Resistance is not a sign of Failure

I’m going to be a great artist here (as in Picasso’s, “Good artists copy, great artists steal). I’m going to steal from Steven Pressfield:

“Resistance is the shadow cast by [the Dream].

Resistance is the equal-and-opposite-reaction of nature to the New Thing that you and I are called to bring forth out of nothing.

There would be no Resistance without the Dream. The Dream comes first. Resistance follows.”


In particular, “Resistance is the shadow cast by the Dream.”

In Jungian theory (which I’m mostly familiar with through the novels of Robertson Davies), we all have a shadow-side; it’s part of being human. My shadow is all those aspects of my personality that I prefer not to consciously acknowledge, either because they’re negative, or they frighten me, or they conflict with ideas I have about how I should be. For Jung, your shadow can be negative and/or positive, all mixed-up. The goal is not to push down or deny the shadow, but to acknowledge it, and even to assimilate it. This means facing the negative aspects of yourself, and accepting that you have negative aspects, without allowing them to take over. You embrace all sides of yourself, thereby giving the negative less power to overtake you, and enabling you to better relate to the people around you (because you’re not denying or threatened by their shadows, either).

So having a shadow isn’t bad. It doesn’t mean you’re bad. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you’re human.

Resistance as the shadow of the Dream is revolutionary to me. On his Writing Wednesdays, Pressfield often writes about Resistance (that something inside us that will fight us when we pursue our creative dreams, taking the form of fear, insecurity, distraction, perfectionism, despair, whatever it takes to block us), and I’ve certainly felt it and succumbed to it and fought it.

That should be in present tense: I feel it, I succumb to it, I fight it.

Even though Pressfield and other writers about creativity, such as Julia Cameron (author of The Artist’s Way), write about the omnipresence of Resistance, in a little corner of my mind, I thought that Resistance meant that I was a failure as a writer. That if I was only a better writer or had more of a professional attitude or a deeper vision for my work or more discipline or more creative freedom or a higher self-image, I wouldn’t be so plagued by Resistance at times.

But if Resistance is the Jungian-style shadow of the Dream, I cannot be rid of it and I shouldn’t want to be rid of it. It is part of having a Dream, of pursuing a vision. Instead of seeing the shadow as a sign of my failure, I can investigate the shadow, converse with it, see whether it has anything of value to tell me about myself or my Dream.

Even if I think of the Dream-shadow as being like a physical shadow, then it’s always there — except maybe during those high noon moments of the Dream, when I’m flush with inspiration and fully in the flow. Otherwise, as long as there’s sun (i.e. the Dream), I will cast a shadow.

Maybe acknowledging this will give Resistance less power over me. Over you, too.

Resistance doesn’t mean we’ve failed. It means that we have a Dream and that we’re pursuing it.

That makes me grin. And look forward to greeting my shadow with a, “Good morning. Nice to see you. I’m going to work now.”

How are you beating Resistance? Or succumbing to it?