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Resistance or Fear: What's the Difference?

Susan L. Reid


Did you know that?

Picture of woman climbing ladderMost of us don’t. We confuse fear with resistance, using the two words interchangeably. We’ve bought into the notion that if we are feeling resistant toward something, that that’s an indicator that we shouldn’t do it. So we don’t. That’s a problem.

How many times has this happened to you? You’re all revved up and ready to go, jazzed about implementing a great idea you’ve been thinking about, only to find yourself dragging your heels for some unknown reason.

What happened? Once you were bright-eyed with excitement. Now, you’re doubled over with doubt, feeling confused, stuck, and irritable. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” you begin. “I guess this just wasn’t meant to be,” you conclude.

Hold the phone! More to the point, hold the baby and don’t throw her out with the bath water! Before you chuck that great idea, read this article. Find out what’s really going on.

Is It Fear or Is It Resistance?

Fear is a vibration of powerlessness. Resistance is a vibration of opposition.

Resistance is the number one thing that will stop you in your tracks. Fear will jettison you into fight or flight mode. Resistance tries to figure things out, ruminates on the problem, and seeks answers to that dead-end question: “Why?” Fear doesn’t think. Fear acts.

Energetically, powerlessness feels quite different from opposition. Doesn’t it? Test it out. Think this thought: fear. How did your body respond to the thought of fear? Did you notice your eyes dilating? Did you experience rapid and shallow breathing? Did your eyes narrow and dart around the room looking for an escape route or assault weapon? Could you feel your body winding-up, getting ready to spring?

Now, think this thought: opposition. How did your body respond to that thought? Did you feel your arms crossing protectively in front of your chest? Did you notice your feet spreading apart, taking a wider stance? Could you feel your breath deepening in preparation for a standoff? Think Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral.

The Voices of Powerlessness and Opposition

Run! Go! Command is the voice of powerlessness. Fear expresses itself in short, one-word phrases. That’s because the part of the brain that functions when you are in fear is the reptilian brain, the brain stem. The reptilian brain acts on stimulus and response. It makes quick decisions without thinking. The reptilian brain is driven by fear, focuses on survival, and takes over when you feel threatened or endangered.

Picture of biker catWhat is holding me back? What am I afraid of? Questioning is the voice of resistance. So are statements such as, “over my dead body” and the Dirty Harry mantra, “Go ahead; make my day.” Resistance expresses itself in complete sentences. That’s because the neocortex governs your ability to speak, think, and solve problems. It is the most evolutionary, advanced part of your brain and affects your creativity and ability to learn.

Fear, the Great Mobilizer

Picture of brainGoverned by the reptilian brain, fear bypasses the neocortex and mobilizes the body into action. Whether real or imagined, fear is a powerful biological reaction that kicks in when you physically feel threatened. Fear prepares you for fight or flight. To attack or run. Fear is a strategic weapon that only operates in survival mode. If you are in survival mode, you won’t need to ask yourself the question, “What am I afraid of?” You will know.

On a power-to-powerless scale of one to ten, with one being most powerful, fear is a ten. Feeling afraid is a seven or eight. Feeling terrified is an eight or nine. When you are feeling afraid or terrified, you still can think. You are still operating out of your neocortex. Once you hit ten, though, you’re cooked. You’ve dropped down into your brain stem and are galvanized to action.

Resistance, the Great Immobilizer

Resistance is your neocortex alarm bell alerting you to opposition. On the scale of no resistance-to-great resistance, slight uneasiness is a one. Four or five is confusion. Upward from that are agitation, frustration, inertia, and anger. Worry, guilt, and self-doubt weigh in at the three or four mark. Discouragement and scarcity range between three and nine, depending on the intensity of the feeling.

The higher you go up the scale of resistance, the more opposition you feel. The more opposition you feel, the more immobilized you become. Your degree of immobilization is directly proportional to how important something is to you. Pushing through or ignoring your resistance makes things worse. To make things better, Picture of five fingersdiscover the answer to the question, “What do I need to allow?”

Five Steps to Turning Resistance Around

Hope floats on Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Vibrationally, allowance is the opposite reaction to resistance. Allowance is the key to figuring out what’s really going on with you. What’s behind your resistance? Figure out that piece of the puzzle, and you will know what’s been slowing you down, holding you back, and making you want to throw in the towel. Turn it around, and you will be well on your way to turning your great idea into reality.

How do you do that? By turning resistance on its ear. Ask the question, “What am I resisting?” Rather than answering it, turn it around. Ask:

  • What do I need to allow?
  • What is being called forth from within me to allow?
  • What do I need to allow in, so I can feel full and inspired to move forward with my great idea?

Step One: Ask yourself whether you are experiencing fear or resistance. (Hint: If you can answer this question, then you are experiencing resistance. If you can’t, take cover!)

Step Two: Find the one word that best describes what you are experiencing. Identify what you are feeling, not what action you think you should take. “I need to let go” is an action phrase. These are feeling words:




Step Three: Keep Newton’s Third Law in mind by remembering that the solution is contained in the problem. For every action (resistance) there is an equal and opposite reaction (allowance). Find the complementary opposite to what you are feeling, and you will have found the key to turning your great idea into reality. Ask, “What is the antonym--the complementary opposite word--for what I am experiencing?”

Anxiety = Ease

Blockage = Openness

Confusion = Clarity

Step Four: Determine what allowance is being called forth. Ask yourself:

What do I need to feel ease around? Maybe you need to feel more comfortable with the process. Maybe you need to allow things more time.

What do I need to be open about? It could be that you are being called forth to be open to new considerations. Maybe you need to allow things to unfold naturally without pushing for a specific outcome.

What do I need to clarify? Perhaps you need more information or details to move forward. Maybe you need time to allow your vision to become clear.

Step Five: Take immediate action in the direction of your allowance--along your path of least resistance. Ask:

What action of allowance would easily and effortlessly move me toward the manifestation of my great idea?

What is the first step I could take along the path of least resistance that would align me with what I want?

Follow these steps and you can say good-bye to your murky decision-making process, and ”Hello, Baby” to your new manifestation process. Soon you will find yourself manifesting one great idea after another. So, before you throw that great idea of yours out with the bath water, turn it around. Focus on the allowance that is being called forth. Oh, what a difference!

Copyright © 2007 by Susan L. Reid

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Copyright ©2007 by Susan L. Reid, DMA

Susan L Reid, DMA, Small Business Start Up Coach, Consultant & Accidental Pren-her™ is the author of Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Journey to Business Success. Known for taking the fear out of starting up businesses, Susan provides value, inspiration and direction to entrepreneurial women starting up and launching small businesses. 

To get your copy of Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Journey to Business Success, go to WME Books or visit For ideas and start up tips, sign-up for our free e-Zine for entrepreneurial women called LAUNCH YOU! We are blogging at:

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