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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Wisdom of Resistance


One definition of Wisdom: Recognizing when the smartest thing to do is nothing

Before your can overcome your resistance to writing (or most other things), you have to appreciate the wisdom of that resistance.

Not sure your writing resistance has any wisdom in it? Consider the story of Aime the Amnesiac.

In 1906 a woman was admitted to a French hospital under the care of Dr. Edouard Claparede. This woman, who wasn’t named in the research so I call her Aime, had had a brain injury made it impossible to form new memories. She could remember everything that happened until the time of her injury and nothing after the injury. Sorta like the Drew Barrymore movie 50 First Dates except in real-life people with this type of injury don’t get to remember a whole day; Aime could remember events for maybe 10 minutes or so before her memory “reset.”

This meant that every time Dr. Claparede consulted with Aime, he had to introduce himself to her as if they were meeting for the first time. Because, for Aime, it always was the first time.

One day, Dr. Claparede decided to try an experiment. He put a pin between the fingers of his right hand so that when he shook hands with Aime, she would receive an unexpected and painful, but relatively harmless, jab in her palm. When Aime shook his hand and jerked away, the good doctor apologized and left the room.

After waiting the time it took for Aime’s memory to reset, Dr. Claparede entered the room, introduced himself and extended his hand. Aime refused to shake his hand, even though she had never refused to shake hands with him before and she couldn’t explain why she was unwilling to do so. When pressed for an explanation, Aime said “Isn’t alright that sometimes one simply doesn’t wish to shake hands?” When pushed further, she said “Perhaps you have a pin or something in your hand.”

Aime had no conscious memory of being hurt when she shook Dr. Claparede’s hand. Yet she was adamant that she would not shake hands with him. Was she right to refuse to shake the doctor’s hand? Yes. But she didn’t know why.

We have two memories systems, one available to conscious recollection, one we don’t have conscious access to. We don’t have to have a logical reason or conscious awareness of a threat to trigger the limbic brain and feel resistant. Just because you don’t know why you’re resistant, doesn’t mean you don’t have a good reason to be resistant.

That’s the wisdom of resistance. Next time: how to respect the wisdom of resistance so you can overcome that resistance.

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8 Comments on “Wisdom of Resistance”

  1. rosannebane October 11, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    Interesting stuff. I’ll check it out someday (when I finish the pile of research I’m working through for the book).

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  2. Bogdan October 8, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    There is also genetic cell memory that takes place because of our parents, granparents and on and on and on. Most people are not aware of it because they never considered the possibilty of its’ occurence. Once they realise that it can exist, they may develop a sensitivity to it and gradually experience it.

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  3. Bogdan October 8, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    I’m surprised you haven’t heard or read anything about it. Try here:
    http://www.sfms.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&TEMPLATE=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&SECTION=Article_Archives&CONTENTID=1540

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  4. rosannebane October 8, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    I haven’t about this or any research about it. Sounds intriguing.

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  5. Bogdan October 8, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    It may not have been proven to the skeptics satisfaction but couldn’t cell memory have something to do with why we may have resistance to certain situations, people, places or even things? Maybe that cell memory can be sourced becauise of different reasons, one of which may even include a past life…???

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    • rosannebane October 8, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

      I’m content to know that we have another memory system that remembers more than our conscious memory system can recall. Exactly what cells (neurons or other) store the memories and how memory is stored hasn’t been completely figured out. With all the fascinating stuff we’re learning about the brain in the past 10 years, the relationship between brain and mind is still hazy and up for debate. If you’re curious about the brain-mind connection, take a look at The Mind and The Brain by Jeremy Schwartz. (He does include a chapter about the intersection of quantum theory and the brain, but nothing about past lives, though.)
      I don’t rule out the possibility of past lives, but I don’t see how past lives could account for cell memory, since the cells holding memory would die with the body…

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      • Bogdan October 8, 2010 at 3:39 pm #

        Past lives does not necessarily mean that individuals past lives that certain Hindu or other religions refer to. When a person gets a organ or limb transplantation, for example, there have been many cases where that person acquires certain characteristics and sometimes even memories of the person that donated. This is a past life, albeit a different life than what people normally understand of as being a past life.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Respect the Wisdom of Resistance So You Can Move Past It « The Bane of Your Resistance - October 14, 2010

    […] Amnesiac could remember that Dr. Claparede had stuck her with a pin (Aime’s story is described in last week’s post), the next time he offered to shake hands, she could say “Not so fast, buddy. Let me see if […]

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