Demand Resistance? Absolutely!

9 03 2009


I’ve always wondered, “What on earth is my problem? Why can’t I work?” I mean any kind of work, job-related, housework, cooking, or even just reading. As soon as I decide I want to do something, I turn against it and, as easy as cake, find at least a dozen reasons why I WON’T and CAN’T do it. I’ve sabotaged actual and potential jobs, lucrative projects, the cleanliness of my house, and of course my intellectual capacities (through not reading). Even my diary, I have abandoned. I can’t call people, especially when I feel I have to. If someone tells me, “You should call whoever and check on them,” I’m gone. I’m upset and choking. “I don’t want to call them. Why do I HAVE TO call them? I can’t. I don’t feel like it. I won’t and may whatever damage come as a result.” I may have very well been silently debating calling that same person, but as soon as it was framed as a demand, a must, a have to, it had to be dismissed. Not only that, but I got upset, angry, bitter, resentful, uncomfortable, and also guilty for not calling that poor, probably sick, person.

So what is behind all this? A term I have newly-stumbled on: demand-resistance. Who would have known? These two words explain one of a good deal of my misery-causing dilemmas, failure, self-sabotage and inability to take action.

This is how it works: Being the child of an over-controlling parent, I am all too familiar with “should” and “have to.” In fact, I only know “should” and “have to,” no understanding of “want.” I simply don’t do “want.” Very good at complying with all the shoulds and have tos. Otherwise, how was I going to be a good – no, perfect – little girl who always listened and never caused any trouble? That was my ultimate goal. Listen and comply, therefore, I am good and okay as a person. Consequently and gradually, my sense of self became diluted/fragile. When you’re always listening for demands or orders, you’re not in tune with what you want, and, thus, who you are. However, as I got older, I can’t tell exactly when I acquired this destructive self-defense mechanism, I developed an acute sensitivity to demands and began to resist them as a way of asserting my self, my soul, my presence, my existence, as a reassurance that I wasn’t being overrun by others; when I resist, I am still there. I think the logic goes something like this: “If I do not do what YOU want, then I exist.” Although that was accompanied with bitterness and anger, especially when I was eventually forced to do the task, it still afforded self-defence.

Then I got older: no more authority figures and problem solved, right? I wish. I am now the newly instated authority figure that I hate and resent, only I am not aware of it. The people who have previously been providing the have tos and shoulds to feed my resentment are gone, but the pattern and mechanism is still with me. Now I place goals for myself, things that I initially want to do and have positive associations for me. Only I can’t see them as things I want; I’ve been conditioned to respond to “shoulds” and “have tos” only; no “wants” allowed. So after I decide to do something I WANT, I automatically unconsciously reword/relabel it in my head as a “should”. Remember, it’s the only language I speak. Bam, the resistance is sparked as soon as I detect a should (because I have acute demand sensitivity). The response is somewhat like this: “I am a person with a soul and a self and desires. I (my soul/self/desires) don’t want to do this. No. No. NO. I will not do this. Sigh of relief, I have asserted my self, which btw, the essence of which I am clueless to.” So I am asserting my self against myself? (It took me some time to get that one through my thick head.) Therein lies the contradiction, meaninglessness and self-sabotage. I am only harming myself, extremely so. And to think, how many times I’ve beaten myself up over this, hopelessly dismissing me as a lazy loser!

The solution? Oh yes, that’s very simple, everyone (experts and fellow sufferers) seems to agree.

1)      Pay attention and catch yourself when you hear “have tos” and “shoulds” and remember that most of those are originally “wants”.

2)      Gradually replace “have to” and “should” with “want to.”

3)      Keep asking yourself, “What do you want?” even in the smallest things. At first, you probably won’t know because you’ve ignored that realm for so long, but with time, it will come to you.

My reactions to this?

My original intention was “to embark on a journey of understanding, self-discovery, unveiling, and self-therapy.” This journey is turning out to be far more arduous and bumpy than I expected. It’s proven heavy, overwhelming and yielding ugly discoveries. I’ve had moments where tears were racing down my face and thoughts of denial and rejection racing in my head. (The more familiar path is incomparably so much easier!) Other times, I was simply dumbstruck and speechless. On reading about demand resistance and seeing how much it hit home for me, my reaction was both of the aforementioned.

Future course of action?

Well, for now it’s two things combined:

1)      I have been told by someone who provides very valuable insight that I am too self-indulgent in my negativity. (Of course, deny it with all my might, there’s no denying it. Yes, I am far sicker and more dysfunctional than I originally took myself to be. Yes, I have soooooo much work to do on myself. But YES, I allow me to indulge in my negativity. Proof: I dismissed the proposed therapy for this demand resistance before I even tried it, stamping it as, “not for me, it won’t work.” But through some miracle, I caught myself and resisted a bit.)

2)      Announcement: All “shoulds” and “have tos” are absolutely banned from my cognitive premises. Only “wants” allowed.







6 responses

12 03 2009

I know exactly what you’re going through, because I’m have the same problem. I’m trying to earn a Bachelor’s degree right now and for the past year and a half, I’ve been fighting an up hill battle. I can’t get work done because I am literally afraid that it will dominate my life. I feel ashamed, angry, and I’m a failure. I also have ADHD and some other cognitive disfunctions to deal with as well. I’ve been trying the “shoulds” to “wants” approach, but it’s been met with limited success. I wish I could find someone who has experience treating this.

12 03 2009

Hi Dustin, I was really glad to read your comment. I wish I could help you on your quest for someone with experience treating this. I think you have to ask around for someone who has experience treating ocpd. I wish you the best with that.

As for the “shoulds” I have found that asking yourself “Do I want this? Why?” works a bit. ( I am still struggling with it.) You have to pay very close attention to yourself and your inner talk. Tune in and listen closely. Every time you hear “should” or “have to” stop and think.

Also, reading about this helps a lot.

17 03 2009

Hi this blog is great I will be recommending it to friends.

19 03 2009

Interesting blog, I’ll try and spread the word.

29 03 2009

This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

15 04 2015

Very well said without all the usual psychofluff. My bio includes the overbearing parent so this is all too familiar. It’s hard and a constant battle, but see the dragon and move on, it may become just a tiny lizard in time.

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