Resistance – The Enemy Within

Resistance – The Enemy Within

(Curated from “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield)

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance, the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction.

How have so many of us become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to?

Because Resistance defeats us.

Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.

You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later the School of Architecture. Ever seen one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement, but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War 2 than it was for him to face a blank canvas.”

Some characteristics of Resistance:

  • “Resistance by definition is self-sabotage. It will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.
  • It doesn’t know who you are and doesn’t care. It is a force of nature. It acts objectively with the same indifference as rain.
  • Rule of thumb: the more important an action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.
  • It aims to kill and its target is the epicentre of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and that no one else has but us.
  • It is most powerful at the finish line. The professional must be alert for this counterattack. Be wary at the end.
  • But Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear. And fear doesn’t go away. We must be the master of that fear to conquer Resistance.
  • The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”

Some symptoms of Resistance:

  • “Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance.
  • The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off until our deathbed.
  • Sometimes Resistance takes the form of sex. Why sex? Because sex provides immediate and powerful gratification. It goes without saying that this principle applies to drugs, shopping, masturbation, TV, gossip, alcohol, and the consumption of all products containing fat, sugar, salt or chocolate.
  • Getting in to trouble, cruelty to others, and the willing endurance of cruelty from others are all forms of Resistance. They prevent us from doing our work.
  • Do we regularly ingest any substance, controlled or otherwise, whose aim is to alleviate depression and anxiety? Instead of applying self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work, we simply consume a product, and Resistance remains.
  • But never forget: this second we can turn the tables. This second we can sit down and do our work.”

Resistance can be beaten.

“If it couldn’t there would be no Fifth Symphony, no Romeo and Juliet, no Golden Gate Bridge.

Defeating Resistance is like giving birth. It seems absolutely impossible until you remember that women have been pulling it off successfully, with support and without, for fifty million years.”

Robin‘s note: These excerpts are from the book’s first section, titled ‘Resistance, Defining the Enemy’. In section two Steven Pressfield shows how to combat Resistance and turn Pro, and in the final section he shows what is beyond Resistance, namely a ‘Higher Realm.’

He concludes the book by saying this:

Are you a born writer? Were you put on this earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don’t do it.

It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”

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