Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Resistance and “Hooks”

By Steven Pressfield | Published: September 2, 2015

“Hook,” as I define it in this post, is probably not a legitimate psychological term. It’s more like hippie psychology. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) But it’s such a vivid term and so accurate in its depiction of how this phenomenon works that I’m gonna stick with it, even if it might not pass the DSM test.

A hook is always hostile and always bears evil intent

A “hook” is an action or statement designed to provoke a response.

A hook is always hostile and always bears evil intent. (See this prior post, “The Principal and the Profile.”)

If you’re a working artist, people are throwing hooks at you all day.

Hurling a hook is a symptom of Resistance.

One of the critical skills the working artist needs to acquire is how to avoid being hooked by hooks.

Okay, what’s an example of a hook?

1. Someone tells you they read your short story and they find your attitude “extremely insensitive and offensive” to ­­­­­­­­­­_________________. [Pick a group/victim.]

2. Someone approaches you and tells you they hate your work. You have no talent, you stink, you should not be afforded the forum to show your stuff in public.

3. Someone tells you that your words/actions/images have hurt them deeply. They are suffering acutely because of your cruelty, whether conscious or not.

4. Someone tells you they’re in love with you. You are perfect, you walk on water, they were meant to be with you and can prove it if you give them the chance.

Hooks can come at you from complete strangers or from those who are closest to you.

What do these hookers want? They want your attention. They want you to engage with them.

They provoke you, seeking to generate a response. They accuse you, hoping you will respond by defending yourself. They pick a fight with you, hoping you will strike back.

The practice of throwing hooks is not limited to individuals. Nations can be hook throwers too. North Korea. Iran. ISIS has achieved new heights in hook throwing.

Hooks are thrown by “losers” at “winners.”

Stalking is a form of hook throwing.

I got the chance last year to visit the office of a personal security company, an outfit that specializes in protecting high-profile executives and celebrities. My host showed me an exhibit. It was a stack of letters, piled literally to the ceiling. The letters had all been written to one celebrity by a single hook-thrower. This person sometimes sent as many as eighteen letters a day.

In Turning Pro, I talk about “shadow careers” and “shadow works of art.” That’s what this stack of letters was. When I say hook-throwing is a symptom of Resistance, that’s what I mean. The letter writer felt a burning need to create, but he or she, overwhelmed by Resistance (no doubt unconsciously), couldn’t sit down and do it. So his or her imagination fixated instead on some artist or celebrity (the security people wouldn’t tell us who the letters were sent to) who, no doubt, was producing exactly the kind of work that the hook-thrower wished he or she could create. The hook-thrower then projected onto this individual all the energy, focus, intensity, and love that should have gone into their own work of art.

The stack of letters became this person’s shadow work of art.

The bullets that Mark David Chapman fired into John Lennon were his shadow version of Abbey Road or Sergeant Pepper or (arrrgh) Revolver.

I asked the security executives what principles they employed in protecting their clients from hook throwers.

First, they said: Do Not Engage.

Don’t take the hook. Don’t get angry when provoked. Don’t defend yourself when attacked. Don’t apologize or explain yourself when accused of causing harm.

Do not respond in any way.

Your response—any response—is what the hook thrower wants, said the security execs. The more you respond, the more energized and validated the hook-thrower will become and the more hooks they will throw.

That stack of letters? The client to whom they were addressed never saw them or even knew they existed. They were intercepted by the security company and that was the end of it. The hook-thrower’s gambit was completely neutralized.

It took me a long time to learn, when I receive hook e-mails, to simply delete them and to add a Rule to my Mail Folder that sends any subsequent communications from the hook-sender straight to Junk.

The flip side of this, of course, is to monitor our own selves and be certain that we are not sending out hooks—to people we admire or to our own loved ones.

If we are, we are falling prey to our own Resistance. Our job is to stop sending hooks and instead to focus on our own work—and do it.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

24 Responses to “Resistance and “Hooks””

  1. Linda Laurens
    September 2, 2015 at 6:26 am

    Morning Steve

    Brilliant description. I have dealt with this before. My gang and I refer to them as “psychic vampires”. The game is to distract you while it munches on your ankle and next thing you know you’ve bled to death.

    Do not engage!

    Thanks for all you do for us, Steve. I appreciate you, Shawn & Callie.

  2. September 2, 2015 at 6:38 am

    I relate to this on many levels!

    I have found that I have had to increasingly censor what communication I let into my life because it can have a profound effect on how I go through my day. I run a few businesses and when customer’s complain (and they always do!), I have a choice to engage (and lose focus for the day) or to have my employee send the broiler plate return/exchange info. If I “engage” I can get lost in thoughts on how to “stop that from happening again” and that’s not really where I should be always place my focus.

    I’ve also been super careful about social media. I have the accounts, but they are mostly echo chambers. I find I can’t stomach the trash that is lobbed into my feed.

    One rule: I never check email, social media or answer phone calls after 2:00 pm. That’s MY time to do stuff!

    This is a cool concept. I am sure I have been a hook-thrower many times in my life too. I can think of a few embarrassing examples right off the bat.

    • September 4, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Hi Erika, I can agree that some complaints are hooks, but others are extraordinarily valuable. They can point the way to business process improvement by highlighting where your processes and/or people aren’t working. As an example, a doctor client of mine recently received online feedback from a patient who’d left his office after waiting for an hour in the waiting room without being seen. Would the doctor want to dismiss that feedback? Of course not! He reviewed the situation with his practice manager to look for ways to monitor and cut patient wait times and he responded to the patient to thank her for taking the time to complain and apologizing for the incident. There are mean spirited complaints that could be hooks, but there are also constructive complaints that can guide you to a better, more efficient business.

  3. September 2, 2015 at 6:46 am

    Hey, Steve. “Hook” is a lot more than “hippie” psychology. But, yeah, google doesn’t show much at all.

    Carlos Castenada talked about energetic cords emanating from the belly of one person outward towards another person. Though I don’t recall him using the word “hook”.

    The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield does a great job of talking about how people tap into each other energetically and suck life force from each other. The mistaken belief is that there is a scarcity of life force and we have to steal it from other people.

    Both of these authors wrote fiction but they both had a deep understanding of something real, even if not yet scientifically approved.

    The term “hook” is used mainstream in marketing.

    Maybe “pop” psychology is a better description than “hippie”.

    I’ll have to go back through “The Games People Play” by Eric Berne to see if he uses the word “hook” (maybe not). He is the father of “transactional analysis”. That’s mainstream psychology.

    Most of us are hooking or being hooked all of the time. It’s fairly advanced personal work to disconnect from that game.

    Good post. Thanks.

    And now, back to my own writing.

  4. LI MIng
    September 2, 2015 at 6:47 am

    What is Devil?
    Being a Christian, I had hard time to visualize it.

    I read your the War of Art.

    I read it in toilet, on bus, on bed, at church, on train…

    Finally, I said, OMG, wow… I now know what how it look like and how to deal with it.

    Wish you good health.

    Stay with us, for the journey ahead.

    Doug

  5. September 2, 2015 at 6:49 am

    Five stars. Thank you.

  6. Mary Doyle
    September 2, 2015 at 6:59 am

    Thanks for the timely reminder that hooks are everywhere! An hour ago Resistance tried to convince me (under the seductive guise of self-nurturance) that my slight head cold was a good reason to skip my work out today. I didn’t listen, and when I finished my work out and read your post I had to laugh. You keep us honest Steve – as always, thanks!

  7. PaulD
    September 2, 2015 at 7:02 am

    Hi Steve,

    Great post! I totally relate and also appreciate how, as always, you break down your ideas/concepts to the practical and applicable.

    When I first started reading your work on Resistance, I found myself connecting it with a Tibetan Buddhist concept of Shenpa (see the writings of Pema Chodron. In many ways, the two of you are kindred spirits in the war against resistance/hooks/shenpa.

    For Chodron, Shenpa is any thing that comes along that pushes our buttons–this could be something internal or external. As it relates to your work, it something that we allow to interfere with our important work.

    Recently, I’ve found myself in a lot of battles with interior and exterior hooks, dragging my attention away and my energy down. So I appreciate your writings–on the blog and in your books as kind of reminders to keep up the good fight.

    Thanks gain for another great post!

  8. September 2, 2015 at 7:11 am

    It took a while to realize, but commenting on posts — even as wonderful as yours, Steven — often feels like Resistance. Why not just mark the lessons and move on?

    I think I’ll stop there!

  9. Stacy
    September 2, 2015 at 7:23 am

    I’ve known many champion hook-throwers over the course of my life. Really appreciate this post, but I think what I appreciate most is that it doesn’t judge–at least not in a negative way. It’s hard not to feel empathy for the hook-throwers, even though you can’t engage. We’ve all been there in feeling that pain–it’s universal, I think–but it’s another thing to let it harden into Resistance.

  10. Renita Wellman
    September 2, 2015 at 7:43 am

    thanks!

  11. September 2, 2015 at 8:13 am

    This “Leave a Reply” function on the blog, while a common feature is also a perfect tool for hook production. Hope nobody spends too much time. That’s why Im making mine short and with the only hope that it will increase the blogs rankings on Google and other sites.

    Happy writing everyone :-)

  12. September 2, 2015 at 8:28 am

    Just say, “No.”

  13. Jennifer
    September 2, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Eek! I’ve been hooked…and I’ve played the hooker! I appreciate this wake-up call to practice awareness–both in what I’m putting out there and what I’m letting in. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Randy
    September 2, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Steve Harvey (I think) related something that was told to him about dealing with hooks and haters. I’m paraphrasing:

    “If someone writes something bad about you online, it’s just a blog post. But if you respond, it’s a press conference.”

  15. September 2, 2015 at 9:32 am

    SUPER – AT THE RIGHT TIME!!!!

  16. Melissa Brauen
    September 2, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Brilliant!! Anyone who is ‘in the arena’ needs to read this. Anyone who is an ‘armchair critic’ needs to read this. Thank you for this illumination.

    • Patrick Maher
      September 2, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      Fair go Melissa, I only just bought a ‘new’ armchair from a very ‘honest-looking’ dealer. There were two on offer – one had ‘WRiTER’ written on the sales tag, and it looked worn and a little fatigued and stressed. The one I got was almost brand new and brightly coloured, in pretty good nick and had ‘CRITIC’ written on its price tag. It was much cheaper as well.

  17. RichardJude
    September 2, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Such a gift!!!

    Thank you for your considerate and considerable insights!

    Peace,
    Richard

  18. Sonja
    September 2, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Wow! So damn true. Resistance comes in many diabolical forms. When we’re “hookers” (which made me laugh by the way) do you think it’s amateurs also being jealous? We see them doing the work and we become obsessed….I was curious. Personally, I think envy/jealousy is another bad way we express our Resistance-cloaked jabs.

    Thank you for this, Steve!

  19. Patrick Maher
    September 2, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Only last night I got slapped in the face by a ‘hooker’. This post is astonishingly serendipitous. I’ve been stewing over that ‘slap’ all night. Now I know how to handle it.
    Thanks ‘Dr. Steven’.

  20. York
    September 2, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    Wow! This really came in the nick of time. I really needed this today.

    Thank you!

  21. Anaura
    September 3, 2015 at 2:24 am

    Wow, am I the only one who thinks that number 1 and 3 can be valid times when engagement is necessary–if not directly with the accuser, at least on a level of personal reflection? Of course not every time will someone have a valid point, but some times (possibly many times) they will, and to ignore such comments will only detract from your writing and possibly also the rest of your life.

  22. Chris Lesley
    September 3, 2015 at 6:12 am

    Anyone who’s seen “Hellraiser” knows what those “hooks” can do. Really needed to read this. Thank you.