Defensiveness will squash the curiosity.
Ask yourself and answer: What would happen if I do the very thing I’m resisting?
What is my resistance afraid will happen if I face this task? What does my resistance want me to consider first? What does my fear need to know in order to relax and let me move forward with this task?
Reflect - Reread your answers
If you wrote down your dialogue from step two, read it aloud or silently back to yourself. It’s often much easier to be impartial when the message is coming from a notebook, a voice memo or a friend rather than your own mind.
Whichever media you prefer to journal your thoughts, repeat it back to yourself 3-5 times. You may have more to add. You may immediately see some inconsistencies in the conclusions you drew in step two. Just listen.
Snake or Hose - Ask ‘Is this true?’
We can all come up with very compelling excuses to avoid doing what we’re supposed to do. When we dig deeper (steps two and three) we start uncovering fears and false beliefs we have about what might happen if we do take action. This step is where we challenge those thoughts, beliefs or fears.
Ask yourself, is it true? If you take the action you are resisting, will the outcome you fear really happen? Is the excuse you are giving yourself valid? What fear is behind the excuse? Is this fear based in reality or is this just your brain making a hose into a snake?
Expect resistance during this process. If you find yourself focusing on the potential of future tragedy and trauma,remind yourself that this is about preparing for disaster scenarios so that you can maneuver through them to the best of your ability.
Acknowledge the fear. It’s okay to admit that you’re afraid. It helps, actually. Acknowledging fear prevents fear from dictating your actions.
Remember to seek relief. Instead of treating a preparedness task like something to be afraid of, remember that following through can be the exact thing that may bring you relief.
Listen to Your Resistance
If you really want to stop getting in your own way, you must start by listening to the resistance. Resistance has a lot to teach you.
As you start the Terra Frma Method of planning and preparing for natural disasters, be present and notice anything that tries to stop your momentum. Remember, your resistance is born out of a protective intent to avoid feelings of powerlessness, terror, shame or vulnerability.
If know you should be ready, but haven’t taken important emergency preparedness steps, you might be treating a preparedness task like a snake when it’s really a hose.
Here’s an easy opportunity to practice. Equipped with the four steps to moving past resistance, download the Free Emergency Numbers Sheet – an easy first step towards readiness and resilience – and see what comes up for you.
You’ve Got This.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa Young is a trauma and first responder therapist and serves on Terra Frma’s advisory board. She is trained in Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing trauma work with additional training in Richard Schwartz's Internal Family Systems model.