Understanding Resistance - Snowboarding Wisdom Part 2

Nicola Harker, Coach and Doctor, shares her new found love of Resistance

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Understanding Resistance

I recently wrote about my snowboarding experiences as a metaphor for dealing with life’s obstacles.  Today I want to share with you another wisdom that comes from learning to snowboard.

New snowboarders feel fear!  This is natural because the first stages of learning to board involve falling frequently and often painfully!  What I learned early in my snowboarding days, was that when I was scared of falling I tended to lean back, so that my weight was over my back foot.  The disastrous consequence of leaning back is that the board accelerates leading to loss of control, and "wiping out" in a heap!  Boarders have to learn to conquer their fear and put their weight equally between their feet, which means concentrating on putting weight into the front foot to balance out the fear.  This feels a little bit like leaning down the mountain when you first start!

Now that I am learning to live my life courageously, this snowboarding experience has come back to me, as a metaphor.  Once again I have felt fear!  Our “leaning back” is our resistance.  It’s the part of us that says “I can’t”, “I’ll never be able to”, “People like me don’t do that”.  My biggest learning so far on my journey has been to recognise my resistance, and to start inviting it in for regular conversations.   

Resistance is important because it comes from a need to self-protect.  However we often resist unconsciously, so we don’t notice when our self-protection becomes outdated.  For example, it might be appropriate to defer decisions to the adults when you are seven years old, but when you are still avoiding making decisions as an adult, this is no longer self-protection, but resistance.  Similarly, if we are in a relationship where we are constantly criticised, we might avoid intimacy for fear of being hurt.  If we move on from that relationship, and find someone who is kind and supportive but we are still avoiding intimacy, we are not exploring the possibilities with our new partner, we are assuming the same outcomes.  In my own situation I was a professional considering leaving the safety of the “establishment” to carve my own path, and my own resistance was magnified by the scepticism of those around me.

When we notice our resistance we have options.  We can choose to ask ourselves “who says?”, “why not?”, or “what assumptions might I be making about this situation?”  What I have discovered is that the decisions are still up to me, but I can explore the options, and sometimes choose to try something different.  Having a chat with resistance yields surprising insights!

There is a caveat in all this.  Sometimes our resistance reveals where deeper work is required.  For example we might have experienced trauma in the past, so just abandoning our resistance may not feel safe.  We may need to work through our reasons for needing to protect ourselves, and also what might need to change in order to feel safe.  My own perspective on this is that regular practice of mindfulness or another similar way of “tuning in” is really helpful, as a way to learn to trust your own inner wisdom.  And I would venture to say “don’t abandon your resistance, just learn to accept that it is there, and get to know it a little better”.

For me, knowing that resistance is there, and meeting it with compassion and curiosity, has been very powerful.  I know that as a result I have been bolder, more playful, and less prone to self-judgement.

My own approach to resistance involves four steps:

  1.  Name it!  “Hello Resistance!  I can see that you are there – why don’t you come and sit down?”

  2. Asking “how has this resistance been protecting me?  What role does it play in my life?”

  3. Asking “in what way might this resistance no longer be serving me?”

  4. Trust my own judgement; “What am I prepared to challenge or let go of, in order to move forward?”

So, the next time you find your aspirations being derailed, imagine the snowboarder who leaned back and “wiped out” and ask yourself this question:  “Is this my resistance showing up?” and invite it in for a chat!

Nicola Harker

Coach and Mentor (ex-doctor) and teacher of Self-Compassion, Nicola Harker Coaching

Using neuroscience, self-compassion techniques and coaching as well as high-performance techniques I help my clients free their potential and get back to their true selves so that they can thrive in life.