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How to Overcome Other People's Resistance to Your Desires

September 22nd, 2012 by Steve Pavlina

I often receive questions from people asking how they can deal with other people's resistance to their goals, dreams, and desires. Maybe you want to travel a lot more, but your spouse resists that idea. Perhaps you'd like to make some positive changes at the office, but your coworkers don't agree. Maybe you want to major in English, but your parents are pressuring you to go into a technical field.

How can you deal with other people's resistance effectively?

First of all, other people's resistance, jealousy, apathy, etc. isn't actually a problem. It may seem like a problem, but it isn't. The real problem is when you resist their resistance.

If people around me resist something I'm doing, and I start pushing back, that's when I get stuck. I can eventually resolve it by recognizing that it's unnecessary — and certainly not helpful — to resist resistance. Resisting resistance is a guaranteed recipe for stuckness.

All Resistance Is Internal

Instead of asking, Why are they resisting? How can I get them to stop? I ask myself, Why am I resisting their resistance? Why am I turning their resistance into a problem? Can I just allow them to resist without pushing back?

Once I get myself to a place of deeper acceptance and allowing, then I ask, What am I still resisting internally that's allowing this external resistance to arise in my reality anyway? How can I become a more congruent match for this desire? In what way am I not completely allowing myself to receive this desire now?

A subjective reality perspective is especially helpful here. When I see people and circumstances pushing back against me, I realize that all the external resistance I'm seeing is just a projection of my own internal resistance. It means I'm not congruent with this desire. I don't feel ready to receive it yet.

What am I really resisting then? I'm resisting some part of my desire. Most likely I'm resisting some of the predictable consequences of that desire, like how receiving it might impact my social life, my lifestyle, and so on.

When I resolve my internal resistance, usually by getting myself to a deeper level of acceptance about my desire, then not only is it not a problem to notice other people's resistance, but the external resistance soon goes away altogether. When I stop resisting other people's resistance, they stop resisting me... and soon they even begin supporting me.

When you dissolve your own internal resistance with respect to a desire, you'll see the external resistance dissolve as well. Either the resisting forces will give up and stop resisting, or they'll simply drop off your radar and excuse themselves from your reality.

A Personal Example

When I was warming up to open relationships a few years ago, I certainly saw some resistance from other people. Some people emailed me expletive-filled feedback. Other bloggers wrote long posts attacking me and calling me names. A few people made a point of telling me that clearly I was evil and so they were never going to read my blog again.

Initially I resisted their resistance. I felt I had shared my thoughts openly and honestly, and it seemed that some people were deeply misunderstanding what it was all about. That left me feeling that I needed to explain and defend the idea. But really, why did I bother? I did that because I still needed to explain and defend the idea to myself. Since it was still so new to me, I wasn't completely congruent with it.

As time passed and I became more comfortable with the idea, gained some experience, and understood and appreciated it more deeply myself, I eventually released the bulk of my lingering inner resistance. As this happened, the external resistance faded in lockstep with my inner shifts. Either the critics lost interest and gave up, or they quit visiting my website, or if they said something critical then it didn't even register to me.

Today I'm hard pressed to notice any criticism about this lifestyle choice. When I share something about open relationships now, all I see is curiosity and support from others, or in the worst case some indifference from people who aren't into that sort of thing. But I don't see any resistance about this in my external world.

This morning I was even joking around with friends while playing disc golf, playfully referring to this aspect of my lifestyle as polygamy — a totally inaccurate term since I have no interest in multiple wives, but to me it didn't matter. I don't need people to understand it, I don't need approval for it, and I feel no need to defend it. I'm content to simply welcome and enjoy it.

If someone did have an issue with this part of my life, it wouldn't make any difference to me anyway. It would be like someone criticizing me for having blue eyes. I completely accept that I have blue eyes, and so if someone were to criticize me for that, there's no basis for me to resist their resistance. That kind of statement probably wouldn't even register as criticism to me. It might register as goofy behavior, but it wouldn't affect my choices in any meaningful way, and I certainly wouldn't feel a need to defend my eye color.

Part of my initial resistance to exploring open relationships was that it was going to cause some big lifestyle adjustments. There wasn't any specific part of it that I can recall being an issue for me. It was just the overall package of having to adapt to a different way of handling my relationship life. I wasn't sure what to expect. Mostly what I resisted was the unknown.

Changing Others Isn't the Answer

When you're a good match for a goal or desire, other people's resistance doesn't matter. Often it doesn't even register. If it's there at all, you probably won't even notice. Any attempt at resistance becomes background noise that you automatically tune out, like not paying attention to other people's conversations when you walk down the street.

What triggers you to notice and even to obsess about other people's resistance is your own inner resistance to your desires.

If you try to change other people by working on them, but you don't address your own lack of congruence, you'll just drive the resistance underground. Even if you work really hard to convince other people to support you, they'll still resist you, just in more subtle ways than before. As the saying goes, A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

Trying to use force simply drives your resistance deeper into your subconscious. This can cause you to get stuck in denial. On the surface it may look like your resistance has diminished, but then it rears its ugly head further down the road in the form of procrastination or brutal self-sabotage. So it's really best to avoid trying to attack the external resistance directly.

Instead of an external attack using force, turn within and become super curious. I love to use journaling to figure out where I'm still incongruent and how I can allow myself to receive my desire without pushing it away in some manner.

If you can't figure this out on your own, then ask a friend if they can see why you might be blocking yourself. Really listen to what they say and see if it rings true for you. If you resist their answer, that's a telltale sign that it holds some degree of truth.

If you wish to make a turn a new desire into a reality, such as making great money doing what you love, or manifesting a rich and abundant social life, and it looks like your reality is putting up roadblocks, then realize that all of that resistance is inside you. After all, where is this external reality? It's all in your mind. Whatever sense you have of your external reality is just a collection of memories, thoughts, and expectations.

No one is standing in your way. Circumstances, such as a lack of time, a lack of money, or a lack of know-how aren't stopping you either. When you treat those things as obstacles, you invite stuckness. When you instead regard external resistance as feedback that points to your own inner resistance, then you can use that feedback to let go, get unblocked, and truly welcome your desire and all its rippling aftereffects. When you're finally ready to receive, your desire can manifest so quickly that it will make your head spin!