When doing it feels bad, but not doing it feels even worse.

Imagine you are at a talk at a conference. There are hundreds of people watching. You just caught the speaker giving out incorrect information. He made a big mistake and anyone that tries to follow his advice will suffer for it. At the end of the talk a mic is passed around and you have the opportunity to correct him. Do you?

For most of us, this is not an easy decision. You probably feel resistance to the idea of getting up and correcting him so publicly. But you are also likely to feel resistance towards the idea of leaving all these people misinformed when you could have corrected the oversight. Whether you speak up or not depends entirely on which idea you resist more.

This happens multiple times a day to all of us. Maybe you are miserable at your job, but afraid of the incertainty of leaving. You might resist the idea of exercising, but feel bad about lying around on the couch. Maybe you hate your spouse, but hate the idea of being single even more.

As you might have noticed, resistance has a theme of stress and unhappiness. We rarely resist things we are happy about. I rarely have any resistance at all to having my first cup of coffee in the morning. But I have a great deal of resistance to not have it.

The more you resist something, the more mental energy it takes for you to put up with it. If you hate your job, any workday can leave you exhausted, whether it’s busy or not. Not exercising can be exhausting if you spend a lot of time fretting about it. A relationship filled with stress and trepidation is more mentally and emotionally taxing than a happy relationship, full of hugs and frolicking.

It seems like a good long-term strategy therefore to get out of situations in which we have a lot of resistance, and into situations where we have less or none. Not only are we likely to get more done, as we spend less energy from moment to moment, but we are likely to be happier and more peaceful.

When we are in a situation where both doing something and not doing it causes us a lot of resistance (such as correcting the conference speaker mentioned earlier) it may seem like an impossible task to determine which one to go for.

But there are ways to deal with it. And below I will mention two of them.

The straightforward way is to choose the action that is likely to hold less resistance in the long-term. If you hate your job, but you stay because you are afraid of the insecurity of quitting, you probably should quit. Unless you magically stop hating your job one day, the joblessness and insecurity are likely to pass much faster.

The other way, and the way more interesting one in my opinion, is to reduce the resistance. On both sides. Ideally to neutralize it completely. This will not only allow you to feel better about whatever choice you make, and make it with less effort, but actually enables you to make a better decision, one informed by information and desire, not fear and pessimism.

To be fair, I’ve always known this was a good idea, and you probably don’t see this is rocket science either. But what I never knew was quite how to do it. I’d read dozen of self-help books and consumed thousands of hours of tapes and videos from self help seminars, workshops and lectures and mostly come away with the advice to “Think positively”, “Embrace your peaceful and powerful self” or “Let go of attachment to outcomes”. All great advice. None of it actionable. Much of it tied into quasi-religious, metaphysical or pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo.

Until I bumped into the Sedona Method. Free of metaphysics. Free of pseudo-science and step-by-step actionable. All it does it eliminate emotional charges, of which resistance is one. It’s easy. It’s simple. You can do it in public without looking like an idiot. You will have to think about feelings though. (Eeew, so unmanly)

Let’s look at what you could do if you hate your job but are afraid to leave:

Think about staying in the job. Allow any thoughts, feelings, sights or sounds that you associate with it to come up to the surface. If nothing comes up, focus on that.

Allow yourself to fully feel whatever it is that comes up. Try not to judge it or kick yourself for it. Try not to blame anyone for it. Just feel it.
Ask yourself “Can I accept this feeling and allow it to stay here just the way it is, just for a moment?”
Answer yes or no. Either answer is fine, but don’t try to rationalize the answer or find reasons for it.

Keep the feeling in your awareness and ask yourself “Could I let this feeling go, even if just for a moment?”. Again, yes or no are both right answers. But don’t try to rationalize or explain. Just go with your gut.

Still with the feeling in your awareness, ask yourself “Would I let this feeling go if I could?”. Remember that if the feeling is no feeling, that’s fine too. Would you let that go?

Finally, ask yourself “If I both could and would let this feeling go, when would I do it?”. You’ll find that the answer is usually “now”, but any other answer is valid as well.

Focus again on staying in your job. Does it feel the same? Does it feel a little lighter? Is there less resistance?

Repeat the process, but now on how you feel about leaving your job. Focus on the resistance to that and see if that side doesn’t start to feel a little lighter as well.

Go back and forth like that until you start feeling better about both situations. When you feel no resistance to staying and no resistance to leaving, either choice you take will be effortless and enjoyable, whereas they were stressful and difficult before.

But don’t take my word for it, try it out. Take something you’ve been feeling resistance about and run the process back and forth on it for a while. See if it changes how you feel about things. I’ve done this with people, work assignments, household chores, even hobbies!

Try this one process for a while and see what you can do with it.
If you end up liking it and want to delve deeper into The Sedona Method, there are books to buy, audiofiles to hear and seminars to attend. The method has a lot of variations on the process, all for different uses. For instance it has one of the most interesting approaches to goal setting that I’ve seen in any self-development system. Maybe I’ll cover that next time.

2 Responses to “When doing it feels bad, but not doing it feels even worse.”

  • Stephane Bedard Says:

    Correct me if you feel I am wrong, but resistance is a mature reaction to the imagined or realistic consequences to your actions? By removing resistance, are you not blinding yourself to the emotional damage that can be done by your actions to yourself or others?

    The above said, I can see The Sedona Method, if I understood the goal correctly, being useful for relieving resistance and anxiety once a decision is made.

  • GrĂ©tar Says:

    I would say resistance is a reaction only to imagined consequences of your actions. A lack of resistance does not rob you of your intellectual faculties, so realistic projection is still possible. (more possible in fact)

    Not resisting something doesn’t mean you automatically want it, or that you become blind to its consequences. If someone wants to leave his job, and he can get resistance-free about both staying and leaving, he is more likely to make a decision that carries less emotional damage in the future than if he made the decision out of fear, anger or frustration, all of which are forms or resistance.

    I’m interested in why you believe it can lead to blinding yourself to emotional damage. Can you elaborate on that?