The Director of local counselling services is sharing a term that explains the instinct inside of people that causes them to not want to do certain things.

"Have you ever had someone really pressure you to do something, and even though you initially wanted to do that thing, all of the pressure made you not want to do it? That is actually an instinct that we ALL have inside of us. It’s called 'counterwill,'" says Terry Warburton, Director of Recovery of Hope Counselling in Winnipeg. 

This term is not Warburton's but was rather coined by Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Rank, roughly 100 years ago. 

"Counterwill is a psychological term that means instinctive resistance to any sense of coercion. The bottom line is that none of us like to be controlled or coerced," she says.

Rather than something to frown up, Warburton shares that counterwill is actually a very good instinct that people have. She attributes this to growing a strong sense of self-confidence and allow people to only be influenced by what they choose.

"When counterwill is working well, it protects us from wrong influences and helps to preserve our own will and ideas about things. Children, as we know, can be very resistant and full of counterwill. This makes parenting a challenge, but when we truly understand what counterwill is all about, we should be grateful that our children have a lot of it."

When it comes to children feeling comfortable in saying 'no' to strangers offering them a number of different things, it makes sense according to Warburton, that parents encourage navigating when to allow counterwill to work for their benefit.

"Let’s try to not get triggered by it, but rather find ways to help our children figure out who they are so they can gain confidence and develop healthy boundaries."

On top of parenting, counterwil plays a part in the pandemic that affects everyone in society right now. 

"This past year of coping with COVID 19 has created a different kind of pandemic - a pandemic of counterwill. Over the years, studies have shown that when a government or group strongly promotes or orders a certain action, this tends to trigger counterwill in society as a whole."

When people are aware of their counterwill instinct and then embrace searching out why people feel this way, then people can manage their choices rather than be run by counterwill, shares Warburton. 

"There is a downside though. Sometimes children and adults will resist for the sake of resisting, and not because they have fully thought about what their own ideas are about something. When we encounter this as adults, we need to find a way to take up a relationship with this resistance inside of us. Hopefully we can find our curiosity about where that is coming from and try to look at all aspects of why we are feeling like pushing back on something."