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Resistance: The art of avoiding emotion.

Chelsea Tanner Life Coach

I’ve caught myself thinking “I just don’t want to” a lot. Whether it be about going for a run, practicing, writing an Instagram post, shooting a youtube video, or whatever it may be. But when we’re faced with this “I just don’t want to,” I think it is important to ask why. I’m all about getting to the root of the problem. I can trick myself into running in desperate moments, but I’m just too curious.

When we resist work, exercise, confrontation, or truly anything we do in our lives, why are we doing it? And don’t you think this might be the downfall of all potential work? Sculptor Elizabeth King calls this the "poverty of our intentions.” Without action and process and the actual doing of the work, our intentions are just that and only that. I love this phrase and will think of it often in times when I feel resistance.

So, why don’t I want to do things? Usually, it is because I want to avoid an emotion. Whether it be the cold air in the morning for a run (that truly only bothers me for about 10 seconds) or perhaps it is the fear that I’ll be extremely harsh with myself in the practice room. Basically, I’m avoiding a feeling. We all are.

You don’t want to make that phone call? It’s not the phone that scares you, it is how you’ll feel on the phone talking to a stranger. When we feel resistance we are avoiding an emotion. This is pretty much always the case.

Emotions are fascinating to me. They are but vibrations in the body, yet they dictate our entire life experience. They are evolutionarily so functional to keep us alive in a society where we are afraid to come out of the cave in fear we will be attacked by an animal. That was so amazingly useful back then! But now, staying in the cave is a made-up sensation, we don’t want to be vulnerable because, on the most primitive level, it means the worst-case scenario. SO, next time you feel like you’re going to die having to call your insurance company and talk to a stranger, know that your brain is working exactly how it was intended. (Isn't that frustrating?!)

The problem with this is humans have developed a society that has far surpassed the need for panic in these circumstances. Okay, so what do we do?! Great question.

When’s the last time you allowed yourself to feel a feeling? For me, the past 10 years or so has been a journey of trying to avoid feelings with something called buffering. Buffering is when we eat, drink, consume television, scroll Tik-Tok, or work, instead of feeling a feeling. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

What was my vice you ask? Food and work. Workaholism has been my major one for the past few years, but before that food was a big one for me. Trying to unlearn the food = comfort thing has been a JOURNEY for me. But also, there was a time when I couldn’t even be by myself. I lived alone but seldom was there a time when I didn’t have a podcast on. I didn’t even want to sit by myself because I didn’t want to be with myself for fear an emotion may come up. Did I buffer with podcasts?! Oh yeah... Okay, this blog post is getting very personal, but we’re going with it because I think maybe some people can relate.

Feelings and emotions, since we are not in said cave anymore, are mismatched to the situations in which we now live. Our primitive brain thinks we need to panic if there is an opportunity for us to feel embarrassed. Ever wonder why embarrassment feels SO bad?! It is because if you were left out of the tribe and didn’t fit in, you would literally DIE on your own in the wild. We are hard-wired for anxiety and icky feelings.

BUT you also have your conscious mind, which allows you to plan, analyze, become self-aware, and read this lovely blog post. Your conscious mind (intellectual mind) can make decisions to feel feelings that you know will only be a feeling, and do what you want anyway in order to reach whatever goal you have set.

Do you want to be a performer but get crippling performance anxiety? Think about whether you’re resisting that anxiety. Do you think you shouldn’t have it? Then you’re possibly shaming yourself for being anxious, and do you know how bad that feels?!

Feelings and emotions are just vibrations in the body. If you had to explain to an alien what embarrassment felt like:

“Well my face gets really hot, my stomach feels like it’s turning inside out, and I get a tight and tingly sensation in my shoulders.”

That’s it?! Yep, that’s it. Our brains also then go crazy thinking it is going to mean, that people will judge us and think this or that about us. We can choose to make it mean an avalanche of terribleness, or we can choose to think that it doesn’t, that it is just a sensation in the body.

What if we were willing to feel embarrassed? What if we were willing to miss the notes we are so afraid to miss because we are so afraid of failure.

[The following is a small tangent about just how important our intention and focus in all of this.]

Our brain looks for whatever we are focusing on. Really quick, look around the room for all the yellow things in your room, count them.


Now, close your eyes and try to remember and count all the purple things that were in your room. Could you do it as well? Probably not! Why? You weren’t focused on the purple things, you were focused on the yellow things.

So, when you go into a performance thinking,

“What if it miss notes?”

“What if I mess up?”

You are focusing on everything that could possibly go wrong. Just like those yellow items in your room, your experience will be the mess-ups. What do you want your focus to be while you perform the wrong notes?!

Food for thought.

Now, if we focus on messing up, then we mess up, then what do we make it mean? Usually, it goes something like:

“They’re going to think I’m terrible, everyone is judging me, I’m a failure if I mess up.”

(btw all of these thoughts are a choice, the life-coach part of my brain had to say this but I understand why people think them)

Do you see how we create our own anxiety here? We want so badly to not mess up because we want to be accepted, that’s a pretty primitive function of the brain. What if we understood that anxiety is part of it? What if we just included it in our pre-performance ritual, welcomed it with open brain space. It is, after all, just a vibration in the body. If we planned for it and didn’t shame ourselves for having it, what would that be like?

Are you avoiding feeling a certain way? Are you wanting to achieve a long-term goal but you don’t want to practice? How do you feel when you practice? Are you shaming yourself and talking to yourself like you are worthless? That may sound harsh but a lot of musicians do it. Then they wonder why they’re not motivated for the 3-hour long shame session… Spoiler: it is because it doesn’t feel good!

Awareness (in my humble opinion) is truly the key to everything. Observe your thoughts in and out of the practice room. Why are you feeling resistance? Is it because you don't want to feel an emotion? You don't have to change anything right away, jumping in to try and fix it is usually what we want to do. Understanding that your thoughts are creating negative emotions is a skill that most people aren't taught. This is everything.

What if you were willing to feel any emotion because you knew it was just a vibration in your body? How much more would you get done? How many more goals could you achieve a lot faster? What if you were willing to feel discomfort, anxiety, and ALL the things?

If you were willing to feel negative emotion caused by that routine self-doubt, and move past it, would you take more action? The only thing we are avoiding in pretty much any circumstance is a feeling. Feelings are caused by our thoughts. If your brain throws a really nasty thought your way and you happen to believe it, it is going to feel bad. It may come up in the form of anxiety, embarrassment, discomfort, or any number of other emotions. Are you willing to sit with the discomfort so you can achieve those long term goals? Or are you going to "do it tomorrow"?

If you want to talk about this stuff further and how it relates to your whole life, I have a special going on for life coaching right now!

$15/hour sessions until the end of 2020! This is the perfect time to align your mind for the new year!

I hope you have a beautiful day!


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