Do We Need a New Definition for Resistance?

I have been struggling with defining what resistance is lately, and I agree we need new terms for the resistance itself and for the response people have to their own resistance.

The easiest way for me to think of resistance is in terms of physics, to think of friction. Resistance, especially when it comes to change, does make us less efficient for a while, but it also makes it possible for cars to move forward. Resistance lights up a light bulb. In general resistance has an important role in making things work, change, and gain energy.

Resistance itself (in my understanding of the word as used in physics) is a force that works against another force. If we are used to doing something a certain way, or if we are deep in thought, investing our energy in one vector, and then that effort is interrupted, we resist. I have not yet found what, in terms brain systems or brain activity, happens to generate this response, but in physics it is quite simple: any movement in one direction, when introduced to a new vector of direction, will generate some resistance.

And then there is a line of behaviors we call resistance that is really a response to that initial trigger. How we resist will depend on the synaptic pathways (representing reinforced response patterns) that make us who we are. For the sake of this discussion, let’s call these “resistance responses.”

While resistance itself is a critical part of unlearning and relearning (not every change requires resistance!) resistance responses can block change. Creating a new habit that has an unlearning component requires overcoming resistance in practice. By that I mean contentiously making a choice to “compete” with old ways of doing things. But if your response patterns to resistance are, for example, ones of avoidance, manipulation, or not really hearing and seeing reality, you may not be able to overcome that resistance trigger effectively and may be stuck unable to change.

Would love to learn what others think about this distinction and which terms you use to describe it…

Comments are closed.