The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield

As a result of yesterday’s video this led me to purchase the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield [tk link]. The result was a breakthrough.

The major identification I made while reading this is what I used to call the Victim’s woods, or what my diagnosis manifests as — to use Pressfield’s term— Resistance. The characteristics of resistance are: self-sabotage, self-deception, and self-corruption.

Resistance is:

It’s always lying and full of shit. It’s implacable it understands nothing but power. It’s one objective is to prevent us from doing our work. ..Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. It’s target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, and the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and that no one else has but us.

The cure, Pressfield writes is to apply self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work.

Ultimately, being a victim compels others to come to the rescue or to behave as the victime wishes by holding them hostage to the prospect of illness and one’s own meltdown or by threatening to make their lives miserable so they do what the victim wants.

This, all of this, is what I’ve been doing for the last two years. Sure, you could say resistance is pain, addiction, mental illness. It’s all of those things and more.

For me, Resistance manifests as not doing my work, which generates as my mental health symptoms: Aspergers, ADD, Depression, and Anxiety. Now this does not mean that these things don’t exist, it’s just that I’ve been resisting the fact that they do exist for most of my life. In that denial I don’t engage in my work, or my life in a meaningful and honest way. So while reading this book, I realized what my “work” actually is: teaching books, what goes into writing those books, and writing my own books.

Not realizing your resistance generates pain, which leads to impulsivity, reactivity, anxiety, depression and that exacerbates as a lack of attention and a desire to change, make new friends or be aware in social situations. It’s basically a lack, or inconsistency of attention in all aspects of your life full stop.

But most of all Resistance is strongest—for me anyway—in addiction. That’s true of creative people. Why do you think so writers, artists, etc are drug addicts and alcoholics? Despite their ability to go professional, they still let resistance get to them through drug addiction.

My addictions are different and I think that’s why I’m on the Autism Spectrum—which manifests as wanting to keep the status quo. The comfort zone. But the addiction, specifically, is to home. Lake Placid, the mountains, the woods of upstate New York. Really New York period. My people there. Resistance wants me and you to go back to the way things were, whereas the Muse, (again: Pressfield’s term), the creative unconsciousness, God—whatever you want to call it—wants you to move forward to create something that hasn’t been seen before. Sometimes that’s being a parent, or a teacher, or an entrepreneur. But most of all there’s no going back to the way things were, and that push and pull is what makes human life.

This became clear to me when I watched a 20 minute video my friend, Tim—the novelist TJ Brearton—made of his family camping and I could literally smell the pine, feel the wind twist through the air, and shake the trees and know what the pond they were swimming in felt like. I can hear and feel the crunch of the dead pine needles under foot. It was right there in my face, under foot, in my nostrils, in my hair—while I watched the video in my office in Indiana. Now that sounds like addict behavior, right?

That’s what resistance is—it wants me to go back and not do my work. It attacks me with the way things used to be with people I love and don’t see anymore. It attacks you with addiction, which is self-sabotage.

Those people are still with me, because I brought New York with me to Indiana, but in doing so I brought my addiction to the state with me.

This attacks everyone. No matter whether you’re a writer or in business. It actively prevents you from doing what you know is your work. And that’s why you shouldn’t be afraid of it, because it points us towards what we know is our true selves.

So, in closing, Pressfield writes:

“Are you a born writer?…The question can only be answered by action. Do it or don’t do it.”

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