View Full Version : yet another aikido "off the mat"question

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Tomas Grana
05-18-2005, 10:04 AM
I am trying to deal with a long running situation in my life in an aikido-like manner, so I'm looking for some input anyone may have.
My mother has become increasingly arrogant and defensive in late years; even though she is definitely not a senior (yet), she seems to be acting as if she was becoming senile. Everything she says or thinks, she takes to be the absolute truth, and any time I try to explain this to her in a calm way, she takes it as an attack to her ego and immediately retreats. Many times I have stopped to think about whether I was the one being arrogant and aggressive, and tried to step into her shoes, which only convinced me more that she is the one that is attacking me. Other people have noticed this too, giving me some external confirmation, and it is growing to the point where sometimes being in the same room with her gives me the same feeling walking down a dark alley in a bad part of town would. It goes beyond political opinions or personal preferences too. Lately I've been dealing with a medical condition, and she is convinced she knows how to deal with it, even though I have seen half a dozen doctors about it, and I am the one suffering from this. She is no doctor herself, yet when she hears about the diagnoses and treatments from all these doctors, she "prescribes" something completely irrational, and gets mad when I say thanks but no thanks.
Sometimes my frustration makes me say or do things in a not-so-calm way, and then she feels even more attacked. Since one of the things she is doing which is driving me crazy is not listening, I do not want to respond with the same currency, however, rational discussions seems to be almost out of the question, and "I'm never talking to you again" ultimatums are, again, taken as aggressions.
When I try to translocate this to a physical situation on the mat, I think about this person attacking me who doesn't take no for an answer and keeps throwing punches no matter how much I try to tenkan around. Some part of my aikido experience is telling me that if the attacks don't reach me, eventually this person will give up, and if I achieved that without hurting my attacker, then I sort of upheld the principle of aikido. Another part of my aikido experience seems to be reminding me of O Sensei saying "to do ikkyo, first smash the opponent's face", so I'm a bit unsure about how to go around this.
Any input on this very long and boring question will be appreciated.

05-18-2005, 10:21 AM
Do you live at home with her?

I would just let her do her own thing, and you do yours.

Amir Krause
05-18-2005, 10:30 AM
Do you live at home with her?

If not, you can simply agree with everything she says and act as you think you should. (You could imagine this as making an attacker believe you stay in place then move at the last moment).


05-18-2005, 10:52 AM
If not, you can simply agree with everything she says and act as you think you should. Amir
I second that - parents unfortunately are not always what we a)imagine them to be, b) remember them to be, or c) want them to be, and yet we are bound to them. Forget about changing her, but be present. She has probably always assumed the right to know better than you (you are her kid no matter how old you are), and she may be trying to show you she cares in the only way she knows how. "Standing your ground" doesn't seem very aikido. Maybe you can help her find out what it is she really needs from you. She may be trying to get a connection with you, knowing that raising certain issues will draw you in. You only get what you buy - let the divisive issues go over your head and try to divert into more pleasant, even superficial chat, just to try it out.

Anat Amitay
05-18-2005, 11:29 AM
Hi there,
I have a bit of a problem with your request for help, since you didn't mention a few important things and others aren't in your profile.
First, your age. If you're a teenager, problems with parents are common and part of the developmental stages. It's frustrating, but happens. If you're a grown man, it's something different.
Second, did you try to talk personally, in a quiet environment with your mother? If so, what happened, was she taken aback by what you said, got angry and everything went from bad to worse... or maybe you didn't talk to her, and should try. Ask her if everything is truely alright, if something is bothering her, deep inside, not superficially.
Third, was there any changes in her or your life? Did she stay alone after all children left the house (could cause a case of trying to be involved since feeling left out), was there a baby born to you or any other sibling, moving house etc. All these things can trigger such behavior.
Or, maybe, even if she's not "old" she does act so, sometimes it's psychological, not even aware of the action and behavior.
I have some semiliar problems, so maybe if you can find more information for background I can see if there are any similarities and give you some advice by what I did.
Sorry for not being too helpful,

05-18-2005, 11:46 AM
Tomas: Amir's comment about listening to her and then just doing what you need to do is sound advice. If her mental behavior has changed recently or gradually over time there could be some serious health issues: depression, senile dementia (you did not give her age), cancers, strokes, etc.

The question about changes in her life are important, as are changes in her behavior and physical health. If she appears to be getting senile, you don't have to be 80, then you might gang up with family members and get her a physical, with the doctor being informed of your concerns.

From an aikido perspective, there are a lot of ways to redirect the energy: one can blend and agree with it and send it on its way to where ever it belongs; one can ground it by standing one's ground; one can redirect it to a more productive place. You might also consider rewarding her for saying more positive things (reinforcement) by paying attention and following the advice and ignoring her (extinction of behaviors) for negative things. There are some good suggestions on altering such behaviors in the works of people doing neurolinguistic programming and also behavior modification. However, if the problem is physical (senile dementia or depression), she may need to be on medication. Some people get into "behavioral loop" that keep running the same tired old tapes over and over.

Tomas Grana
05-18-2005, 12:57 PM
Thanks so much to everyone for your input.
To answer your questions, Anat, I'm not a teenager, I've lived on my own for some years now, I've just finished my undergraduate degree and am starting grad school. The interesting part is that I was never a "difficult" teenager or even a stereotypical teenager at all. Our family situation being somewhat difficult (single parent family with almost no extended relatives) I always tried to help out as much as I could and keep my frustrations to myself. So sometimes I wonder now if I have some pent up rebel attitude that I didn't get to explore 8 or 10 years ago, but I do not think so.
I have tried talking, but it almost seems to me like my mother is not "wired" to listen. It doesn't matter where it is or what kind of situation, if I talk calmly and sincerely it's like my words don't reach, if I'm pissed then it just bounces back, it never makes it through.
As far as the situation is, well, that could be a big part of the problem. She was left alone when I moved out but I had no choice because I was being left increasingly without a life. We were recent immigrants to Canada and my handle on the language was much better than hers, so I was expected to handle things like calls to the phone company, dealing with government and bank people, but I also ended up doing everything from cooking to cleaning, doing groceries, paying bills, and if I refused to do other random stuff on the basis of being tired or needing a couple of hours for myself, I was met with anger and massive guilt trips. I kept thinking all along, that I was not being nice enough and stuff like that, and it took a therapist to say this isn't healthy, you're right, she's wrong, and to basically recognize that there was no point in attempting communication. I was pretty much told I had to move away from her because there was no solution to the conflict. As contact between us restarted somewhat, it seemed to be better, but now it's like there's a relapse and I have a hard time with having to sever a relationship with pretty much the only relative I have, however if I must for my well-being I will.
Once again a long post, sorry guys, and thanks again for reading all this crap.

05-18-2005, 01:34 PM
Just know she comes from a place of love and fear. Accept her kind advice with compassion, then do what you believe to be right.

05-18-2005, 10:18 PM
Maybe she's feeling powerless and worried for you because of your medical condition, and this is her way of dealing with it.

05-20-2005, 09:09 AM
If you want to put it in an Aiki perspective think iriminage. If you don't first enter and see their point of view how can you defeat her. And, to help you see her point of view read 'Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus'. Women and Men mean different things when they say the same words you'll learn so much about communicating with the opposite sex from this book.

Good Luck

Anat Amitay
05-21-2005, 09:16 AM
Thomas, thanks for putting in more information-
It seems very familiar in a way. I'm the youngest of 3 children and when I moved out of the house (to live with my boyfriend who today is my husband), it made a great mess at home. I felt like my mom couldn't let go, didn't give me my freedom (calls a few times a day, all the time the question of when I'm coming over...). It turned to feelings of "someone took you away from me" and got really unbearable (I thought of leaving the country for a while). At one point there was an explosion (doesn't matter the whole story) and we got to sit and finally talk. It ended with the understanding that she was- bored! she had too much time and nothing to fill it with.
So she started volenteering in a school, started adult studies (in subjects of interest) and started feldencrize (sorry for mis- spelling).
I guess it;s harder for you if you can't reach her by senseible talk, but maybe you should lead her to find more interests in her daily life. Something to fill up the time and leave you alone for a bit. there are al kinds of courses (flower arrangements, creational writing, anything of the sort in her line of interests), maybe a center for adults or volenteering somewhere. with no offence, because I don't want to stick my nose, if she's all alone, maybe you should ancourage her to meet someone, enjoy life abit.
I won't go straight to thinking of a medical side, though it isn't something to rule out, even depression can become a burden on the family if it isn't understood and treated. Keep your eyes open on this, but don't rush to conclusions.
I hope this might help, or at least that you will find some peace and quiet.

Tomas Grana
05-26-2005, 11:45 AM
That is a great suggestion, will try.
Thanks :)