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  • Lori K Walters

Are you avoiding the thing that can actually help you change?

"Why do I keep doing the same damn thing?” a parent asked, eyes moist and pleading. “I hate being so suspicious and always expecting the worst. I want to trust my son but there has been so much lying. When I try to give him the benefit of the doubt, I feel so edgy, like I’m being a fool. I just can’t trust him.”

When you hear yourself saying, I just can’t …, that’s your resistance.

Resistance is the natural, opposite force against change - in biology and physics, in organizations and systems, in our minds. Its job is to get rid of anything new and maintain the status quo.

And this doesn’t apply only when we’re trying to break a bad habit, when it tells us that we really need a snack before bed or absolutely must nag our daughter about her messy room. It also happens when we’re trying to make a change for the good, like pausing before responding or accepting other points of view.

For every change we attempt, there will be resistance.

And the worst part is that resistance has a LOT of tricks and tools. While it may be as overt as an internal voice saying ‘don’t do that’, it’s more often cloaked in subtleties.

For example, one of the tricks of my resistance is forgetting. It’s true, my mind is capable of completely removing certain intentions from my awareness. I will say I forgot to drink water today and it’s true, I never thought of it once. But that’s the work of my resistance.

Resistance will make you justify your actions, attack, flee, forget, make excuses, blame others, doubt yourself, procrastinate, hide, ignore, etc.

It’s tricky, for sure.


The fact is that change will always feel riskier than the status quo, especially changes in our most precious relationships. Changing our way of parenting presents the prospect of the unknown, while the status quo is familiar, safe and dependable.

When you begin to make a change in yourself, for example, keeping your fears about your daughter’s partying to yourself, then there is a sense of threat to what you have to come to believe, that it’s your job to make sure she is caring for herself and meeting her responsibilities. It’s something you have come to believe through your lived experience. It’s what you know. And here comes resistance to keep that conviction in place.

That belief is also part of your identity. When you embark on a change, your old identity is threatened. And while you see it as a healthy change for the better, the old identity senses that it’s endangered, about to be overthrown. As it starts to topple, it’s going to use all its tricks and tools to hang on.

It will give you a dozen reasons to stay in your old pattern. Of course, it will.


So how can you work with your resistance when you’re in a change process?

1. Recognize resistance as a sign that you’re changing.

Resistance is it showing up because something is shifting. Hooray, this is good news.

All too often, parents have an impulse to distance themselves from their resistance. They become aggravated and back away: Oh shit, I’m doing the same damn thing again. Or they sink into shame, berating themselves for falling into this habit and not being able to get unstuck on their own.

But resistance is actually a positive sign. Envision a road sign saying, Hello, you’re on the right track. Take heart, traveler, and keep going.

2. Identify the expressions of your resistance.

If you’re willing to bring your resistance in closer, you can get to know its unique form. Because all of us parents are a little different in how our resistance works.

Imagine three mothers facing the same scenario. Their son is in university. It’s time for the residence fees to be paid and he has the money in his bank account. The parenting goal is to give him room to take responsibility for paying his fees.

  • Parent A’s resistance has got a loudspeaker blaring in her head: What kind of a mother would stand by without saving her kid from fines, embarrassment and eviction? Just remind him to pay the fees. Or better yet, pay them yourself.

  • Parent B’s resistance has her secretly double checking the due dates. Every. Single. Day. She’s texting or calling her son every day “just to chat”, desperately hoping to hear if he’s paid it or not.

  • Parent C’s resistance is pretending she doesn’t care. Fine, let him screw it up. It’ll be a good lesson.

So, with all the potential variations, you want to get to know the nuances of your particular kind of resistance. And this takes practice.

Listen to your internal dialogue right in the moment of, for example, deciding to do something about the residence fees or not. What justifications are being whispered? What warnings are being yelled? What is being denied, forgotten, postponed? And notice your body. How did you move? What did you actually do or not do?

This is where it gets real: learning to catch your resistance in the act.


I need to say something here about willpower.

Some people look at making a change in their way of parenting as just a matter of pushing through. Mind over matter, buck up, just do it. And while that might offer some short-term results, it eventually leads to disappointment and shame: I’m not strong enough. I’m obviously not committed enough. I should be able to do it. I have to try harder.

There’s a common belief that commitment and desire should be enough to overcome resistance. That willpower is all that’s needed. But that outlook ignores the inextricable connection between change and resistance.


In Integral coaching, when you can recognize your resistance at play, the next layer is discovering what your old way of thinking or behaving is actually protecting for you.

Remember, your habits grew from strategies that a former version of you contrived to keep your essence safe the best way you knew how. Underneath the habit is something precious to your sense of yourself. And that’s the thing that must be uncovered to achieve a permanent, embodied change.

It is tender, sacred work that allows a release of the old guard and the space for new ways to protect your treasure. You create new lived experiences and build your new status quo – your new way of parenting.


I admit that I used to hate it when I was told to 'embrace my resistance'. For me, resistance looked like something that was wrong with me and so I headed the other way – avoiding the teacher that was right there in front of me.

In the process of self-development and spiritual awakening, resistance will always be present. Always. You can expect it.

It is your mirror that shows you your small self and its agenda. It asks, do you truly want to end this pattern of suffering for yourself and others? Are you willing to make a real change in the way you parent?

Greet your resistance and say yes to change.

Say yes to more love.

Photo by Jesse Bauer on Unsplash

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