The beauty of resistance

We often tend to ignore resistance, to pretend it's not there. But that's a missed opportunity, especially for a facilitator. Resistance has wisdom and potential in it.
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Oct 19, 2021

By Monique Janmaat

This is my first blog ever. And it is the result of my resistance. Why do I not like to write? I honestly don’t know. I didn’t have time to elaborately ponder this question before joining a blog writing session organized by my colleagues. I joined because I wanted to support them and because I wanted to overcome this resistance to writing. And obviously I did, as I am currently writing this blog.

What happened? In our check-in, a Deep Democracy practice that is an integral part of our work, I was honest and brave enough to mention that I was not looking forward to this day. It was listened to. And even recognized by some of my other colleagues. Just getting the opportunity to express my feelings of resistance already resolved the tension I felt within. I felt acknowledged and could laugh at myself, and immediately a topic for a blog was born. I felt the energy shift from digging my heels in to releasing creative ideas. They kept coming.

Resistance in the room

This is what often happens when resistance (in yourself, or in the group you work with) is encountered in a neutral way, as information. When people share their resistance openly, I consider it a gift. Resistance has wisdom and potential. It is beautiful. In every workshop or session, there is resistance in the room. 

For example, I remember a situation in which I was the facilitator of an Appreciative Inquiry Summit. One participant was quite upset, and she didn’t want to join. The room was set up with only chairs and she wanted a table and being able to use her laptop. I listened to her and asked her to join without a table for the first hour and meet again in the break to discuss her needs and how we could cater for this. In the break, she mentioned that she had such beautiful conversations that she was totally fine.

The odd view

Just like in my case, a good way to address resistance as a facilitator is through a proper check-in, asking questions like: ‘Which part of you doesn’t want to be here?’, ‘What are you not looking forward to?’, or ‘What is your worry or concern?’. This creates space for the fears, worries and concerns from the start of a session on. This helps. If ‘the other voice’, the odd views, are not dealt with, they will disappear under ‘the waterline’ and will unconsciously come up here and there and influence the group dynamics in a negative way. They won’t go away quietly.

As Jung says: ‘what you resist, persists’.

If you feel resistance in yourself and others: breath in, breath out and express the resistance. You will see what will be released. Maybe it will be your first blog ever.