Levels of Resistance: Computer says No?

In my last post I said ‘it has been a fun and educational first few weeks of campaigning and canvassing’ and indeed it had. However, life isn’t always fun and some people’s idea of fun is definitely not fun for everyone! Some people replace the word ‘fun’ with ‘sport’ and have told me certain ‘sporting behaviours’ just “come with the territory”!

My work with the Protective Behaviours process (PBs) has taught me how important language and communication is in terms of feeling empowered and building safe and respectful relationships with people, so to be told to accept interactions because that’s just the way it is doesn’t sit well with me. The Levels of Resistance model in PBs helps me to understand and address any advice to ‘put up and shut up’.

The Levels of Resistance model was developed by Peg Flandreau West with input from more than 1500 people attending PB workshops in the USA, Canada and Australia between 1984 and 1988.  Four levels of resistance were identified that needed to be addressed before a problem can be resolved.

So what are the 4 Levels of Resistance?

The 4 Levels of Resistance are, to put it simply, ways people say “NO” to being part of a solution – they go like this:

Level 1: Existence as in “Problem, what problem?” or “That’s not the way I see it therefore there is NO problem”.

Level 2: Significance as in “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill” or “You think that’s bad? You should see what happens in other places therefore it’s NOt a big problem”.

Level 3: Solvability as in “That’s just the way it is” or “We’ve tried everything therefore NOthing can be done”.

Level 4: Self as in “I guess that’s the government’s problem” or “I’d like to help, but it’s not in my job description” or even “Computer says No and therefore it’s NOthing to do with me”.

By recognising energy trapped as resistance, people can transform it into energy of action and solution.  When people attempt to start problem-solving without considering existing resistance, the resistance often goes underground and sabotages their best efforts.  They then risk having the buried resistance block efforts to have effective programmes and action from taking root, like a hard clay soil hidden beneath the surface.  These four resistance levels form a hierarchy so that moving upward through the levels includes discarding previous levels, hence an analogy of a compost heap.  As the garbage of a previous resistance level is moved through and turned into the soil of our work and understanding, it becomes fertiliser enriching the soil to support further growth.

I find this model a helpful way to notice and highlight the language of resistance that comes my way. I can then choose to acknowledge it and develop a response that helps to re-energise by, for example, sharing evidence of where a problem does exist and how other people have come together to identify solutions. To feel more empowered, I can choose to be part of a solution rather than continuing to be part of a problem and so could you!  ?