And Now the Resistance Arrives
The lizard brain, the hot-wired, fire-breathing voice that’s fast but stupid, is responsible for fear, quick action, anger, and part of your sex drive. All the things you’d want to have working well if you were hoping for individual and species survival in a dangerous place.
Over time, we’ve advance our situation so much that most of us don’t actually live in dangerous places any longer. But the amygdala is still there, activated in the rare moments when we need it, as when we’re getting mugged ni an alley or we’re on the prowl in a singles bar. Unfortunately, it’s also activated whenever we’re about to create worthwhile art.
Brilliant author Steve Pressfield has given this activation a name. He calls it the resistance.
The resistance is the confused and angry noise in our heads that shows up whenever we put our creativity on the line. It is writer’s block and procrastination and, most insidious of all, the subtle instinct to do a little less, to polish along the edges, to fit in, to get along to become mediocre.
The voice of the resistance is a millions years old. It understands that art is dangerous, because art makes you vulnerable, because art generates criticism, because your art is not for everyone.
Back in the distant antediluvian past, criticism was dangerous indeed. The outlier got noticed…and not often in a good way.
Today, though, as we’ve seen, art is our best (and sometimes only) option for success. And art comes with a naturally limited emotion—the resistance wants to stop it.
When you complain to me that you’re feeling the resistance, I don’t feel bad for you. I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled because the resistance isn’t like a sprained ankle or some other malady we seek to avoid when working out. The resistance is the shadow of art. No art, no resistance.
Of course you’re feeling the resistance. That’s a good thing, a symptom that you’re close to doing something that matters. There’s no doubt that you’re feeling it.
The real question is: What are you going to do about the resistance? (pp 133-134)
Terrific, It’s Here
The resistance is a symptom that you’re on the right track. The resistance is not something to be avoided; it’s something to seek out.
That’s the single most important sentence in this book.
The artist seeks out the feeling of the resistance and then tries to maximize it.
The cog, the day laborer, the compliant student – they seek to eliminate the feeling instead.
That’s the choice.
Change your mind, right now, not later. If you determine that you will see better, make better, and most of all, dare to turn your tabula rasa into something frightening, that’s when you will begin to live the life of the artist. And the artist’s constant companion is the screaming lizard brain.
If it goes away, you have to change your work until it returns.
The skepticism you’re feeling about the impact of the lizard brain on your art is a natural side effect of the amygdala’s ability to protect itself. If your frontal lobe is unaware that you’re being sabotaged, it’s less likely to do the hard work of putting yourself at risk. (pp. 136-137)