Procrastination, Indecisiveness and Resistance

Recently a friend of mine posed a question: “what’s worse? Procrastination or indecisiveness… or are they the same thing?” Initially my response was a quote from Hamlet, “”Nothing is right or wrong only thinking makes it so” Each one of us has to discern their own way; some seem called to find meaning in their lives and for some it is irrelevant; I have never figured out why some people seem driven to choose much more conscious lives while others seem very content with the life they are given. Frequently those who explore meaning in their lives have more complex lives and don’t always seem as happy as those who stay in their comfort zone. Then of course renowned Jungian James Hollis says, “though I am not against happiness I do consider it a poor measure of the worth and depth of one’s life.”

I think it is key that each one us undertake to discern whether we are being called to larger lives than we are living.  When we ask a question about procrastination or indecisiveness it suggests something may be trying to get our intention. Frequently both procrastination and indecisiveness are signs of resistance to the call. I have puzzled a lot over resistance. There seems to be an interesting parallel between the word resistance when applied to electricity as opposed to human nature. Electrical resistance is invisible. It is the degree to which an object opposes an electric current passed through it. Human resistance is also invisible until we learn how to spot it. If we think of the object as human nature and electric current as our highest good then resistance is the degree to which our human nature opposes our highest good. Although you can’t see electrical resistance you can derive its value from observing current and voltage. Frequently we don’t see our own resistance to change but we can derive that it is there from certain patterns of behaviour. When working with clients on decision-making I have observed that occasionally they will not follow through on commitments that they have made. For example one recent client was working through the DecisionClarity process and reached the stage of Going within for Guidance. She made the following commitments for the ensuing five day period:  Two conscious walks, to go to the gym once while trying to stay out of her head, to get immersed in a piece of music for 20 minutes without thinking about it, to journal everyday, to pay attention to clues and synchronicities, to have one bodywork session and ask for a dream before going to sleep.
She postponed the next session because her dog was sick then I found out to my amazement that she had fulfilled none of her commitments – not one. There was no reason; it had just all slipped her mind. It was interesting exploring with her and realizing that she had been totally unconscious of her resistance. In fact as we went deeper it became clear that she had encountered two very significant synchronicities that she had failed to recognize as well as a dream that gave her a very clear specific insight into sabotaging her own behaviour.
So watch for signs of resistance to your own growth. Like a strong rip tide it is an implacable, unconscious force that impedes our forward momentum. It can show up in procrastination, forgetfulness, rationalizing, missing or changing appointments, confusion, distraction and indecision. Overcoming it starts with awareness so pay attention to the flow of your life. Interrupted flow often suggests resistance is just under the surface. Only when understand it is there do we have an opportunity to do something about it.

I recall a discussion with a friend who was somewhat frustrated by the unconscious nature of resistance. “Why is it so hard to see?” she asked. This reminded me of St. Paul’s plaintive inquiry in the epistle to the Romans “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.” Paul blamed sin for his problem however in the light of modern psychological theory there may be a better explanation of why resistance arises. Freud originally proposed the concept of resistance in psychotherapy. He believed clients consciously and unconsciously erected barriers to treatment. However once Freud understood that ego defenses were unconscious and outside the patient’s awareness, then resistance was seen in a favorable light. It provided a clue to the opportunity. In psychotherapy resistance is seen as ego defense. So if we can accept the hypothesis that within each one of us there is an internal struggle for control between the ego and the soul then resistance is the way the ego attempts to control the agenda. So when we transpose ego for our human nature and soul for our highest good then our electrical analogy suggests that resistance is our ego opposing change that is arising from a deeper level of consciousness.  Individuation is a term created by Carl Jung to describe the process of becoming aware of oneself, of one’s make-up, and the way to discover one’s true, inner self. It is my belief that individuation which arises from the soul’s agenda is frequently deemed a threat by the ego so resistance arises. The positive side of resistance is that once we identify it we know that change is on the horizon. Our challenge is develop tools to help identify the awareness and to work to surmount it.

Over a margarita at happy hour in beautiful Sayulita I was recounting to a friend my curiosity about someone I met on vacation. Following a relationship break-up, she had become deeply devoted to a spiritual path; which had become a major focus for life yet I sensed that many deeper personal issues had been sidetracked. “Ah the spiritual bypass” my wise friend observed and suddenly I wondered if this was yet another form of resistance. A bypass is a way around an obstruction; whether a coronary bypass or freeway around a city centre, it avoids an obstacle. However when we bypass the obstacle, it is still remains. Occasionally on the journey of the soul we encounter a problem we choose not to resolve. We bypass it however it is still awaiting our attention. It’s a bit like an unpaid parking ticket; we can ignore it but it may come back to haunt us. Sometimes spirituality becomes a way of avoiding deeper issues. We content ourselves with spiritual progress and try to bury unresolved personal concerns. This can work for a while but generally if the soul desires our attention to something it will find a way to get it. A friend of mine spent many years at Fairfield, the centre of the TCM movement where residents spent hours and hours in transcendental meditation. However, despite this tremendous spiritual development, these people often lived crazy screwed up lives marked by dramatic evidence of discord. They appear to become spiritually one-sided and failed to complete the healing of the personality that was longed for at a deeper level. Recently I made a commitment to focus on practices that would open my heart however surreptitiously I diverted myself on to a different journey connected with exploring my relationship with death and dying. It was only after I had explored this concept of the spiritual bypass that I was amused to find I had been “hoist with my own petard” (an expression used by Shakespeare in Hamlet that means to be caught in one’s own trap.) I had avoided the more challenging pursuit with one I found relatively easier. Interestingly this diversion also gave me a gift by introducing me to Stephen Levine’s wonderful book A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last. In this book he suggest a practice that helps significantly to get in touch with unresolved issues. It is a Life Review where we mindfully explore the complete as well as that which is unfinished in our lives; it will help to disclose the unhealed and the unforgiven that may require our attention.

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