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  • Writer's pictureLynn Cukaj

Managing Resistance

By Lynn Cukaj, ATR-BC

Art Therapy for Children, Teenagers and Adults

Resistance. A familiar feeling for many of us.

Resistance is the refusal to accept or comply with something. It is also the attempt to prevent something by taking action or having an argument. The very nature of this word evokes feelings of contempt, defiance, and struggle. When a person displays resistance, it is often accompanied by intense emotions, such as fear or anger.

The act of resisting is a form of communication. But is it effective communication? Resistance between two people often results in frustration and poor impulse control. In my line of work, I have come across resistant individuals that have trouble communicating what they are truly feeling. Instead, they are often stuck in a defensive state of mind and react without thinking through their feelings or getting to the “why”. When an individual acts out, it is their inability to effectively communicate their feelings. If we were all able to communicate our feelings in a productive manner, then there would less conflict, less resistance, and clear communication. Since we are all continuously learning how to better ourselves, we need to practice how to understand and communicate our feelings in a way that is not going to result in resistance.

Everyone is entitled to experience, communicate, and be respected for their feelings. So why are we so quick to categorize someone who is being resistant as stubborn, challenging, uncooperative, or problematic?

If we just considered what the resistance is about, or why this person is being resistant, we give ourselves the chance to understand the bigger picture. This is reliant on the person who is resisting to communicate effectively while the person who is listening to be open minded and respectful.

By exploring different perspectives, we may gain a sense of empathy to that person while understanding what it is they are resisting, instead of reacting, judging, or feeling resentful.

At certain stages of human development, our experience with resistance changes. For example, when a toddler is resistant to putting on their shoes by themselves, a parent will use a soft voice of encouragement and say, “I know it is hard to do by yourself, it is frustrating, and I am here for you if you need my help.” Toddlers will often calm down and be open to receiving help. The parent validated the difficulty of the situation and offered their support along with a reasonable solution.

Teenagers are often resistant to parental guidance and therefore the approach is slightly different. Similar to the toddler, using validation with a calm demeanor will encourage effective communication from both sides. With teenagers, however, parents must use a non-judgmental approach, be open-minded, and understand where our child is coming from. Using these techniques will allow the teenager to relax, have clearer communication and ultimately be less resistant.

This works in theory, but how can we put this into practice when resistance quickly ignites such strong and reactive emotions? This is a challenge that must be worked on in a deliberate and thoughtful way in order to master. If you are a person who practices daily mindfulness and you are faced with a resistant person, you may be more equipped to manage intense feelings and reactions of that person. If you can create mental space between your thoughts and what is being said by the other person, you can pause before being reactive. That crucial pause enables us to calm down, communicate effectively, and mitigate the tension caused by resistance. If resistance is met with support, the person resisting may feel comforted and open to seeing things with a different perspective.


Art Therapy Activity: Identifying Inner Resistance

Word Web Diagrams are extremely helpful to organize our thoughts and how we associate certain words with each other. By filling out the Word Web Diagram in this exercise, you will gain insight into what is it you resist in your life. By recognizing our trigger points, we can effectively manage our emotions, behaviors, and interactions with others.


  1. Word Web Diagram (download and print by clicking on the link below). If a printer is not available to you, feel free to design your own diagram.

  2. Markers, crayons, and/or colored pencils to draw and write.

Resistance Worksheet - Creative Expressions Consulting - Art Therapy by Lynn Cukaj, ATR-BC
Download • 510KB


Step 1: Writing

In the middle of the Word Web Diagram, you will see the word RESISTANCE. Starting there, write down feelings, people, places and/or activities that causes resistance for you. You may add more circles to fill words as needed. It is best to not give too much thought to this exercise and use it has a way of free associating to the word resistance. You may add more circles to fill words as needed.

Step 2: Drawing

Using different colors, assign colors to all of the words, using the same color to all the words that are similar to each other. For example, words that are associated with feelings will get one color. If the thought of resistance made you think of people, assign them a different color. Do the same for activities, places, and other categories. You may view the example below as guidance.


Upon completion, step back and look at your diagram. What color stands out the most? Is it the color associated to the feelings? People? Places? Activities? This should give you insight to which areas you can start to work on in order to better yourself and live a more peaceful life.

If it is the feelings portion of what resistance creates for you, it may be helpful to practice daily mindful meditation.

If it is people in your life, you may need to reassess these relationships, you may find the establishing healthy boundaries blog and exercise to be helpful.

If it is places and activities, you may need to increase your stress and anxiety management coping skills. One area that may be helpful is looking to increase your creativity coping skills and establishing a hobby that helps you relax and focus on your journey to discovering your best self. You may find Art Therapy activities to be a great tool for personal growth.

I encourage you to leave your thoughts and comments on this process below.


For more therapeutic activities and resources on how to incorporate Art Therapy into your life, read more from Lynn's Creative Expressions Blog.

Learn more about Art Therapy and Lynn Cukaj, Board Certified Art Therapist here:

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