Demand Sensitivity and Demand Resistance
by Mitch Meyerson
Over the last twenty years, I have seen many forms of self-sabotage. The following psychological concept is one of the more common, yet least identified patterns that holds people back from success.
Simply put, demand-resistance is a chronic negative response to obligations or expectations. It is almost always unconscious.
Here are some common examples:
- You make daily lists of things to do, which you seldom complete.
- Your stomach tightens when an "authority figure" makes a request of you.
- Your spouse won't take out the garbage when you ask, but will on their own terms.
- When someone says you "should" do something, you feel tense or uncomfortable.
- Your coach suggests an "assignment" to complete one of your goals. Even though you want to accomplish the task, you unconsciously resist because you feel controlled.
Does this sound familiar for you or someone you know? If so, this probably is because you are "reactive" to being told what to do.
Ironically, when we resist requests from others we are usually the only one to suffer. For example, if you don't follow through an assignment from your boss, you may "win the battle" (not feeling controlled) but "lose the war (your job promotion). Still, you resent doing it and often are compelled to resist.
Controlling parents and teachers foster demand-resistance: “Take out the dog, now" "Clean your room.” “Didn’t you hear me? "Don't you listen!”
Demand resistance has its positives. By withholding what another requests of you, you assert your power. Others may stop making the demands and do things for you. You can also avoid doing things you’re afraid to do on principle, and avoid coming face to face with possible failure. In addition, you avoid having to engage in more active types of conflict, such as bluntly saying, “No, I won’t do it.”
“My sister’s like that!” one client told me. “When my mother issues orders like a commandant, I argue with her. My sister just says, “Sure, Mom. Okay, Mom.” But she never does what she promises and it doesn’t bother her.”
The costs of demand-resistance can be tremendous however. You may find yourself setting goals for business development and then sabotaging them, or making demands of yourself and resisting them. You get angry at yourself, but you can’t break the pattern.
You frustrate others and often sabotage personal and business relationships. Even activities you enjoy such as playing tennis or taking a class in jewelry making must be performed outstandingly or given up completely.
There is a solution. The more sure you are of yourself, the more you work on building a strong sense of who you are, the less you’ll feel vulnerable to being overrun by others or need to resist your goals just to prove a point.
Are You Demand-Resistant?
Count the statements that apply to you.
- When you were younger did you procrastinate or “resist” finishing homework assignments at school?
- Did your parents constantly tell you what to do and how to do it?
- When someone asks you to do something, do you feel tense or resentful?
- Do you have trouble with authority figures?
- Do you have difficulty finishing tasks that are asked of you?
- Do you make a to-do list and then never look at it the next day?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, there is an excellent chance that you have aspects of demand resistance.
Understand that you may habitually perceive tasks as demands. It is important to realize that your resistance places you in a reactive rather than proactive position with life.