Many years ago, as a young and enthusiastic explorer in the inner realms of thought and emotion, I thought resistance was a ‘bad’ thing. That when a client brought resistance in to the therapy room it somehow had to be got out of the way for any meaningful progress to take place.
‘There is no such thing as a resistant client, just inflexible therapists’ rang in my ears. So a client’s resistance was a sign that I as a therapist was ‘not good enough/smart enough/clever enough/present enough to help them power through the blockage to the good life just beyond.
Some time later working with a spiritual teacher I met ‘threshold guardians’ for the first time – sacred guardians of the space in ourselves which we fear to inhabit. I imagined seeing these as Tibetan Buddhist wrathful deities, with bulging eyes and grimacing mouths, guarding difficult feelings or truths.
Often when I met these difficult places I would want to run away. I would defend myself from these feelings in me, shut down and start to suffer! Through years of spiritual and psychological practice and learning I started to find ways to meet these places with tenderness and compassion. Then the resistance softens, and the threshold guardians will graciously allow me into a space which had previously been denied.
But what really blew my mind was when my teacher explained that every time I turned and ran away from the discomfort or pain or reality of the truth, these guardians were bowing to me, respecting my limit at that time, in that place, with those people, with my level of awareness.
These guardians weren’t jeering at me for being a wimp, or judging me for not being ‘enough’. They were accepting me just as I am. I was stunned to see my defences and resistance and my ‘no’ were all part of the journey – just as much as the ‘yes’, release and allowing.
That understanding began to percolate through my brain and my understanding. So years later, now qualified as a counsellor and working in supervision, I became aware of the old chestnut of ‘never good enough’ driving my need to please people so they would prove to me I am likeable and worthy. ‘This is so familiar! I said, ‘It’s like the wallpaper behind me, covering the wall of every room I have ever visited in my life. I need to redecorate!’
‘Don’t make it wrong,’ he said. ‘It has served you very well all these years’.
Something landed in me. The threshold guardian standing behind me and respecting me all these years while I am not ready to meet this place in myself. Until I am.