Brace yourselves: I’m about to save you thousands of dollars that you would have spent on self-help seminars. Here’s how personal transformation happens, in a few short paragraphs.
You’re a being with a body that obeys a brain made up of “animal” and “human” components.
The animal parts of the brain, being older on the evolutionary scale, are more closely connected with the body than the newer human parts. The animal parts are the ones closely associated with emotion and instinct, the “fight, flight, or freeze” threat responses, and so on.
The more human parts of the brain tend to involve higher functions: reason, imagination, visualization, socialization, and so on. They’re the source of conscious control over the body, though they, too, can be overridden by the animal brain parts.
Usually, all components of the brain work well together…until you try to do something completely new and exciting: say, launch a business, enter a bodybuilding contest, run for office, go back to school, write a book, become an actor, etc.. That’s when the system starts to wobble.
Even though your higher human brain systems are super-excited at the prospect of becoming, doing, and/or having the New Thing, your animal brain parts simultaneously go to DEFCON 1. “This is scary!”, they shout, “this is dangerous! It’s outside our usual habits and routines! STOP IT NOW!”
And your modern human brain parts, with no ability to tell the difference between imagination and reality, start inventing all sorts of stories and imaginary threats that stop you in your tracks.
This is the Natural Resistance, and it happens almost every time you try to step out of your comfort zone. Most people get beaten back by the discomfort and anxiety and go right back to their routines, living out lives of quiet desperation and “meh”, such is the power of Natural Resistance.
Fortunately, Natural Resistance is pretty simple to beat: just acknowledge it for what it is – a natural, neurological and biological reaction to new possibilities – and then keep going for that New Thing. Stay in action. Eventually, the animal brain parts calm down, and you win.
There. Variations of this theme exist in nearly every personal growth course you can find on the market. So go ahead. You can fire your life coach now. (Well, actually, keep them around: you’ll definitely need some help dealing with the Natural Resistance).
Natural Resistance has a lot of names, almost all of them trademarked and coined by whatever personal growth company or guru came up with them (and I suppose, given that I’ve just capitalized both words, you can now add me to that list). However, they all describe the same thing: an animal-brain-created reaction to something new.
What’s more, the more transformational the goal, the correspondingly powerful the Natural Resistance becomes.
It’s even something you can see on both individual and collective stages. Is it a coincidence you see a mass awareness of LGBT and Trans rights in the U.S. at the same time Donald Trump and his reactionary ilk are leading in the polls? Here are two disparate, polar-opposite sides, one based in love, the other in fear, and there’s very little overlap between the two. On a national scale, the Natural Resistance within the collective consciousness of the United States plays itself out live on CNN and our Twitter feeds.
Multiple factors play into what’s happening with those two phenomena, to be sure, but my tinfoil hat theory is that if you follow the veins and tributaries back to the source, you’ll come across millions of individuals allowing the animal parts of their brains to run the show, at least in the fear-based scene. A physical representation of the battle that goes on inside the mind of every human being at some point in life.
I digress. Natural Resistance gets a lot of fuel from pre-existing habits and deeply-ingrained beliefs, the grooves in the records that play inside our comfort zones. And a big area of life that feels the impact of NR is in our relationships, especially our romantic ones, where they tend to fuck us up the most…more on that later.