This covers day 19 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I’m collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.
If you haven’t already, go immediately to your favorite book purveyor (library, local independent bookseller, anywhere but even @m@zon) and get yourself a copy of Steven Pressfield‘s delightfully sly, slim and incisive look at creativity, The War of Art. Ounce for ounce, the smartest treatise on what keeps us measuring our lives in coffee spoons and not achievements of magnificent fulfillment. I enjoyed Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for its similar insights into the creative process (and its particular demons) but this is way less woo-woo and just as practical in many ways, more so, in that you can read it in about an hour standing on your feet.
The chief slayer of creative output, according to Pressfield, is Resistance. It takes many shapes (procrastination is a favorite) but moves inexorably towards its chief goal, keeping your ass parked in front of the TV, eating Doritos and/or shooting heroin, depending.
I burst into Greg’s bungalow office full of excitement over this great new guide and its mythic depiction of a wiggly idea. But Greg decided to do old Steven one better: he called Resistance “The Resistor”, and, after putting me under, got it to talk a bit. Here’s what we learned…
#1: The Resistor is, um, a little scary
Unlike the other inhabitants of Kingdom Communicatrix (and much to Monkey Brain‘s dismay), the Resistor is not eager to make friends.
The Resistor needs no one and nothing, except something to push against, and everyone else does a damned fine job of providing fodder. The Resistor is very well developed, very smart and very, very strong, in fact…
#2: The Resistor is closest in temperament to The Edge
The Edge gets things done. It doesn’t differentiate between good or bad, dark or light, right or wrong. It has a task and does it. You might remember that when we met The Edge, it was in charge of procrastination. And it took its job seriously, not personally.
The Resistor is very much the same way. It is indifferent to pain, although it seems to find it interesting or even amusing. But it doesn’t derive pleasure from causing pain. Far from it. It enjoys pushing back, period. Hence, the Resistor’s particular gift at shape-shifting (and, perhaps, a wee bit of pride in its highly refined abilities in this area.)
#3: The Resistor cannot use its powers in the employ of anything but resisting
The Edge? Happy to serve in any other way we’d like to suggest.
The Resistor? Would have none of it. Greg tried every way he knew of to bring the Resistor to the side of Light, much to the amusement of the Resistor, who patiently, if a little condescendingly, kept insisting that was not a possibility.
#4: I am a Star Wars geek after all
These ideas all come from somewhere. I wish I were diving into some Jungian pool of collective unconscious, but the truth is, I learned everything I need to know about yin and yang from George Lucas. Such is the price of coming of age in the late 70s.
#5: There’s a lot of skill residing in the Resistor
So far, we’ve come up with six other subpersonalities that make up the crazy interior world of me. That’s six slices on the side of Light, some of whom are pretty strong (Monkey Brain, The Edge), all of whom are very smart.
There is one, only one, part of me that does nothing but push back. Oh, sure, the other ones screw up (or are screwed up), but they’re interested in changing.
The Resistor, on the other hand, is what a former acting teacher of mine used to call a “fixed given”: like time or furniture or other unopposable force/immovable object, it is fundamentally unchanging. It does what it does what it does; the only change is that it learns to do it better and more efficiently. Which means…
#6: It is pointless to try changing the Resistor
The only way to beat the Resistor is to become as good at your task, as single-mindedly driven in your goal at hand, as it is. And it never, ever stops, because the Resistor will respond to strength and cleverness with equal or better strength and cleverness.
Vigilance and a fierce pursuit of the Truth are the only useful weapons in one’s ongoing battle with the Resistor. That and…
#7: To start working against the Resistor, you must accept that it exists
It’s a bitch, but there it is: you cannot beat it; it is an essential part of you.
So look at the Resistor as the part that keeps you honest and striving. The part that keeps you creating, really, and makes each act of creation more interesting, rich and powerful than the last.
The Resistor won’t care, of course. It will just smile and come back at you another way, another day.
Admire its strength, say a brief prayer of gratitude if you have it in you.
And then, dear Artist, get back to work…