The Path of Most Resistance

In the TV series Star Trek: Voyager, the Borg told everyone they encountered that resistance was futile. Before that, Carl Jung said, “What we resist persists.” But no matter who said it or when, we resist accepting the limits of our resistance.

All we want to do is travel unobstructed along our particular garden path. So just as we move through life scanning the environment for what helps reinforce our self-concept and screening out what threatens it, we also put a great deal of effort into resisting what gets in the way on our particular path. Not only is such resistance futile, it also uses up an incredible amount of energy.

Scanning, screening out, and resisting are the triumvirate of activities that keep us assembling the world in a particular way. The more successful we are at them, the more comfortable we become in our well-worn ruts to the point where we can’t see or imagine any other way to be or think or feel. It’s like a narrowing of the arteries of the psyche. Yet all these behaviors seem so natural we may not even be aware we’re making choices or doing anything.

The other problem, of course, is that no matter how much we resist something, our resistance won’t make it go away. A great deal of what we resist persists simply because it’s an unalterable part of life. What we resist exists. Acceptance might be a more appropriate response. But whatever we resist may be so important to us that we go to enormous lengths to avoid confronting or dealing with it. That’s the biggest difference between what we simply screen out (ignore) and what we resist (actively work at avoiding).

  • Type 1s are aiming for perfection—and if not that, at least correctness. They want to be irreproachable, at least in their own eyes. Therefore, they resist criticism from the environment.
  • Type 2s hope to be seen as thoughtful, helpful, and selfless. They want everyone to like and appreciate them. Therefore, they resist unwanted feedback from the environment.
  • The goal of Type 3s is to succeed in whatever they do. They want to be admired for their successes. Therefore, being master re-framers, they resist evidence of failure from the environment.
  • Type 4s see themselves as special—not bound by the rules others follow. They want to be accepted (or not) for their uniqueness. Therefore, they resist being pigeonholed or limited by the environment.
  • Type 5s want to create a cave into which they can retreat to explore their interests. They want to move at their own pace, not anyone else’s. Therefore, they resist intrusion from the environment.
  • Type 6s want to feel safe, secure, and certain. They also want to feel supported by the people around them. Therefore, they resist instability and unpredictability in the environment.
  • Type 7s want to experience life in all its fullness (at least the enjoyable and exciting parts). They want to have it all now. Therefore, they resist being frustrated by the environment.
  • Type 8s want to captain their own ships. They have a course charted and an agenda they intend to proceed with—no matter what. Therefore, they resist impact from the environment.
  • Type 9s want to feel calm and peaceful. They want people to get along and events to unfold harmoniously so they won’t be disturbed. Therefore, they resist dissonance in the environment.

If “the universe” really concerned itself with our petty wants, needs, and desires, it seems the least it could do would be to clear our paths of the things we spend so much time and effort resisting. Or maybe not. We 8s view the environment as filled with unlimited potential to sidetrack us or get in our way. But as much as I hate to admit it—and I really do hate to admit it—having to stop or slow down to react to something I hadn’t anticipated can be a gift, a time-out from the relentless pursuit of whatever my agenda is at the moment.

The catch is that in order to recognize the gift, and maybe even see the humor in the situation, I have to be at least a little bit present. When I’m running down the road entirely on autopilot, I can’t see the forest for the trees.

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