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  • Writer's pictureLynn Cukaj

Managing Resistance

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

By Lynn Cukaj, ATR-BC, MHC-LP

Art Therapy for Children, Teenagers and Adults

Resistance. A familiar feeling for many of us.

Resistance, a term encompassing refusal to accept, noncompliance, or even active opposition, carries connotations of defiance and struggle. It often stirs emotions like contempt, fear, and anger. When someone engages in resistance, it's frequently accompanied by intense feelings, making it a complex form of expression.

However, while resistance is a mode of communication, its effectiveness can be debated. Resistance between individuals frequently leads to frustration and impaired impulse control. In my line of work, I've encountered individuals who struggle to articulate their true emotions, becoming engulfed in a defensive mindset, and reacting impulsively. Rather than considering the “why”, they respond thoughtlessly. These outbursts, essentially, are a result of their inability to convey their emotions effectively. If we could all master productive emotional communication, conflicts would diminish, resistance would lessen, and clear communication would prevail. Since personal growth is an ongoing process, we must practice comprehending and expressing our feelings in ways that sidestep resistance.

Every individual deserves the right to experience, express, and have their feelings respected. So why do we so swiftly label resistant behavior as stubborn, challenging, uncooperative, or problematic?

Perhaps by delving into the root of resistance, and understanding the motivation behind it, we can gain insight into the bigger picture. This, of course, requires effective communication from both the resistant individual and the listener, who must approach with open-mindedness and respect.

By exploring diverse viewpoints, we may develop empathy for the resistant individual and gain clarity on what precisely they're resisting—rather than reacting, judging, or harboring resentment.

Throughout different life stages, our relationship with resistance evolves. Consider a toddler resisting putting on their shoes independently; a parent might use soothing words, acknowledging the difficulty while offering assistance. Typically, the toddler calms down, more receptive to help. In a similar vein, teens might resist parental guidance, necessitating a slightly distinct approach. Validation coupled with calm communication encourages fruitful dialogue. With adolescents, it's vital for parents to adopt a non-judgmental stance and genuinely comprehend their child's perspective. This approach facilitates relaxed conversations and reduced resistance.

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. Those who engage in daily mindfulness may possess better tools for managing their reactions to resistance. By creating mental space between thoughts and the other person's words, one can pause before responding impulsively. This crucial pause permits emotional calm, effective communication, and the mitigation of resistance-induced tension. When resistance is met with understanding, the resistant individual may feel supported and more open to alternative viewpoints.


Art Therapy Activity: Uncover Inner Resistance and Foster Growth

Word Web Diagrams serve as invaluable tools for organizing thoughts and connections between words. As you fill out the diagram, you will gain insight into what is it you resist in your life. By identifying these triggers, you empower yourself to manage your emotions, behaviors, and interactions more effectively.


  1. Download and print the Word Web Diagram (click the link below to download). Alternatively, you can design your own diagram if a printer isn't accessible.

  2. Gather markers, crayons, or colored pencils for both drawing and writing.

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


Step 1: Exploring Your Feelings

At the center of the Word Web Diagram lies the word "RESISTANCE." Starting from this focal point, allow your thoughts to flow freely as you jot down feelings, individuals, locations, and/or activities that elicit a sense of resistance within you. Embrace spontaneity during this exercise, and feel free to expand the diagram with additional circles as needed. This process serves as a tool for unearthing associations linked to the concept of resistance.

Step 2: Visual Expression

Assign distinctive colors to the words on your diagram, grouping similar words together under the same hue. For instance, words tied to feelings can share a color, while those related to people, places, and activities each have their designated color. For guidance, refer to the example below.


Upon completing your diagram, take a step back and observe. Does one color stand out the most? Is it the color associated to the feelings? People? Places? Activities? This offers valuable insights into areas that may warrant your attention for personal development and a more peaceful life.

If feelings are most predominant, consider incorporating daily mindful meditation.

If people emerge as a key source of resistance, revisiting the establishing healthy boundaries blog and exercise may be helpful.

In the case of places and activities, it might be advantageous to enhance stress and anxiety management skills. Exploring creative outlets can also be instrumental. Embrace a relaxing hobby to foster self-discovery and channel your journey towards self-improvement. Engaging in Art Therapy activities activities can serve as a potent tool for nurturing 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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