Resistance is our reptile brain’s favorite tool for keeping us chasing our tail, sitting this one out, staying small. Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art, says:
Most of us have two lives.
The life we live, and the unlived life within us.
Between the two stands Resistance.
Our fear-based brain is ingenious at sneaking resistance in the back door, bit by bit. It’s a puzzle monster, little jaggedy pieces stick to you until suddenly you realize you feel like sh*t because there is something heavy sitting on you.
Learning to deal with resistance is so important I have a whole chapter about it called “Dragon Training” in The Way of the Tigress book.
Resistance always knocks on its best friend’s door — Self Doubt — “Can you come out and play, too?”
I had a phone call with a friend who is a therapist. She was describing the brain as the downstairs brain — the reptile brain, the non-verbal place that is about emotion and reaction.
Our upstairs brain is what makes us human — our ability to speak and reason.
She said you can’t be in both places at once.
I know the science probably backs her up. I’m not saying she’s wrong, but I don’t agree.
I operate from both places all the time. It’s my opinion and experience that it is an upstairs brain skill to be able to step outside of our immediate feelings and observe ourselves huddling in a corner of the downstairs brain.
Related: I watched some videos about changing our subconscious beliefs.
The takeaway that stood out to me is this: at a certain level our energy behaves in quantum ways that are different from the cause and effect, input-output linearity a la Newtonian physics.
So perhaps it’s that quantum connection that is behind some people’s miracle breakthroughs, overnight epiphanies, ability to momentarily lift a car to save a child, or “miraculous” healing experiences.
A possible example that is more common:
I watched David Goggins describe to Rich Roll what happens when you stay with a challenge even though your brain is screaming at you to quit. When you acknowledge the discomfort but say “I’m still here MF, I’m not going anywhere”, suddenly your brain expands.
It’s worth watching the podcast just to see the way he says that, btw. I wish I had bookmarked the time stamp.
I don’t have DG’s physical capacity to tolerate discomfort; that’s not why I get a lot out of his story.
His comment made me wonder, what about mental challenges that go on and on and f*cking on, like for weeks, months, or even years? For example, a prolonged job search, building a company, maintaining a marriage, raising children. At least in a race or Hell Week, there is a known ending point.
What about the struggles that have an ending point but the finish line is unclear. (By the way, that pretty much describes Goggins’ whole childhood so I’m not saying all he knows about is how to survive Hell Week. Three times. In a row.)
Do I have to be in the middle of Navy Seal Hell Week running with a broken knee for this mind-expanding thing to work?
I interrupt this flow to point out resistance. Whenever we look at someone famous who has done incredible things and think, “Oh, that couldn’t apply to me” — that is resistance. The trick is to turn your judgey brain OFF and be curious. Where could what DG shared make sense in my life? Curiosity and willingness to look without judging are hugely underrated tools in personal growth.
OK back to this regularly scheduled post.
So this was my way of experimenting. Resistance tells me what I’m about to share is not worth talking about because it’s a minor victory. My answer is that is precisely why I’m sharing it with you. We can’t all be David Goggins, that’s not the point.
I draw inspiration from people who do big difficult things — but what I know is that most of us fight the battle to level up with much smaller skirmishes. We dismiss them as Not that important. Doesn’t matter. Someday. Until one day, if you live long enough, you look back and see all those small dust-ups were simply pieces of one giant stride that actually could have mattered a lot.
I’m supposedly at the end of the longest winter I’ve ever spent. I say supposedly because if it weren’t for the calendar, I would think we were now in the next ice age instead of free-falling into global warming.
A lifetime of living in the sunbelt set my internal clock. In late March, for sure by mid-April, the long sleeves and layers start to chafe. My expectations peek out from under my hoodie. When they keep seeing snow and mid-20s on the reg, the message from my brain is “Yikes how annoying! I’m so sick of this. Cover up and stay in.”
I’m juggling some truly interesting work right now. I’m also juggling uncertainty, temporary loss of a desk to sit at, sub-standard wifi, and some personal stuff.
What do you think my mind wants to focus on if I’m resenting the weather and not moving my body? Where do negative thoughts feel more at home?
So as this video shows, the other day I just said “Eff it. I’m going for a walk, even though it’s snowing. I’m wearing my old bald tennis shoes because that’s what I have. I’m going to stop whining and go outside”. #tigresstalk #tigresswalk
And you know what?
IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.
That one act of taking charge by agreeing to some very mild discomfort — a chilly walk on a snowy day — set off a chain reaction for me to lean into my new schedule and environment and resurface feeling empowered and drama-free.
None of this advice is new, we can see thousands of videos on YouTube about mindset. It’s obvious that lack of knowledge is not the thing holding people back from the Hunt.
Remember what Pressfield said? “Most of us live two lives”?
If you follow my posts you know I’m working with the Magician archetype this Tigress cycle.*
Magician work is an advanced move. She can turn dark literally before you know it, I know this from experience. One of the ways the good Magician keeps herself accountable is by sharing and transparency.
The cold wind moves through the mountains, across a deep ancient lake, and flows through my soulmind on these last few precious wintry Tigress walks. My job is to file matter-of-fact frontier reports of what it looks like to try to manifest that second life, the quantum one that makes a dent in the universe in this miraculous time we live in.
- (well, spoiler alert — on another Tigress-led walk, I realized it’s really the Shaman that has shown up, but that’s for next week.)
Kala is a writer and author of The Way of the Tigress: Inner Journey, Outer Adventure — to help adults of all genders use travel to navigate change and up-level their life, available at http://www.wayofthetigress.com.
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