Resistance is Futile: Cultivating Resilience by Embracing Change

Last updated on 9/29/2020

Change occurs whether we like it or not. When we observe the natural world, we don’t see a static picture. Instead, we see an ever-evolving world in constant motion. If we don’t allow ourselves to evolve with it, our progress ceases. We become disconnected from the here and now, like artifacts frozen in the past.

Adapting to change is important for psychological health. It is important to acknowledge that change will occur and adapt when it does occur. Resisting change often leads to unhappiness because it is an inevitable part of life. So it is better to embrace change than to resist it.

Building Resilience

“The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.”

—Japanese Proverb

Ancient and modern cultures have regarded bamboo as a symbol of longevity and resilience for good reason. It stays evergreen, even during harsh winter months. And it can sway and bend without breaking in strong winds. Natural strength and flexibility make it the perfect building material for earthquake-resistant structures. Considering its attributes, bamboo imparts a lesson about being flexible. We can bend with the winds of change, like bamboo. Or we can remain rigid like the oak tree, becoming tired or broken as we resist.

Although change is an inevitable part of life, some people experience it as a stressor. If you fall into this category, it may be helpful to view change through the lens of human resilience. Resilience refers to our ability to withstand and bounce back from a stressor. It is considered a psychological protective factor. Higher levels of resilience help us adapt to life-changing situations with fewer signs of distress. Embracing change as a part of life is an important step toward building resilience.

Psychological flexibility is a fundamental aspect of psychological health. It refers to our ability to shift perspective and adapt to changing conditions. People who are psychologically flexible can adapt more easily than those who are rigid. Research shows reappraising and viewing an event in a more positive light can improve the way we respond. Focusing on the positive aspects of change can minimize the stress response and increase levels of resilience.

Discovering Opportunities for Growth

When change occurs, it challenges us not only to adapt but to learn how to thrive under the new conditions. Thriving means we’ve developed a higher level of adaptive functioning than we had before the stressor occurred. It is a sign of stress-related growth. Therefore, when we resist change, we deprive ourselves of opportunities for personal growth.

Embracing the Here and Now

Embracing change keeps us grounded in the here and now. As situations change, we face a changed reality that we must accept. When we refuse to accept change, we are rejecting the inevitable unfolding reality. We are expressing a desire to remain in an idealized past that no longer exists. When we resist what the present moment has to offer, our focus remains on the past.

Change is Natural and Inevitable

“The world is full of movement
bathing us in change.”

—John Millar

The world is constantly moving; nothing stays the same. We can observe natural life cycles, changing seasons, the rising and setting sun, and the changing landscape of the earth’s surface. As part of the natural world, humans are not exempt. We change from moment-to-moment as we progress through the human life cycle and learn from new experiences. Discoveries challenge our existing ideas, leading to shifts in our worldview.

The universe shows us that change is natural and inevitable. Therefore, we must acknowledge and accept change as part of our life plan.

I can’t think of a better way to illustrate the constant motion of our universe than through the art of time-lapse cinematography. As you watch the film “Mountain Light” by Tom Lowe, consider the inevitable nature of change and how our resistance to it is truly futile.

Personal Reflection: How do you react to change? Do you see distress, or opportunity?

To see more award-winning time-lapse photography from Tom Lowe, visit

Dolbier, C. L., Jaggars, S. S., & Steinhardt, M. A. (2010). Stress-related growth: Pre-intervention correlates and change following a resilience intervention. Stress and Health, 26(2), 135–147.

Kashdan, T. B., & Rottenberg, J. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health. Clinical Psychology Review30(7), 865–878.

Ong, A. D., Bergeman, C. S., Bisconti, T. L., & Wallace, K.  A. (2006). Psychological resilience, positive emotions, and successful adaptation to stress in later life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(4), 730-749.

*Image: Gerd Altmann

Published by A. Irvin

Dr. Angela Irvin is a clinical psychologist and mental health educator. Her clinical specialties include forensics, trauma, and personality-related issues. She is also an expert on cultural facets of mental health relating to race, gender, and class. As a mental health educator and writer, she emphasizes research-based information that promotes holistic wellness.