Updated: Oct 3, 2022
“We are like prisoners in an unguarded cell. No one confines us against our will, and we have heard that the key that will release us is also locked inside. If we could find the key, we could open the door and be free…. This is not a meaningless metaphor: we are prisoners of our ego, enchained by our fears, restricted in our freedom, suffering from our condition. No one prevents us from searching for the key that would free us. We must, however, know where to look for it and be willing to use it once we have discovered where it is.” Wisdom of the Enneagram
I remember many years ago, after my husband’s diagnosis with a devastating debilitating terminal illness, I spent an inordinate amount of my physical, emotional and mental energy fighting and resisting the reality that our life was over as we knew it. Done…. Kaputt… Fini… sayonara. Yet every morning I would wake up, put on my boxing gloves and enter the resistance ring to go 9 rounds with his dreadful disease. Unfortunately, I never won a round. Reality always trumped and knocked me on the floor leaving me bleeding profusely from a serious blow to the head.
It was the source of some of my greatest suffering- even beyond the reality of the disease. It seemed to fuel me in my fight against losing everything we had built together as I watched our lives slowly crumble and lay in a pile of rubble at my feet. But in reality, it sucked the life force out of me in that my battle was against reality and this dark mystery- these unseen forces that were choosing our fate and I was unable to beat this diabolical monster. I was fighting the wrong battle. I was resisting reality.
Many times, in my couples coaching- I hear and observe that couples are struggling with this same challenge in their partnership- RESISTANCE. They are resisting their reality individually and together as they are locked in their own inner prisons in their shared relationship. Often partners will say….If he would just figure out what I need without me having to tell him…. If she would just give me the space I need to have some freedom…. If he would just stop being so withdrawn and disengaged with work…. If she would just stop being so demanding and dominant and telling me what to do….if, if, if. The shopping list of demands goes on and on for all of us.
Part of our suffering comes from the fact that we are unable to change another’s thoughts, actions, and feelings outside of their complete and total willingness and cooperation. Even then, it is extremely challenging albeit it is not impossible. Fighting against this reality can bring you years of unnecessary suffering. If my partner would just change this or that or the other… then we would be alright. While I can’t change you, I can change me.
We are all invited to participate in our relationships as an evolving transforming partnership where we grow individually and together. It takes intention, attention and compassion to get in the ring with myself every day. But it must begin with the person who is staring back at me from the mirror. Unfortunately, “I” am my own worst enemy in the resistance fight, but I prefer to blame “you.”
In the battle I was fighting, I was losing against the reality that our life as we knew it was over- nothing was ever going to be the same again- this disease was not going away. There was a new sheriff in town and he had his guns locked and loaded. No amount of effort-ing, anger, persuasion, or denial was going to change the course of our lives. I either had to shift and learn some new strategies of dealing with this reality or be bitter, miserable and dying inside from my own dis-ease.
Resistance is defined as “The refusal to accept or comply with something- the attempt to prevent something by action or argument…. The ability not to be affected by something, especially adversely.” This requires an enormous amount of our emotional energy in our shared lives together.
Fortunately, there are some helpful tools in navigating our relational challenges that can bring a shift in the resistance energy. The first step is observing, noticing and being curious about my inner experience- what triggers me to put on my boxing gloves and get in the resistance fight?
Ask yourself these questions:
What am I resisting in my life?
What does resistance feel like in my body- what do I notice about it?
What am I welcoming in my life?
What does welcoming feel like in my body- what do I notice about it?
What would it take for me to welcome what I am resisting?
We can’t begin to fully understand another until we have a greater understanding of ourselves. The greatest gift I have to offer my partner is the gift of living out of my Truest Self. Once this welcoming is being initiated in “me," I no longer demand it from "you."
When Two can partner together and become One- our individual identities complement and strengthen each other into a more complete wholeness. Who I am in me affects who I am with you. The beautiful reality is a cord of two is stronger than a thread of one. There are always going to be consolations and desolations in our relationships. The consolations are how we as a couple are stronger together because of our combined energies and complimentary gifts. The desolations are how we end up wounding and hurting each other as a result of our fixations, patterns and failed strategies that can be our most destructive forces.
Part of our human experience is we suffer independently and together relationally. Living in Harmony brings healing not only to ourselves and our interdependent relationships, but to the Universe as a whole. The Wisdom of the Enneagram states: "the last thing humans are willing to let go of is their suffering…. Why… first, our suffering is familiar and second, much of our identity comes from holding on to our suffering and if it disappeared, who would we be? The degree to which we release our attachments and their attendant suffering, is the degree to which we free our capacity for joy and for life itself.”
Go ahead, put out the WELCOME mat- there’s a new sheriff in town; the name is Freedom.
About the author:
Bev is a Registered Nurse, Health Coach, and Riso-Hudson Certified Enneagram Teacher through the Enneagram Institute. She's also a professional member of the International Enneagram Association.