Resistance to Letting Go
Consider this statement by Thich Nhat Hanh concerning resistance to letting go:
People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.
The astonishing verb choice "prefer" captures both the essence of what so many self-help teachers say about resistance to letting go and why such language is so tone-deaf concerning people who are stuck in suffering as a result of traumatic experiences.
If you consider these words according the root meaning of the word resistance, Thich Nhat Hanh claims that resistant people are taking a firm stand in opposition to letting go of their suffering. Why would suffering people do that? Do they really "prefer" suffering that is familiar because they're afraid of the unknown?
Let's consider the claim that someone "prefers suffering" because it's familiar. The root meaning of the word prefer is "put before." Usage can range from formal usage such as "preferring charges"in a court of law to informal language about liking something more than something else. In common speech, you might say that you prefer chocolate ice cream rather than vanilla, coffee rather than tea, and baseball rather than basketball.
The significant question is: What exactly are you supposed to let go? Your feelings? Your memories? Your identity? Deepak Chopra has no list, just the assertion that you will find your self if you let go of things from the past. Mary Manin Morrissey's list includes hurt, fear, and pain. Jack Kornfield's list includes images, emotions, grudges, fears, clinging, and disappointments. A list of words doesn't do justice to the power of these words as lived experiences. As words without context, it's all theoretical. These statements also omit the most stress-inducing word of all — trauma.
[Original Post October 9, 2015]