One of my favorite things about the Pathwork teachings is how they illuminate topics from many different angles. This is incredibly insightful, yet it can also make things seem complicated. But the reality is, people are complicated. And therefore the solutions to our bigger problems are seldom simple. With that in mind, let’s look at resistance, and consider it from a few different perspectives.
We can begin with some wisdom from one the biggest thinkers of our time, Albert Einstein, who supposedly said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” [Editor’s Note: This quote may be misattributed to Einstein. In that case, a good back-up source could be the Pathwork Guide, who said pretty much the same thing.]
The kind of thinking that generally leads to conflict comes from the dualistic perspective of the ego. It says, in short, “Either I’m right and you’re wrong, or you’re right and I am wrong. And I am going to win.” That, in fact, is the basic perspective of the part of us that faces out to the world.
This Outer Self, if you will, is the part of us we have direct access to. We could liken it to our hands and feet: If we want to have something or to get somewhere, all we have to do is move them and ta-da, problem solved.
How half-truths trip up the ego
Holding the whole truth, then, requires a greater capacity than the ego has. Not only is the ego unable to support all sides of a situation, it also doesn’t have truth-teller as part of its job description. Meaning, although we may know many things that are true, our ego does not have a deep inner knowing about what’s the truth. That’s why it can easily be misled by half-truths.
Half-truths, in fact, are the worst. They are confusing, deceptive, and can be easily misused to effectively perpetuate untruth. So they can trip up an untethered ego fairly easily, especially if our ego is not actively aligning with that greater part of ourselves, our Higher Self.
When we don’t know what to think, what to believe, or who we can trust—when we don’t know what the truth is—we are forced to think only of ourselves. Then we latch onto our limited ego even harder and try to understand complex situations without the benefit of deep inner guidance. In the end, left to our incomplete and overwhelmed ego self, we just don’t know. The result? We fall back into “it’s either me or you” thinking, and we resist.
Our lopsided relationship with opposites
One of the Pathwork Guide’s most powerful teachings is that everything, no matter how negative, has an original essence that is good. Going along with this is the matching reality that everything good—including every truth—can be twisted and distorted. And because this is what we humans do, it usually is.
For example, what might be the positive essence of resistance or rebellion? How about standing up for ourselves and being willing to fight to right a wrong. We must find the place deep in ourselves where we choose the light, where we are willing to fight for ourselves.
Some might call this claiming our “inner sovereignty.” And at some point, this is what we all must do. For life is all about discovering and asserting the truth of who we are. It’s about shining from our core, where we’re longing for freedom and wholeness.
But hold on, because sovereignty is only half the story. If we want to align with the truth at the center of our being, we must allow our sovereignty to co-exist with its opposite. For at this level of our being, we can’t experience anything without also making peace with its opposite.
“The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.”
– Niels Bohr
Reaching wide to hold the whole truth
What is the profound opposite of Inner Sovereignty? That would be things like sacrifice…surrender…compliance…obedience. It’s the ability to give of ourselves so completely that we align with something greater than ourselves: We align with all that is. Because at this deeper level, we understand we’re not alone. In fact, at this level, we’re all already in connection.
Whereas in our limited Outer Self, it’s “either me or you,” in our deeper being, or Higher Self, it’s: “I’ll fight for myself, and I’ll fight just as hard for you.” And it’s also: “If I hurt you, I hurt myself.” So, we must start to behave in ways that care for all concerned. For when we are living more and more from our Higher Self—when we are becoming spiritually awake—we must act like it.
Any conflict, then, that we’re experiencing on the outer level of our being can only be resolved when we drop into the deeper level of ourselves. That’s the brilliance we’re all looking for. And we won’t ever find it if we keep searching only on the surface, working with the same limited part of ourselves that created the conflict.
Creating the perfect blend
If we want to live in peace and freedom, we must find a new vehicle, one that can get us where we all want to go. And the ego simply isn’t equipped for this ride. What the ego can do, however—and eventually must do—is wake up and learn to surrender to the deeper self within. This is the way to connect with the source of all that is. And that’s the way—the only way—that everyone can truly win.
“For all truly beautiful and meaningful experiences emerge from a perfect balance between our volitional outer ego and our non-volitional inner self.”
– Blinded by Fear, Chapter 7: How Fear of Releasing the Little Ego Spoils Happiness
But keep in mind, there is a vast area we must travel across before we can let go of our Outer Self and live from our Higher Self. For we must work our way through all the twists and turns of our Lower Self. We must face all our unhelpful resistance by learning to fight to become more whole.
Indeed, before we can reach the promised land, we’ll have to clear away the many obstacles that litter this in-between space. And one thing we all must explore is our rebellious reaction to authority. For this causes us to resist, even when resistance doesn’t serve our highest good. And yet it’s a deeply embedded part of the human condition.
Our rebellious relationship with authority
This spiritual path, as outlined by the Pathwork Guide, shows us how all our outer problems are connected with inner conflicts. Sure as a magnet attracts a nail to itself, our tangled emotional landscape will have us tripping over outer events that have been drawn to us by to our hidden inner untruth. And one place where many stumble relates to resistance to authority.
Our problems trace back to childhood, where our very first conflict in life was dealing with someone—likely a parent or guardian, and later a teacher—who said “no” to us. Since they were always denying us this-or-that wish, they seemed hostile to us. No matter how much love and affection we also got, and no matter how appropriate their boundaries were, this was our first hurdle in life. And we didn’t like it.
Fast forward to adulthood, and many of us still harbor the same hidden reaction to authority now as we did back then. Of course, for some, this hurdle has become a steppingstone toward maturity. But for others, where strong reactions remain lodged in the unconscious, the grown-up person will retain a childish reaction toward any and all authority. In fact, such a person will react negatively toward authority, even if it’s administered in a perfect way!
But of course, since people tend to be imperfect, authority is often meted out in an imperfect way. And so a barrier is set up between the child-now-adult and the authority, who is seen as the awful grown-up. Again, even if the child was loved, this conflict exists. Because on one hand the child wants the love of the parent, and on the other hand the child resists and rebels against being told, by the authority, what it can’t have or can’t do.
Two unhealthy reactions to authority
No doubt about it, a child feels authority is bad. It’s a hostile force—an enemy—that locks us behind bars and makes us feel frustrated. The child then has but one desire: to grow up and be free. But then the child does grow up, and the face of authority merely changes. Now instead of being a parent or a teacher, it’s an employer, a police officer, the government, or society. Whoever a person feels dependent upon, that’s now the jailer.
So now the conflicts still show up, they’re just in a different form. And our options are: Openly rebel against any restrictions, or face the fear of not belonging, not being accepted, not being loved. This is what sits unresolved in the unconscious layers of many people. And it can’t be resolved as long as we’re not willing to look at it more closely.
There are essentially two ways that people respond to this hidden conflict. And most people are some mix of these two opposite reactions. One will revolt and rebel against authority while the other will attempt to sidle up to authority. But since neither of these reactions is in truth, neither approach will lead to peace. The only way to unwind all this is to find the original reaction that still lies lodged in our old, unfelt emotions.
For indeed, a true and right kind of authority does exist, even if it’s imperfect. Most, in our logical minds, even agree that some authority is necessary. But as long as we blindly react from this place of inner turmoil, we won’t be able to recognize good and proper authority, even when it’s standing right in front of us.
Which authority can we trust?
What we must come to realize, as we do the work required to unwind our inner authority issues, is that there is a genuine higher authority nested in the center of our being. And if we are able to contact our core—by clearing away our inner Lower Self obstacles and by using our healthy reasoning abilities—then we can develop the ability to discern what’s in everyone’s best interest. And we will be able to know this intuitively, not intellectually.
Why do you think Jesus had so many people in authority coming after him? Because Jesus often associated himself with people who were considered lowly, such as common criminals and prostitutes. What those people felt was that Jesus understood them, so they didn’t rebel against him. They felt not only his genuine goodness, but also that Jesus understood the reasons why they were the way they were.
He wasn’t standing there judging them. Rather he was there with them, regardless of the fact that he didn’t agree with their wrong attitudes or actions. He could actually laugh with them. And at the same time, he could laugh at the pompous kind of authority that was so proud of itself and its laws.
The kind of authority we want to be striving for is the kind Jesus showed us.We can be with a person who is revolting, resisting or rebelling. And at the same time, we can also realize that somewhere, somehow, this same struggle is going on inside of us. How are we also reacting in some way against authority? For we can better understand another person’s attitude if we also better understand our own. Then we can build common ground.
Moving from duality to unity
We don’t need to be the judge and jury. Instead, we can extend our hands to each other and find a way to walk together into a fresh new world in which we all, somehow, figure out how to get along. If we want to be part of the solution, we must be willing to walk through hard places.
The first part of our healing work involves dissolving our hidden childhood conflicts. But the main point, which is the second part of our self-discovery process, is to move from a state of disconnection and isolation—from the ego-centered world of duality—into union with all that is.
If we’re willing to go deeper into ourselves, this is what we must eventually discover: That all wounds can be healed, and all conflict can be resolved, if we are willing to look and work more deeply. This is the way for all of us to work together and learn to live in peace.
– Jill Loree
Adapted in part from Pathwork Guide Lecture #46: Authority.