Re: HOW does aikido change us?
Okay, so how:
For someone like me who does not easily believe in things I can't experience (see, hear, touch etc.), aikido works by giving weak spots a physical manifestation. As I mentioned, the drawbacks of impatience is very well demonstrated in the dojo. However, I examine it as an influence on other aspects of my life only because I am willing to make the inference that it is not just a charateristic I display on the mat and that it might benefit me to make sure I'm not ahead of myself and all others off the mat, too. I came to aikido with that mindset, though (hence the chicken and the egg).
If you go looking for something you need in aikido, you might be disappointed (can't see the forest for all the trees), or see only what you're looking for - who knows if you've really diagnosed your need correctly? Some people are so darned insisting on whatever weakness they perceive that they are unwilling to hear advice on anything else. Granted, aikido can be a real boost for an inferiority complex - getting a roll to where you don't hurt yourself is a major acomplishment. And you can definitely grow from there. Yes, maybe confidence is the greatest motivator/catalyst for change?
We don't usually focus much on our bodies (except for its flaws), so aikido can definitely give a sense of physical confidence when you start to be able to coordinate all those flailing limbs and propel other people off in different directions. You affect people in a very real, physical way. That confidence will carry over into other aspects of life. And granted, the insistence on aikido being non-competitive is a great benefit - it is much more roomy. But for this to really have an influence, the dojo has to actually be non-competitive...
In my dojo I don't really see specific behaviours encouraged or discouraged. The fact that someone tells me something about myself (like impatience) is an honest exchange, and I accept the advice because I have complete respect for and trust in the person giving it - which is another aspect of the dojo experience that might be unusual to a lot of people. The way authority is exercised characterizes the dojo, and determines what type of student it attracts. Demonstrated authority always suggests to me that the demonstrator has severe doubts about its validity - so yes, I do have some issues with certain types of authority! For others, that is the most comfortable setting to learn.
I came to aikido thinking I'd want to learn to defend myself (very angry young female). I came back to aikido because I just love it (very happy older female). Aikido is a very real contributor to that happiness. Why? I honestly don't know and I have no real desire to figure it out/name it. I am just glad to accept it.