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What You Resist Persists

Psychologist Carl Jung is noted for teaching that the pieces of our selves that we can't accept are the very things that stick with us and plague us in different ways until we finally drop the resistance and accept them.

What does this mean, and what can we do about it?

First, think about the things in your life you can't accept or be with. These are things that drive you crazy (in yourself or others). For example, for a long time, I had trouble with "neediness." When my needy coworker would want my approval or permission, it would drive me bonkers. When my best friend wanted me to tell her how beautiful she was because her boyfriend wouldn't, I'd do it, but I'd be mad about it. I believed that being needy was pathetic. It made others take care of me instead of me taking care of myself - something I believed was "wrong." So I would NEVER ask for help. l handled all kinds of things on my own that would have gone better with support. I resisted feeling needy and my anger, judgment, and frustration about it stuck around. And leaked out in all kinds of unpleasant, needy ways.

Here's another example: Let's say you picked up the idea in your childhood that you were somehow less than smart. Maybe you didn't go to the "right school" or get perfect grades or test well or someone straight out said that you were dumb. To avoid this being true -- to resist it -- you then continually strive to be perfect, smart, brilliant, or otherwise overqualified for the world you live in. You resist contributing to meetings because you're afraid you won't sound as smart as the others in the room. You don't post on social media because you think you have nothing unique to contribute. You don't see how your participation improves a process because the smarter team members have already chimed in. The world misses out on your contribution because you're afraid of sounding dumb. Maybe this costs you a promotion. Maybe it makes you sad or small. Maybe it makes you actually believe you are dumb.

Until you can make peace with and accept that it's ok to be dumb (or needy, or hypocritical, or fat, or empty, or insert-your-resistance here), it will stick around and plague you. It colors your decision-making, your relationship-choosing, and your self-esteem.

So how do we make peace with these things or accept them? First, we have to know what they are. Take a few minutes to identify the things you can't accept in your life. What are the emotions, beliefs, or situations you find impossible?

Here's a very short list to give you some examples:

  • Fear

  • Risk

  • Lack of control

  • Anger

  • Rejection

  • Ignorance

  • Loneliness

  • Irresponsibility

  • Failure

  • Complaining

Compile this list for yourself. Then for each item on your list, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do I define this thing?

  • What is it about this thing that I can't tolerate or be with?

  • How does avoiding this thing benefit me?

  • How does resisting it hurt me?

  • What would it be like if it was ok for me to have this thing in my life?

  • Who would I be if I no longer resisted this? What would change for me?

Working through the questions, while it may not take you all the way to acceptance, should get you greater clarity on how what you're resisting persists.

And if you need some help along the way, I know a coach who does this kind of work... (And no, she will absolutely NOT think you're needy. Because she's accepted that she is, and that it's not a disaster after all.)

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