Inertia and Resistance

Change your bad habitsIn the physical world inertia and resistance are perpetually operating on our behalf. Because objects in inertia retain their “states of rest” we usually find things where we left them, unless of course they were acted upon by an “external force”. Because an object opposes or withstands a force passing through it, electricity, for example, lights and heats our world. Generally speaking, we live safer and better because of these physical forces.

In the mental world these laws of nature aren’t necessarily so beneficial. Mental inertia negatively characterizes a mind that’s inactive and sluggish, while mental resistance has become a matter of conscious and unconscious, inappropriate opposition to thoughts, feelings and actions. We can ponder the benefits and hazards of these mental states. But in the end we must accept the reality that inertia and resistance are always there and must inevitably be overcome with some kind of energy or force.

You have been applying such forces from the moment you were born, possibly earlier but it wasn’t easy for you to tell the world. How humans manage to overcome inertia and resistance is described psychologically using the force of “human motivation”. This concept acknowledges a unique form of psychic energy that can vary in amount, intensity and direction of use. Generally speaking, we think we can tell how strongly people are motivated, but it’s particularly hard to identify the ends towards which that motivation is directed.

Here’s where things get messier because there are many contrary viewpoints! One can argue that, in terms of internal consequences for the person, there are positive motivators and negative motivators. Assuming that to be true, this viewpoint holds that personal development is helped or hindered by those positive and negative motivators. Failing to deal with (read “eliminate”) negative motivators produces the mental inertia and resistance that minimizes the effort in and effectiveness of any personal development.

Every person can have a substantial list of negative motivators, but for the sake of abbreviated examples let’s lump some of them into clusters:

  • Acute fear, panic and anxiety. You’ll feel the negative motivator in these when the fear exhausts you, or when panic becomes a conditioned, reflexive “attack”, or when you just find yourself anxious in general without the presence of a specific stimulus activator in your environment.
  • Chronic worry and stress. The trigger for these states can be the inability or lack of will to manage the uncertainty in your life. Worry and stress get in the way of making decisions that can reduce uncertainty. They also get in the way of the decisions that propel personal development. The negative power of these motivators increases exponentially when the worry and stress become chronic, persistent factors in your life.
  • Doubt and un-reduced Dissonance. You might either reduce your uncertainty by making a decision or you might actually increase it by having “If only…” and “I should have…” persistent thoughts. Generally speaking, facts and evidence can remove reasonable doubt, but dwelling on feelings in lieu of facts will only sustain the doubt and the dissonance about the decision. The carryover effect will be decision avoidance, more doubt, worry and anxiety. Negative motivators feed themselves continuously!

The unquestioned evil of negative motivators is their awesome ability to put you into an out-of-control spiral of increasing resistance and inertia that stops personal development in its tracks. It requires proactive steps on your part to reverse such negative inertia.

This entry was posted in Personal Growth, Productivity, Teamwork and tagged , , by Allen Raffetto. Bookmark the permalink.
Allen Raffetto

About Allen Raffetto

Allen M. Raffetto, Ph.D., the group’s founder, brings together psychology and business for clients throughout North America. He has worked extensively with companies in the Midwest since 1983. Dr. Raffetto holds degrees in psychology from Stanford University (B.A.), San Francisco State University (M.A.) and the University of North Dakota, (Ph.D.). His specialized area, cognitive psychology, includes studies of human learning, memory, perception and information processing. He was a member of the faculty and Chairman of the Psychology Department at Beloit College from 1969 to 1984. During those years Dr. Raffetto also held research appointments at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he studied the reading process, and at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, where he participated in an on-going study of how medical education transforms bright students into practicing physicians.

Comments are closed.