Encountering Resistance

At some point during your Strengths Articulation practice, you are almost certain to encounter resistance. Some people resist starting the practice. Others start the practice, but don’t follow through. Every person’s resistance is unique, but we can share some common themes. Being aware that this resistance is a normal part of the practice may help. Resisting the internal nature of the practice, resisting the positive nature of the practice, resisting the simplicity of the practice, resisting the synthetic work on emotions, and resisting the need to practice for a long time are all completely normal, and to be expected. In addition to providing additional details about the kinds of resistance that come up for most of us, we will make some suggestions for how to counter the resistance.


Resisting the internal nature of the practice

Resisting the internal nature of the practice sounds like this: “I’m late for work. I have to pay the bills. I haven’t washed the dishes. I am going to have to return that phone call. I need to check Facebook. I didn’t have time for lunch today.” It seems like all of the important stuff is happening “out there.” There never seems to be enough time to work through the to-do list, and there doesn’t seem to be time to reflect on positive moments or the role we play in them. Events and sensations around us are alluring in a way that our inner sphere, at first, is not. Setting aside quiet time for reflection and to enhance wellbeing seems trivial, and may even seem self-centered. It is common for people to put this practice on the back burner when there seems to be a lot to do.


Resisting the positive nature of the practice

This practice asks you to give more attention to positive moments than negative ones; it asks you to focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses. If either of these is difficult for you, you are far from alone. We have heard many times that it is difficult to think of positive moments. Many of us think in terms of solving one problem and then another. Problem-solving seems urgent and important. Problem-solving seems worthy of time and money resources. We are steeped in this way of construing the world constantly through advertising and other media. “Calgon, take me away!” Tells you that you are stressed to the breaking point and your water-softening bubble bath can solve that problem for you. News stories that are negative seem more important than the “feel good” story that occasionally is told at the end of a broadcast.


Meanwhile, whole sections of book markets are devoted to self-improvement. And who has not heard that “pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” So much attention is given to the idea that there is something wrong with us that needs to be made better that it may even seem unnatural to deliberate at length upon what are our best qualities.


Resisting synthetic work on emotions

Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert has some interesting data. It suggests that people think happy emotions we generate intentionally are inferior to happiness that comes about because we get what we want. At some point during your work on articulating a Strengths-focused Identity, it is likely that you will experience some of this kind of resistance. If I am feeling sad, I might say, that is my true and natural feeling. If I become happy because of doing this process, we might judge that happiness to be of an inferior kind. Science predicts that we will resist in this way. It also shows that there is no difference between happiness that comes about coincidentally and happiness that comes about from effort.


Resisting the simplicity of the practice

Especially when we are suffering, the basic, two-step process of identifying a positive moment and articulating the strengths we brought to that moment may seem “not enough.” We want something either drastic or satisfyingly difficult to undertake, something with an extremity that matches the feeling of import we bring to our troubles. We may resist a perceived superficiality and even disregard evidence from our own experience that shows us time and again that we feel better when we do the practice.


Resisting the need to practice for a long time

When we are not resisting how simple and easy it is to do the practice, we might resist the reality that lasting changes will only be made if we do the practice regularly for a long time. For some reason, we tend to see the logic of exercising daily for a long time to see physical changes, and we accept that our physical wellbeing requires that we eat well and exercise for the rest of our lives. Perhaps it is because we bring a “learning” construct to our mental activity that we resist thought exercises that bring us similar, long-term well-being. We learn the technique, work through it once or twice, and we feel done. If we haven’t changed, we want to know the next technique, the one that brings lasting change.

Persist when you encounter resistance

When you encounter resistance, it may help to first acknowledge that there is a kind of truth to the resistant point of view. Seeing the truth of the situation provides a learning opportunity and can ultimately empower the practice. It is likely true that we grew up in a society that rewards external pursuits, not internal ones; that we are more focused on fixing problems than enjoying solutions; that we have long believed that we can and should improve our weaknesses; and that we either reject help or look for quick fixes to emotional and mental pain, rather than learning a new way of thinking and feeling. Remind yourself that you are learning a new way of thinking, and that although it is simple, it is not surprising that it is not easy. Consider that a small daily investment in this internal pursuit can change your orientation toward your to-do list from one of endless drudgery to one of pleasure; it can give you a deep sense of self-worth; over time, it can transform your habits of thinking and feeling and make them more positive. Tell yourself that you deserve this. You deserve to feel happy and well.


After countering the resistance with rational thought, bring focused attention to the effects of the practice. Notice how you feel before, during, and after articulating your strengths. Allow your observation of positive feelings to become your motivation for the next time you have set aside for practice. One of the best ways to be supported in the practice is to schedule Strength-focused dialogs. Scheduling regular Sf dialogs provides a structure that brings your attention back to positivity and strengths on a regular basis.


We are here to help you succeed. Reach out.


by Jennifer Rose