Beyond the Persistence of Resistance

“What you resist persists.” – Carl Jung.

Projects are looming in my world. Some big. Some little. But they all loom, like a cloud over my head. Always there. I’ve come to understand that this is good news. It means I’m getting very close to a new breakthrough of my heart’s work. I can know that I’ll probably enjoy the process once I start, that it’s really quite small.

Yada Yada Yada. Sometimes all the rational thoughts in the world don’t seem to make a difference. Even knowing all these wise things sometimes doesn’t seem to dispel the persistent cloud of dread also known as resistance.

So I leave it up there in the cloud, and I distract myself with other things that I deem more useful.  I react to whatever demands are right in front of me. I “kill” time by resorting to one of my favorite little guilty pleasures, like staring at a screen or getting lost in a book. I get mentally busy imagining how hard it will be to do, to start.  I tell myself I don’t know how to start. That someone else should do it. That it’s not my job, not my bliss.

I put it off, relishing the drama of my newest Challenge and imagining myself as the hero rising up against great obstacles. Meanwhile, the cloud is still there, getting heavier. Sometimes I bully myself into doing it and then (of course) I have to rebel.

I make it very complicated. And I don’t do it, whatever “it” is, that creative thing I have in mind.

There’s a tension that builds, sort of like the barometric pressure before a rain storm. A bodily sense of heaviness, a general gritchiness that seems to lead up to my taking the first step. The obvious step.  After that it’s downhill, of course.
I know this. I remember it a whole lot of the time, as I coach myself and others to take small steps, one at a time and watch the momentum increase. And yet the resistance to doing what is mine to do sometimes persists.

This past month I’m watching this closely. Sometimes giving in to the old patterns and watching what happens. Playing around the edges of resistance. Giving myself full permission to procrastinate, avoid, delay. It turns out there’s good news at the other end of that practice.  What happens when nothing happens is so uncomfortable, so full of tension, so persistent, so full of energy, that it has to shift into something else.

I’ve discovered that I can simply help the shift along if I cooperate. And for me the way of cooperation depends upon a very simple tool: the timer on my iPhone. I set it to “harp” setting … for 15 minutes.

Then I do that thing that seemed so big before. Take the nibble. Or refrain from nibbling and sit down and do the thing. I tell myself that 15 minutes never killed anybody.  I write in my blog or work with my food/nutrition journal. I pull together the bills. There’s a harp reminding me I’m done. I either finish the task or remind myself I’ll do it tomorrow … for 15 minutes.

It’s like magic. When I know that there’s a reprieve in just a few minutes, I can begin anything. And once I begin there’s a certain momentum that seems to have a life of its own.

What tools and tricks do you use to get yourself to the starting line and start creating momentum? What can you commit to do today, for just 15 minutes? 

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