disaster preparedness

Why You Resist What's Good for You

Terra Frma advisor and trauma therapist, Lisa Young, breaks down psychological resistance – how it works and what you can do to rise above it.



Why do you resist what’s good for you?

Maybe you want to exercise more but can always find reasons not to. Maybe you know you need to spend less time checking email and more time with your family but continue to find yourself distracted.

Preparing for natural disasters makes sense. It’s important and makes a huge difference when the unexpected occurs. Yet, could you truly say you’re prepared for a natural disaster?

When we know we should do something but haven’t, what holds us back?

Why You Resist Even When You Know Better

Each of us works from an intelligent, natural design for health, survival and healing. This is important to remember because this design and the functions of the design are always at play.

People often ask me, “Why do I do this when I know better?” This invisible wall we run into, or quicksand that keeps us from doing what we know we should do, is called resistance.

Resistance is actually part of our psychological anatomy. It serves an important purpose, in part, as our internal alarm system. Survival is our internal system’s primary agenda. Resistance is part of our psychological anatomy to help us survive. 

We often stop short when we begin to feel it. We think, “Oooh, I don’t want to do that” and then turn around, go in a new direction without further exploration. Sometimes the logical side of us begins to nag and we hear ourselves saying, I know I need to get this done, but I just can’t talk myself into it.

Imagine that snakes are a known issue around your home. You walk around the house and see something that looks like a snake on the ground. You jump back, ready to run and then realize it’s a hose. It’s the same hose that’s been there all summer. Rational? No. But that’s our survival instinct taking over.

The same goes for preparing for the unexpected. You know you should organize your documents. They’re sitting right there. But you avoid them because the task feels uncomfortable, even scary, so your internal alarm system protects you from the uncomfortable, from the snake in the grass.

If you know you want to be more prepared for an emergency but can’t seem to make yourself do anything about it, you may be facing resistance. But you don’t have to get stuck there.

Here’s what you can do.

4 Steps to Rise Above Resistance and Be Ready for the Next Natural Disaster

Committing to preparing your home and family for a natural disaster means being willing to think about the worst-case scenario. It is natural to want to avoid feelings of powerlessness, fear and loss, even if it’s a hypothetical situation. 

Remember, building resilience with Terra Frma is not about thinking about future tragedy and trauma.  This is about preparing for emergencies so you can maneuver through them and practice self-awareness in case an event happens. This is about acknowledging fear, but not letting it dictate your actions.

Next time you feel the itch to avoid, procrastinate or deny, grab a pen and paper, friend, voice memo or clean mental slate and write down the tasks you know you should be doing, but haven’t. Discuss or list why these things are easy to avoid and get ready to rise above your resistance.


Hit The Pause Button- Acknowledge the Resistance

  • Next time you feel the tell tale signs of resistance, instead of immediately redirecting your attention elsewhere, take a moment to stop and breath.

  • Here are some clues you may be resisting: When you notice yourself clamming up, thinking things like, “I’ll do that later,” or “I can’t do that,” or some shade of denial like, “That’s too extreme” or “That won’t happen to me.”

  • If you catch yourself in one of these thought spirals, pause. Remember the protective intent of this uncomfortable feeling so you can work with it, not against it.

Get Curious- Ask ‘Why?’

  • That resistant thought or feeling you were having? Listen to it. Replay it in your mind and ask Why do I think this? It’s important to hear both sides of this conversation. You can have your own inner dialogue, or write out the questions from the perspective of this protective internal guard called resistance.

  • You can turn to a trusted friend who can ask “Why?” without triggering defensiveness. Defensiveness will squash the curiosity.

  • Ask yourself and answer: What would happen if I do the very thing I’m resisting?

  • What is my resistance afraid will happen if I face this task? What does my resistance want me to consider first? What does my fear need to know in order to relax and let me move forward with this task?


Reflect - Reread your answers

  • If you wrote down your dialogue from step two, read it aloud or silently back to yourself. It’s often much easier to be impartial when the message is coming from a notebook, a voice memo or a friend rather than your own mind.

  • Whichever media you prefer to journal your thoughts, repeat it back to yourself 3-5 times. You may have more to add. You may immediately see some inconsistencies in the conclusions you drew in step two. Just listen.


Snake or Hose - Ask ‘Is this true?’

  • We can all come up with very compelling excuses to avoid doing what we’re supposed to do.  When we dig deeper (steps two and three) we start uncovering fears and false beliefs we have about what might happen if we do take action. This step is where we challenge those thoughts, beliefs or fears.

  • Ask yourself, is it true?  If you take the action you are resisting, will the outcome you fear really happen? Is the excuse you are giving yourself valid? What fear is behind the excuse? Is this fear based in reality or is this just your brain making a hose into a snake?

Expect resistance during this process. If you find yourself focusing on the potential of future tragedy and trauma,remind yourself that this is about preparing for disaster scenarios so that you can maneuver through them to the best of your ability.

 Acknowledge the fear. It’s okay to admit that you’re afraid. It helps, actually. Acknowledging fear prevents fear from dictating your actions.

Remember to seek relief. Instead of treating a preparedness task like something to be afraid of, remember that following through can be the exact thing that may bring you relief.


Listen to Your Resistance

If you really want to stop getting in your own way, you must start by listening to the resistance. Resistance has a lot to teach you.

As you start the Terra Frma Method of planning and preparing for natural disasters, be present and notice anything that tries to stop your momentum. Remember, your resistance is born out of a protective intent to avoid feelings of powerlessness, terror, shame or vulnerability.  

If know you should be ready, but haven’t taken important emergency preparedness steps, you might be treating a preparedness task like a snake when it’s really a hose.

Here’s an easy opportunity to practice. Equipped with the four steps to moving past resistance, download the Free Emergency Numbers Sheet – an easy first step towards readiness and resilience – and see what comes up for you.

 You’ve Got This.



Lisa Young is a trauma and first responder therapist and serves on Terra Frma’s advisory board. She is trained in Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing trauma work with additional training in Richard Schwartz's Internal Family Systems model.



5 Minutes to Build Resilience

Resilience Expert Shares the Tools for Real Life Resilience

Five minutes—the time it takes to make a pot of coffee, drive through a carwash, load the dishwasher. Our lives are full of little five minute segments. Every day they tick-tock by. Mundane. Average. Ordinary.

Now, imagine your life changing. Forever.
In 5 minutes.

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Imagine a windstorm knocks down a tree that lands on your house or a tornado levels the business where you work. Imagine a flash flood inundating your neighborhood, a wildfire destroying the summer cabin that’s been in your family for three generations or a landslide closing the highway you drive to get your kids to school. Imagine an earthquake, out of the blue, altering your community forever. It could happen in the span of five minutes.

What would that look like? How would you respond? What would it take for you, for your family, to recover?

With so many natural disasters happening recently, the word resilience is showing up in many places these days. From local news reports to federal policy documents, being “resilient” is something we are being increasingly encouraged to develop, build or achieve. So what does it mean? How can it apply to you?

In the context of natural disaster events and other emergencies, resilience is the ability to bounce back from whatever Mother Nature throws at you. Simply stated, resilience is the ability to anticipate, absorb, adapt to and recover from life disruptions.

Easy to say, harder to do. Developing resilience does not happen overnight. Resilience is not something you simply acquire; it is something you have to build and maintain. Like a muscle, resilience must be developed through regular exercise, use and nourishment.


First, it’s important to maintain.

Multiple backup options. Counting on a single source of water, evacuation route or emergency contact is insufficient. Operate on the assumption that if it can go wrong, it will. Then plan to have one or more alternatives available. Until a natural disaster happens, you won’t really know exactly what you’re going to need. For this principle, variety really is the spice of life.

Make a commitment to learn. How many times have you turned on the TV after a disaster to hear someone say some version of, “We never expected something like this to happen here.” While some things truly are unexpected, the vast majority of disasters happen in areas where those events are known to occur. Take the time to find out the types of disasters your area is vulnerable to. You might be surprised.


Get involved. Never canned food before? Sign up for a food preservation class through your local community college or university extension office. Live in a wildfire area and have concerns about the lack of defensible space in your neighborhood? Attend a neighborhood meeting and suggest starting an annual yard cleanup program. Unsure about the evacuation and release procedures at your child’s school? Make an appointment with the principal or attend a parent-teacher meeting. Broadening your participation can expose you to perspectives, information and knowledge that will benefit you down the road. In addition, your involvement may increase the capacity of your community to be resilient as well.

Connect with others. The more people you know, trust and can count on, the more resilient you’ll be. Get to know your neighbors. Talk to friends across town. Maintain relationships with family and friends who live farther away. You never know when you might need help from someone next door or in the next state over.

5 minutes: The time it takes to write down ten important phone numbers on a
card to stick in your purse or wallet.

5 minutes: The time it takes to find that old pair of sneakers and camp light to
put next to your bed.

5 minutes: The time it takes to fill up an extra propane tank the next time you
head down to the gas station.

5 minutes: The time it takes to show your kids how to turn off the water and
gas mains in your house.

Take the time.

Making regular investments in yourself, your family and your community will
pay dividends.

No matter what happens, you’ve got this!

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Josh Bruce is program director at the Community Service Center - Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience at the University of Oregon. He serves as a legislative and policy affairs committee member in the American Planning Association (Oregon Chapter), member of the board with the Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup and advisor to Terra Frma.