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Joann Harvan-Chin, Thomas E. Rodgerson, Ph.D.

The Intersubjectivity of Resistance in Spiritual Direction

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This paper looks at the intersubjectivity of resistance in spiritual direction. While much has been written on what is spiritual direction, various aspects of the spiritual life, direction from beginner to advanced, and supervision of spiritual directors; nothing has specifically been written on intersubjectivity. Maureen Conroy’s concept of movement and countermovement between directee and director is seen as coming closest to this concept. This paper demonstrates that resistance is quite common in spiritual direction. It is found in both directee and director. The resistance can be to various aspects of the experience: resistance to the director on part of directee or the reverse, to God, to prayer, or to a religious experience that happened that either the director or directee does not wish to face. This phenomenon is entirely subconscious and thoroughly human. Gerald May said that there are endlessly creative ways in which we evade spiritual experience. Resistance is analyzed from Biblical/theological-spiritual/religious/psycho-social/systemic perspectives.

From this analysis, a multi-faceted response to the problem of resistance in spiritual direction from an intersubjective angle is devised and suggestions are made for its implementation. This response includes: identifying the problem, distinguishing resistance from mental illness or a manifestation of a stage in faith development, understanding the rhythm of interior movements in a spiritual direction session, suggestions for dealing with resistance on the part of the directee through use of their respective theologies, use of the strengths of the director’s theology, dealing with the director’s resistance in supervision and creating an intersubjective spiritual direction experience through determining ways to reconcile the directee’s and director’s theologies. Consultation of some of the doctors of the Church known for excellence in spiritual direction such as St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis de Sales is employed as well as practical suggestions of journaling, perseverance in attending spiritual direction sessions, strengthening of trust in God, and recognition of the Pascal Mystery in life. Lastly, new understandings of resistance in spiritual direction especially with regard to intersubjectivity are discussed.

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