Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How's your mantra working for you?

You may be better at positive thinking and self-talk than I am, and I only try to use a mantra when I'm having trouble falling asleep. I also am unsure if the universe really sends us stuff, but if it does, it's responsible for the flu and flat tires along with anything nice. So I don't depend on the universe.

I might not be right. I don't like anything I can't do, so if any of this stuff works for you, ignore me.

The thing is, I've come to believe that Resistance is a primitive, powerful part of our survival mechanism, and it hasn't advanced since the stone age. All it seems to know is that when you get apprehensive about doing something, it smells danger. And when it smells danger, it does everything it can to stop you.

Plain and simple. Every cure follows from that. 

It suddenly makes other stuff you don't really want to do incredibly attractive: (I've really been wanting to do my taxes early this year, I've been meaning to clean out the space under the sink, why not now?), or it makes you suddenly hungry (A sandwich! I need that! Now!) or it comes up with amazingly poor but totally convincing arguments (It won't work anyway, I'm probably too old/unconnected/under-educated/stupid, if I fail I'll look like a total jerk) and the most illogical of all (I never finish anything anyway, why get started?)

It's all about motivation, says the world, and you can't turn around fast without hitting someone trying to motivate you. "Just Do It!" "Believe it and you can surely achieve it!" "Don't create Resistance in the first place!" "Love yourself!"

Again, if that works for you, ignore me. I personally can't make myself believe something I don't believe and that's that. But even if I could, I know that positive thinking just isn't strong enough to get you around resistance and avoidance. Seems to me there's a whole lot more to it than just saying: 1) I'm doing something wrong, 2) I should stop doing something wrong.

Like, why are you resisting? That's the question that comes into my mind every time I talk to someone who has trouble going after a dream. It's my whole focus on the interactive telephone classes I give as often as I can. And I find the answer, time after time, with everyone I work with. And it's not just an answer, it's something to do that makes Resistance go away so you can do what you want to do.

After decades of this kind of work, I've gotten clever at it. At one writer's retreat I put every single one of the participants through the resistance process, found out what was really stopping them, showed them how to make it simply disappear - sometimes forever. More often, for long enough to do what they wanted to do, and then the option of doing it again whenever they needed to.

And one of the attendees watched me carefully. When it was over, she called me the Resistance Whisperer, and I guess I love that name better than anything I've ever been called.

It sounds like I'm saying that 'whisperers' have a kind of magic they can do, but that's not it at all. The original 'Horse Whisperer,' Monty Roberts, simply watched horses, hour after hour, day after day, carefully, with the deepest respect, for a very long time. He wanted to understand them so he learned their ways and their language before he made any attempt to influence them. The reason he did that because it pained him to see the way most horses were treated. That's familiar to me, too, but not with horses. With people.

Resistance isn't as gentle and appealing as an animal, but if you want to keep it from crushing your dreams, you'll do well to develop the same respect and understanding as Monty Roberts did for horses.

And for starters, you might decide, as I did, that you'll have to do a bit more to overcome resistance than simply telling yourself to "Just Do It."


  1. The Resistance Whisperer! Great nickname:)

  2. I definitely need someone to whisper my resistance. I'm seriously dug in with it and not going anywhere! Attempts to jolly myself along with cute little positive thinking mantras don't work worth a damn.

    Elly, searching for motivation in all the wrong places.

  3. Get on my mailing list, Elly. I'm very lazy about sending them out so I won't fill up your inbox, but I always send them when I have an event -- and that includes my Resistance Teleclasses where I work with people right in front of you. (The teleclasses cost a hefty $10 which goes to charity)

    I do them to make sure I've got all types of resistance covered before I finish the book.

  4. Best place to sign up is at

    You can listen to an audio tip there, too. People say they sometimes make a diffence. I promise you won't hear a word about being positive. :-)