never cease to amaze me. Over the years I've puzzled over
why with all the good information we have more people don't
live lives that are mentally healthy. More specific, why
people don't address their anger problems when it so obvious
that it is in their best interests to do so. To decrease
my confusion, I've become a life long student about the
problem of resistance. The story I heard years ago that
helped the most was about staying in the status quo.
is a lovely story going around about George, an ogre who
was caught in a rut. No ordinary rut this. It was lined
with prickly pear cactus and filled with cow dung. But George
didn't see that he was in a rut. It looked just like any
other place to him although he was pretty miserable sitting
there. Of course he did holler and scream a lot and cuss
it was familiar so he didn't worry about his anger and his
assigned place in life. He didn't get it that there might
be a better way to live. As the saying goes, "It is important
not to mistake the edge of a rut for a horizon.'
friend, Albert came by, scoped the situation out and tried
to help. He stretched his front leg down to the George to
try to pull him out. George lost his temper and hollered
at Albert. He shook his head and said. " You are doing it
all wrong. How many times do I have to tell you? I don't
have a problem."
tried again. He extended his hind leg down. George just
yelled and screamed and blamed Albert. "I still can't reach
you. You stupid nitwit. It is too hard. Why don't you jump
down here and I'll climb on your back and jump out?"
I may be co-dependent, but I'm not stupid!" said the Albert
and he went merrily on his way.
Albert heard "Hey, wait a minute," behind him. He turned
around and there hopping furiously was George. "What happened?
Albert said. "How did you get out? I thought you liked it
where you were in cow dung city."
replied, "Well, it was pretty familiar. But then there I
was feeling sorry for myself and all of a sudden I heard
a truck coming!"
sometimes imitates this story. Some ruts are sticky, smelly
and stinky but people continue to stay in them. Sometimes
it does take a big truck a coming, for a person to change.
Then, hopefully he can find an emotional process that helps
him see himself differently so that he can jump out of his
rut! Some ruts are pretty deep. And they can be comfortable
places, even more so than looking at the possibility of
what made caused the getting in the rut in the first place.
and Staying In Ruts
what is resistance? The famous psychologist Rollo May said,
"Therapists best aid their patients by evoking their resistances."
Resistance keeps the person from knowing their pain. Some
therapists feel impatient when it comes up in therapy. Resistance
is" I am afraid to try. I am frightened to know that I am
angry because it is so bad and dark. I must protect myself
from knowing about the deepest hidden part of me." As Pogo
said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." In truth, the
more we allow clients and ourselves to discover the enemy
which is fear and the related behavior of the resistance
and denial, the better mental health we can help others
resistant people avoid psychotherapy like the plague. However,
a few do come for help with the hidden agenda of "Help me/
don't help me." Resistant people who present themselves
for therapy yet dodge the help offered are no more worse
off than other people. They may just have deeper shame about
not measuring up to what they think they should be. And
deeper terror of what they might find out. Yet their pain
is so great that they do come to the sessions, at least
part of the time. The dance of resistant clients is "I want
to get better but I'm afraid to know...." Some part of the
person wants the help but their other parts that are in
charge are frightened to look at the deep shame about their
anger, which hides inside.
is about shame and not wanting to be exposed. The balloon
of shame inside is like a big lead ball, an ogre, which
cannot even, be known about. Yet it does have purpose. Virginia
Satir often said, "All behavior has purpose." What are some
of the payoffs for remaining stuck in the rut of not knowing
about the pain? Welt and Herron give some ideas about typical
reasons for resistance.
Resistance due to ignorant bliss, which actually hurts
a lot. (Huh? There is no problem here. I had a happy childhood.
No matter that my life is continually in ruins.)
Resistance due to secondary gains (I'll have to stop doing
something that gives me what I want or helps me avoid
something I don't want to do.)
Resistance because acting out the undesired symptom is
safer than remembering upsetting events. (I'll keep running
my symptom so fast that I won't have time to remember
why I feel bad.)
4. Resistance due to feeling guilty and the need to
be punished. (I need to keep on punishing myself because
at a deep level, I know I'm bad. I don't deserve to feel
Grandiose resistance to allowing someone else to help.
(I don't need to be in therapy. I can work
it out myself.)
get to the root of resistance, we must look at fear. Resistance
is about fear of change, fear of failure and fear of success.
In any event, the biggest "F Word" of all is FEAR! Fear
of the unknown is pretty spooky stuff. It manifests as the
belief of "The rut I am in is more comfortable than the
rut I might jump into next if I know what is dark and rank
about me." Resistance often uses the defense of denial with
accompanying beliefs to accomplish the task of keeping things
hidden away under wraps.
the most about the refusal to know about the destructive
elements of one's self years ago in a workshop by Psychologist,
Ken Moses. Denial is not a single concept; it is multifaceted
and may move back and forth as belief systems shift to protect
the fragile state of the self. Resistance and the refusal
to know about one's anger functions in a person's life to
keep the person's shame balloon from being punctured.
Layers of Knowing --
The Interplay Between the Shameful Reality and Soothing
1. Denial of the Facts
I do not have a problem. I AM NOT ANGRY.
Don't tell me about.... I don't want to hear about this.
I AM NOT YELLING!!!!!
Denial of the Significance of the Facts
So I yell a lot. The situation is not bad enough to warrant
my making any changes.
Yes, I've got a temper but it's not important. My getting
mad doesn't mean anything.
My anger does not hurt my kids or my spouse.
I've never hit anyone. My temper doesn't matter as long
as I don't hit anyone.
3. Denial of Emotions Of the Importance of the Facts
Yes, I know it is important but I just don't feel anything.
I'm immobilized. I can't seem to deal with this. It is
hopeless. Why try to change it?
4. Denial Regarding Public Knowledge
This is too terrible. I can't let anyone know. I know
it but the shame is so great.
I can't admit my anger to anyone else. I can't get help.
I'm too embarrassed.
5. Denial of the Duration of the Problem
My anger is temporary.
I'll get better soon on my own.
Even thought I'm xxx years old and haven't figured it
out yet, I'll do better.
Denial Due to Omnipotent Beliefs (I am God and I can make
my anger go away)
I can work it out myself. I don't need help from anyone.
I'll try harder and I won't be angry anymore. I can change.
Don't tell me I need to get an anger coach or therapist.
I don't need help with this; I can take care of this myself.
7. Denial Due to Lack of Personal Resources Necessary
Yes, there's a significant problem. I'm angry about it,
but I can't pay the price for change.
I can't change how I am. I am helpless in changing how
I'm an angry person. I can't change it.
Get used to it. I don't have the ability to change.
8. Denial Due to Not Wanting to Give Up Control
I'm right when I get angry. Why should I change?
If I stop getting angry, I won't get what I want.
It is okay for me to tell others what to do. And it is
okay to get mad if they don't do it.
9. Denial Due to Blaming Someone Else
Well, it is her fault. If she didn't go xxxx, I wouldn't
I'm mad because he/she did xxxx.
If he/she/they would change, I would not be so angry.
Being Human We Are, After All, Sometimes Irrational People
of my favorite teaching tools is a monkey with a bottle
stuck on its hand sitting on a chair in my office. Of course
everyone wonders about it asking why the monkey has e a
bottle on its hand. It is the old monkey trap story of how
hunters in Africa trapped monkeys by putting bananas in
a bottle. The money keeps his hand doubled up in the bottle
holding on to the banana. Because he refuses to open his
hand and let go, he can't go get the good stuff out there
all have stuff we are holding onto that keeps us from getting
the bananas and making us happy. So I ask, "And what are
you holding on to today to prevent your happiness?" If it
is anger, then you are sure to have an unhappy life.
denial and resistance, lovely coping mechanisms to avoid
change! But remember the old saying, "What you resist, persists!"
Or the bumper sticker, which says, "If you keep on doing
the same old thing, you will end up with the same old stuff!"
Much better to put the bumper sticker, "Shift Happens" on
your personal vehicle.
Resistance as Friend
wait! Modern psychology says that here is a silver lining
behind those dark clouds of resistance. Resistance can be
seen as the avenue for learning! Virginia Satir called symptoms
"the access to the reframing of the disorder." Resistance
is classified by therapists Welt and Herron as ".... the
obstacle, symbol, vehicle for change, and indispensable
tool to move the therapy forward." Exploration of the resistance
becomes a goal in itself for understanding the deeper hidden
agendas of the psyche.
is to be examined to find the truth behind it. Resistance
is to be explored, not dodged if a person want to feel better
about them self. Even Freud called resistance a handy tool
to the unconscious mind to allow learning about the patient's
easy task, especially if several of the above stated reasons
for avoiding looking at resistance are operating in a life,
but there it is folks. Anger can be transformed into assertiveness
and learning to see things from the other person's point
of view. In understanding resistance in looking at one's
faults and character flaws, we can learn how to mine the
gold hidden in all the rubbish!
We Are As Healthy As We Are Ready
To Take Responsibility For Our Own Thoughts And Behaviors!