The Paradox of Resistance: Why “What You Resist Persists”

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Have you ever heard the saying, “What you resist persists”? This simple yet profound phrase encapsulates a psychological phenomenon that many of us experience in various aspects of our lives. It suggests that when we strongly resist or fight against something—whether it’s an emotion, a problem, a change, or a habit—it can paradoxically lead to that very thing persisting or becoming even more prominent in our lives. In this article, we’ll delve into the psychology behind this concept and explore how resistance can often have counterproductive effects. We’ll also discuss more effective approaches to dealing with the challenges life presents.

The Persistence of Emotions

One of the most common areas where the principle of “what you resist persists” applies is in the realm of emotions. When we resist or deny certain emotions, such as sadness, anger, or fear, we might believe that we are protecting ourselves from their impact. However, the reality is that suppressing emotions can lead to them lingering beneath the surface, causing stress and potentially affecting our mental and physical well-being. The paradox is that the more we resist these emotions, the more power they seem to gain.

Embracing Emotions: Rather than resisting emotions, a healthier approach is to acknowledge and embrace them. Emotions are a natural part of the human experience, and they often carry valuable messages about our needs and desires. By allowing ourselves to feel and express our emotions in a healthy way, we can better understand ourselves and work through challenging feelings.

The Persistence of Problems

Another area where resistance can hinder us is in dealing with problems. It’s a common human tendency to avoid or deny problems, hoping they will disappear on their own. However, this approach often leads to the problem festering and becoming more challenging to resolve.

Facing Problems Head-On: Instead of resisting problems, it’s generally more effective to confront them head-on. Identify the problem, break it down into manageable steps, and take proactive measures to address it. This not only prevents the problem from persisting but also empowers you to build problem-solving skills.

The Resistance to Change

Resistance to change is a familiar concept. Sometimes, our reluctance to adapt to new circumstances or make necessary changes in our lives can hold us back from personal growth and progress. We may feel comfortable in our familiar routines, even if they are no longer serving us.

Embracing Change: Change is an inevitable part of life, and embracing it can lead to personal growth and positive outcomes. Instead of resisting change, be open to new possibilities and opportunities for learning and development. Change often brings about fresh perspectives and experiences.

The Persistence of Habits

Breaking a habit can be a challenging endeavor, and resistance can play a significant role in this process. Paradoxically, the more we resist the urge to engage in a habit, the stronger that urge may become. This is because resisting a habit can create mental tension.

Replacing Unwanted Habits: Instead of resisting unwanted habits, consider replacing them with healthier ones. For example, if you’re trying to quit smoking, engage in activities that promote well-being, like exercise or meditation, whenever you feel the urge to smoke. Addressing the underlying causes of the habit is also essential for long-term success.


The phrase “what you resist persists” serves as a reminder that resistance can often be counterproductive when dealing with various aspects of life. Whether it’s emotions, problems, change, or habits, resisting these elements can lead to unintended consequences. Instead of resisting, consider adopting a more constructive and proactive approach. Acknowledge your emotions, confront problems, embrace change, and replace unwanted habits. By doing so, you can promote personal growth, improve problem-solving skills, and navigate life’s challenges more effectively. Ultimately, the paradox of resistance highlights the importance of adaptability, resilience, and an open mindset in our journey through life.

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