P: Problems, Possibilities, Progress
Breathe in, problems
Breathe out, potentials and possibilities
We talk a lot about problem-management or problem-solving skills. We talk less (if at all) about problem-formation or problem-prevention skills other than trying to blame someone for them. Perhaps if we learn how not to create problems in the first place, we would not need to learn how to manage or solve them later.
Problem: (1) experiencing or causing trouble, difficulty, having a bad effect (2) puzzle to be solved, (3) statement requiring solution, (4) hard to discipline or deal with, (5) inconvenience, (6) designed to test one's ability, (7) not liking, agreeing, or approving with, (6) the assignment of response-abilityUsually a problem just means that things are not the way I want them to be. That makes it a problem for me. I often feel a desire or need to make sure the external world matches my internal representation of it. Doesn't usually work out very well.
In the dojo, we encounter problems all the time. Sometimes it is because our training partner is not approaching or attacking us right or they are over-resisting our efforts to learn. I truly did not understand when they initially told me that because I was tense (using muscle) that I was creating tension in my partner and that I just needed to learn how to relax. What they did not understand was that this was about as relaxed as I could get given that I was allowing someone to grab a hold of me and fighting the urge to hit them. Was I creating their resistance? I am a big fan of self-responsibility. How was their tension and resistance my problem? How did my cause-and-effect "make" them be exactly what I didn't want them to be?
In life, it didn't seem a lot different. It didn't feel that I was the one creating the problems. In fact, in my attempt to resolve many problems, I was only repeating and reinforcing old problem patterns and making the current problems worse. There is an old expression that if we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always gotten. In program, they say that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly expecting a different outcome. What I was beginning to understand and accept was that I had problems and I had something to do with creating and resolving them.
Perhaps it is only a problem if I perceive it as such. Perhaps that is how I create my problems. Life has problems and what they all have in common is me. Any situation or condition has the potential and possibility for remaining a problem. Perhaps I could make some progress towards peace.
Potentials: (1) possibilities, (2) ability for development, (3) capacity for development, (4) may or might, (5) future possibility to achieve, (6) something to realize or reachOthers often told me that I was not living up to my potential. It implied there was something wrong with me. It implied that what I needed was already there and I just did not see it or act on it. I looked for it, did not find it. Perhaps because I did see the potential manifest (or at least not acting on them), others quit seeing it too. Life seemed easier, because we collectively quit seeing or thinking about my capacity or ability to be anything other than I already was.
In the dojo, I have never been one much for testing and belt colors. Many of the martial arts I have studied didn't have formal rank. You were as good as you were on any given day and you were as bad as you were on the same day. Because I know I have a dark side and that we live in a society that condemns us for it, how was I to find a place with the potential and possibility of allowing me to confront it? Besides, people having a dark side, there are some really dark places in the world with people much darker than me. Perhaps it isn't just about handling my own dark side, but how do I handle others. How do I change the way I respond to darkness?
In life, there is a lot of darkness too. It is all around us. It is easy to be caught up in the contagion of the conflict, confusion, and chaos. I certainly have created enough of it. Perhaps the potential possibilities are the same: how do I transform my own darkness and how do I respond to other's darkness to give them the opportunity to see through their own. Einstein said the type of thinking that creates a problem is never the type of thinking that solves it. If my actions and reactions were fear based, perhaps I had to see through my fears and the fears of other. Rather than choosing to react from fear and pain, perhaps I have the possible potential of choosing compassion and empathy. Is light or darkness a choice? Can I remake that choice? I know I cannot have a "do-over" for my past (the damage is done), but perhaps the possible potential is in not perpetuating them in the rest of my life and teaching my children how to be better men.
Progress usually implies moving from one place to another, and that this other future place is somehow better than the one we are in. I believe we can make progress towards a negative or worse state. Progress may not be in what we do, but progress may be in the acceptance and appreciation of where we are now without any implication or need for movement towards or away from any standard or state. Perhaps the progress is in not creating the problem.
In the dojo, it may be easy to see progress; we look at the color of the belt. The higher up the rainbow, the more progress it implies they have made. Yet, sometimes it only means that they have spent enough time-in-grade and pushed along without any real improvement or progress. This has become common in many education and training contexts. Sometimes progress seems to be more about how many techniques we know instead of how well we do a few. Progress may be about the practical or about the principles. Progress may be about the amount of effort or the ease of it. While organizations have standards to measure progress, perhaps it is more of an individual issue. Perhaps progress is as much an external plan and performance as it is an internal process and presence.
In life, progress can be measured by many standards. If we make more money, live in a bigger house, wear more expensive clothes, and drive a fancier car; we may think we are making progress. On the other hand, perhaps progress is about being internally happier with externally less. Perhaps there is no goal or destination. Perhaps problems only provide us the potentials and possibilities to make progress in a more positive direction.
Breathe in, problems
Breathe out, potentials and possibilities
May the New Year present enough problems that you have the potential possibilities of more progress towards peace of mind, heart, and world.
Thanks or listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for over 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) from Sensei Andrew Sato of the Aikido World Alliance and Sandan (3rd degree Black Belt) from Sensei Dang Thong Phong of the International Tenshinkai Aikido Federation. He is the co-author of three books on Aikido (with Phong Sensei) and his martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders, victims, and families of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He is a professor of clinical and forensic psychology with an expertise in family violence and treatment. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains and teaches at Kyushinkan Dojo, Roswell Budokan.
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