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Why You Struggle With Following Through + How To Fix It

Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Updated on August 26, 2020
Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Co-Founder of Inner Bonding
By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Co-Founder of Inner Bonding
Margaret Paul, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, relationship expert, and Inner Bonding® facilitator.
August 26, 2020

How often have you tried making a promise to yourself to change your behavior in some way, and then didn't follow through? Here are some examples:

  • I'm going to start going to the gym.
  • I'm going to start eating well.
  • I'm going to lose weight.
  • I'm going to start getting up earlier and exercising in the morning.
  • I'm going to get my taxes done on time.
  • I'm going to be on time from now on.
  • I'm going to clean up the clutter.

Are you aware that not doing what you say you want to do is generally due to what I call "Resistance Syndrome"? Don't worry, it's not as scary as it sounds...

So what do I mean by resistance?

You don't want to be controlled by others, God or some other higher — but most importantly, you don't want to take control for yourself. In other words, you are resisting responsibility and accountability to yourself, and the changes you want to make.

As long as resisting control is your primary motivation in life, even if it is unconscious, you will remain stuck. It is only when loving yourself (and others) is more important to you than whether or not you are being subject to control, that you will be able to make progress.

If you had parents who were invasive, you were controlled at a very young age, and likely felt helpless and angry as a result. Since you may have needed to give up parts of yourself to get approval, or at least get your parents off your back, you discovered ways to resist, to avoid losing your sense of self and independence. This resistance then became part of your identity, a survival mechanism for your wounded self to feel more empowered.

Anytime you try to exert power over yourself with rigid rules and internal criticism, you are trying to force control over yourself in a way that likely won't be too productive. This may set off an internal power struggle between the authoritative part of you that wants control and the part of you that resists being controlled. Paradoxically, the goal of both parts is to survive, and moreover, to keep you safe and happy — but it's a goal you can never reach without giving up the very strategy you think is protecting you.

First, let's identify the six main symptoms of "Resistance Syndrome." Most people who are caught up in this syndrome will identify with at least three of them ...

1. You are stuck in a pattern.

No matter how much therapy you've undergone, how many other healing processes you try, or how many self-help books you read or how many workshops you attend, nothing seems to be working. You feel like the way you behave is "just the way it is."

2. You have controlling parents.

One or both of your parents were controlling — invasive, overprotective, engulfing, consuming, abusive, shaming or critical. This likely lent itself to your pattern of resistance at a very early age.

3. You want to change but you are not taking action.

You seem to have the best of intentions to follow through on taking loving care of yourself, but you don't actually do it. This can often lead to frustration, disappointment and feelings of self-blame. The cycle of goal-setting but not following through thus perpetuates itself.

4. You deny your deeper motivation(s).

You say you want to eat better, lose weight, be on time, clean up your place, get your taxes done and so on. And yet you are suffering from lack of follow through.

You are in denial about the fact that you may have a deeper goal underlying everything else, which is not to be controlled by anyone or anything.

5. You resent your own goals.

While you say you want to follow through on your goals, you resent the very goal you say you want. No wonder you don't want to follow through!

6. You get satisfaction out of others' frustration with you.

When people react negatively to your lack of action or your obstinate behavior, you feel gratified, like a rebellious adolescent who is winning the power struggle with his or her parents. You might even feel a gloating satisfaction when your therapist is not able to help you get "unstuck."

Breaking the cycle.

Now, let's address the way out of resistance. Here are three things you can do to break the cycle:

  1. Notice that resistance is a choice and notice yourself making that choice. Often, resistance is unconscious. You may not be aware that you are actually choosing to make resisting being controlled more important than loving yourself. One way of becoming aware of the fact that you are resisting is to decide to notice yourself choosing to resist. Instead of trying not to be in resistance, continue to resist but do it consciously.
  2. Notice the consequences of the choice to resist. Is your life working the way you want it to work? Are your relationships working? Are you fulfilled in living your purposeful life? Now ask yourself if resisting control is really worth it. Would you consider making a new choice?
  3. Shift your intention. Make a new choice that becoming a loving human is more important than whether or not you are being controlled.

You will get unstuck when loving yourself and others is more important than resisting being controlled. Begin today learning to love yourself.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. author page.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Co-Founder of Inner Bonding

Margaret Paul, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, relationship expert, and Inner Bonding® facilitator. She has counseled individuals and couples since 1968. She is the author/co-author of nine books, including the internationally best-selling Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by You?, Healing Your Aloneness, Inner Bonding, and Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by God? and her recently published book, Diet For Divine Connection. She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah, as well as on the unique and popular website Inner Bonding.