By Steven Pressfield | Published: April 1, 2015
There’s a certain kind of relationship that often seeks out and torments writers and artists. Maybe you’ve had one. Maybe you’ve had more than one.
In this type of love, one of the partners has become aware of her Resistance and is taking active, courageous steps to counter it. She’s writing her novel, she’s initiating her startup, she’s turning her life in a positive direction.
Her lover admires and respects this. He’s drawn to her by her drive and her commitment. She has an energy. Good vibes radiate from her. It’s fun and exciting to be around her.
Her lover wants to be like her. He’s hoping some of her power and dedication will rub off on him. At the very least, he thinks, he’ll learn something just from watching her.
The problem is there’s a snake in the garden—an evil third party in addition to the two innocent principals.
This third party is invisible, implacable, insidious, and indefatigable.
Its name starts with an R.
Resistance is so diabolical that it can and will take over the lover’s personality as completely as if it were a brain-eating zombie or a space-pod from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Despite himself, the lover becomes a mouthpiece for his beloved’s Resistance. He gives voice to precisely the negative self-talk and self-sabotage that the partner would be fighting on her own, even if she had no lover.
How does Resistance do this? I don’t know. But I’ve seen it too many times to doubt its power. Resistance enters the lover’s psyche and, with infallible and unerring accuracy, begins dispensing its poison. “You’re not good enough, who do you think you are daring to follow your dream, you’re too old, too young, too fat, too skinny, too gay, too straight.”
In other words, the lover is trying to sabotage his beloved. Though he was drawn to her precisely for her energy, her work ethic, her self-discipline, he now commences a campaign to destroy these very qualities.
Why does the lover participate in this body-snatching act? Is he cruel? Is he demented?
1. He’s unconscious.
He doesn’t even know he’s doing it.
2. He’s mired in his own Resistance, of which he is equally unconscious.
He himself has a strong and vivid creative dream, just like his lover. Her success becomes a reproach to him, even if he’s totally unaware of it. Rather than face his own failure, he turns on his lover and tries to drag her down to his level.
What makes this dynamic even more perverse is that the lover delivers his venom in camouflaged form. He pretends he is trying to help. He swears (and in truth believes) that he wants only to protect his beloved. To shield her from disappointment. “Honey, I just want you to have a backup plan. Be safe. Don’t bet everything on your acting/dancing/playwrighting career.”
Have you seen David O. Russell’s movie, The Fighter? [Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson.] In the film, Mom (Melissa Leo), brother (Christian Bale), and seven sisters all channel Mark Wahlberg’s own Resistance. They spout it to him 24/7, even as they claim to be—and actually are—his most ardent supporters. “You’re right to be unsure of yourself, you’ll never be as good a boxer as your brother, he’s the star in the family, you’re second banana and always will be.”
What happens when an outsider stands up to this conspiracy (as Mark’s new girlfriend Amy Adams does?) The family reacts with outrage and fury. They come together as one to discredit her and drive her out of Mark’s life.
Resistance is diabolical. It recruits allies. It body-snatches lovers and family and friends and turns them into the budding artist’s most malicious and insidious enemies.
“Quit feedin’ on me!” Paul Newman cries to his brother prisoners as Cool Hand Luke in the movie of the same name. Every other chain-gang inmate wants to hightail it into the tall timber, but Luke is the only one with the guts to actually do it. By this act he becomes the bearer of every other prisoner’s dreams. They worship him and they hate him. They pray that he’ll make good his escape and they rejoice secretly when he’s captured and brought back to the work farm.
Why? Because of their own Resistance. If Luke succeeded in getting free and staying free, his success would be an unbearable reproach to them. “He can do it. Why can’t you?”
So they want to see him fail.
This is love in the time of Resistance.
I hate to say it, but this type of envy and jealousy is a feature of democracies. DeTocqueville called our American ancestors on it in 1834. In a society where everyone is free and equal, the individual who stands out is admired and excoriated. His comrades put him up on a pedestal, then take delirious glee in tearing him down.
It’s even worse today, if you ask me, because of the web and social media and gotcha journalism. Trolling has become a blood sport. Schadenfreude is the national pastime.
Seth Godin points out that never in history has technology put so much power and so much choice in the hands of so many. That’s the garden. Resistance is the serpent.
If Mark Zuckerberg can create Facebook on a laptop in his dorm room, what’s your problem? What aren’t you a gazillionaire?
The pressure is on us. You feel it. I feel it. Even this blog is adding to that pressure. Arrrggggh!
Love still conquers all, maybe. But these days, in the time of intense and universal Resistance, you gotta keep your eyes open.