Monday, December 2, 2013

Welcoming resistance

Recently, I was lucky enough to be a part of a circle at a small professional retreat focused on process and relationship-building where a group of incredible people with really diverse experiences, many dedicated to social justice and peace-building efforts, shared recent challenges in their work. After a long and winding discussion, the facilitators were able to masterfully weave together a strong thread that had emerged from the conversation. In sum, that thread was that the very places where we face the strongest resistance can often be the exact places that our work is most needed, and hardest. And, that maybe instead of viewing resistance as failure, we could see it as a sign that there really is something to be done there, simply based on the fact that the push-back exists.

I have been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks -- about how seeing resistance as failure can play itself out, and how reframing it can be regenerative. For example, I have given up on myself more times than I care to count when working on topics that were new and hard to explain or contextualize. Last year, I gave a presentation on the role of conflict in science engagement practice. Whether real or perceived, I definitely felt some resistance to the topic – the talks that had gone before were much headier and trying to come in with a more feeling-based perspective felt like pushing up against the wall that can sometimes exist between the head and the heart, particularly in professional (not to mention scientific) settings.

In the past, that kind of experience truly might have made me feel defeated enough to give up on something that I'm actually pretty passionate about. And, I see that kind of defeat happen all the time with friends and colleagues with everything from the project that they can't seem to get funded to the message they can't seem to communicate to the relationship with a colleague that they can't figure out how to repair.

So, now I'm beginning to wonder how getting more comfortable with resistance can actually help. I see the potential for reframing not only individual challenges, but also some of the larger narratives that exist around many environmental issues like climate change. What if, instead of being a problem, resistance is a sign that we are right where we need to be?

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