What is resistance? In therapy, we talk about this word a lot. We identify resistance. We put a number on it and call it out. And, in the end, we learn how to break it down and navigate through it. 

I thought I knew how to identify resistance, but it wasn’t until recently that I really started to understand the concept of resistance and how it truly affects our lives. The dictionary definition of resistance is “the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.”

The last few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about those first few words, that resistance is “the refusal to accept.” An image that comes to mind is a person swimming against the current. This person wants to get past the waves that are hitting the shore so they can enjoy the peaceful open sea on the other side. They fight each surge the ocean brings, attempting to cut through each wave, in a desperate attempt to reach their goal. 

The person swimming is tired—mentally, emotionally, and physically. They might make it out past the waves; they may not. But one thing is certain, the battle they are fighting is exhausting. Of course, this is nothing more than an image. How does resistance play out in our lives? 

Maybe resistance looks like frustration. 

  • I always have to work. I never have any time for me. I’m exhausted. 

Maybe resistance is the end result of comparison. 

  • She’s a better mom than I am because she does fun crafts with her kids. I never do any crafts with my kids. I suck at the mom gig.   

Maybe resistance is the ugly feeling we have when we are arguing with our loved one. You know that surge of emotion that causes us to react during a disagreement instead of listening to their point of view?

  • You always blame me for everything! I’m so tired of this! If you would just help out more, things would be different around here.


If resistance can be defined as “the refusal to accept” then the opposite of resistance is—acceptance. I’ve come to realize in my personal life that I have a hard time accepting most things. I’m a natural fighter—I think most humans are. However, the more I practice mindfulness (staying with the present moment without judgment) the more I’m able to identify my own resistance. And the more I am able to identify my resistance, the more I am able to move into acceptance. So, what does acceptance looks like? 

  • I’m grateful for my job. Tonight, I’m going to take some time to meet my needs. (acceptance of situation) 

  • She is a great mom! I don’t need to do crafts with my kids to be a great mom, too.

(acceptance of self)  

  • I’m just going to listen to my partner right now and sit with this uncomfortable feeling. I’m going to find the truth in what he/she is sharing with me and validate it. (acceptance of emotions) 

Instead of fighting the waves of resistance, we can learn to move with them. Sometimes the best way past the constant barrage of waves in life is seeking the help of a friend, sometimes it is focusing on your breath, and sometimes it is concentrating on gratitude. Learning the tools to helps us navigate rough water is like using a paddle board to get to the open sea. Instead of engaging in a mental war, we can learn to let go. Resistance never serve us. It puts us in a trap. I’m going to leave you with a quote from one of my favorites. 

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.” --Eckhart Tolle.