How to Successfully Move Beyond Resistance

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The lady who has not yet fully mourned the loss of her husband begins her session by telling me about the death of her husband five years earlier. I ask her:

“Do you feel you are still holding onto your husband?”

She replies, “Yes.”

“Do you feel ready to let him go?” I ask in response.


Her response is brief, but clearly resolute. Replying “No” to that question tells me that a defense or a resistant part has moved in. (Read More: What is a Defense?)

Her defense requires her to continue holding on to her deceased husband. Thus her mourning the loss of her husband is never able to fully complete.

My focus, as practitioner, then turns to the defense, to the part that convinces her that she is not ready to let him go: the part who so emphatically declared, “No!” This defense part has now moved to the forefront of the client’s emotional system. I frame the “No” response, and present it to her as a part (Read More: What is a Part?):

“I hear a there’s a part of you who says no to letting him go. Do You agree with the part who says no?”

Assuming the part who says “no” is a defense, I appeal to another part of the emotional system, in this case her Authentic Self, to see if she endorses the defense’s strategy. I emphasize the word You in my question to her to separate out her Authentic Self from her defense. (Read More: What is Authentic Self.)

A “No” answer to the question will tell us that the defense is firmly in control.

A “Yes” response, will tell us there is a disagreement within her emotional system with how she is coping with her loss…

Pietro Emotions Systems Map (1)

If we were to map this lady’s emotional system, the sadness in the centre needs to cry and mourn her loss – but cannot. A group of defense parts surround the emotion of sadness. Each of the defense parts carry an agenda that serves to prevent or limit the expression and release of her sadness.

She responds with a ‘Yes’ to my previous questions, and then replies:

“My husband passed away five years ago, yet I still expect him to come through the front door. Every hour of my day, I think about him. I live as if he is around. Yet he isn’t. I’m not sure I have accepted that fact.”

I ask. “How is it you haven’t accepted the fact that your husband is no longer here?”

“Because…” and here she pauses. Her pause changes the rhythm of her speech. This is an important variation in her behaviour. When her presented behaviour changes it essentially indicates her internal experience has changed and that another behavioural part has become more prominent within her emotional system. (Read More: The Relevance of Body Language.)

And then the eyes become a little more watery (not quite tears though), and there is a slight tremble of the bottom lipand she says in a voice that reveals a quiver of emotion:

 “…Because I am deathly scared of the sadness that might emerge from it. I have always been scared of my emotions.”

I choose to use the change in presented behaviour – watery eyes, the slight tremble of the lip – as behavioural indicators to ask the next question:

“Some sadness there?”

She says, “Yes,”… and she cries deeply for the next few minutes. She finally begins to mourn her loss.

To understand what took place, we need to return to the diagram above. In the space of a five to ten minute therapeutic conversation she shed conscious light on her:

  • Letting Go of My Husband” defense,

             (“I live as if he is around. Yet he isn’t. I’m not sure I have accepted that fact.”)

  • “If I Cry I Will Lose Control and Stay Depressed Forever” defense.

               (“I am deathly scared of the sadness that might emerge from it.”)

  • It Is Important to Stay in Control of my Emotions defense

             (“I have always been scared of my emotions.”).

In turning on the light and becoming better aware, these defenses diminished in power.

Defenses or resistances are at their most effective when we are not consciously aware of them. As soon as we become conscious of them, the possibility of disagreeing with their choices increases, and their potential power to make choices for us diminishes.

In the diagram below, notice how the reduction in power of this lady’s three defense parts is reflected in these parts becoming smaller in size. As a result of these defenses diminishing in power the unexpressed sadness of her loss now has more room to move, to express, and to therefore release. (Read More: Another Example of Mapping Defenses and Emotions.)

Emotional Mapping (1)

Only the defenses restrict the emotional expression. When the defenses become less effective sadness has more room for expression. This expression will begin leaking out. Not as a result of the strain of emotional congestion, but because of greater space due to the reduction of the strength of the defense.

 This is direct and natural leakage of emotional expression!

In my conversation with the lady my questions gently challenged her defenses. When she authentically overrode her defenses her sadness had more space for expression.

My lady-in-mourning client arrived at a significant realization and breakthrough within the first few moments of a session. While it is common in an ARC session to witness change in relatively short spaces of time, it is just as common to witness gradual change, as a result of one defense being weakened then another one moving in to replace it…then another replacing the next weakened one…and so on. As each defense part weakens, the defense parts remaining have to work harder to fill the gaps.

Imagine a company which employs twenty people. One year the company has a bad year and needs to lay off five employers. Production and resultant profits for that year decline. The remaining fifteen employees have to take up the slack and work harder. This is fine for a while, since all fifteen are just grateful that they still have a job. The employees work harder to improve production and the profitability of the company, but in time, they become tired and with the fatigue they become less efficient. The company starts to experience intolerance and dissatisfaction in the work place: the workers argue among themselves more, some voice dissatisfaction with the management who are admittedly making some improper decisions because they too are putting in extra hours and are exhausted. Production eventually starts to diminish again.

It is the same within the emotional system. When a defense part loses power it puts strain on the remaining parts within the defense system to take up the slack.

In the session, the lady-in-mourning named three of her defenses in succession, shedding light upon them and thus by virtue of becoming more conscious of them weakened their hold. This weakness caused her defense system to lose some of its strength and efficiency, which in turn gave the room for the expression of sadness.

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