Every encounter that contains conflict, no matter how small, how fleeting, or how insignificant that conflict may be, creates tension. Encounters are not confined to people who wish us physical, mental or emotional harm. They occur with our parents, our wives or husbands, our children, co-workers, bosses, employees, clients, suppliers, and even with chance meetings with other people at bus stops. They occur with inanimate objects like cars that won't run, computers that don't work, and with food that is not to our taste. Some encounters, unfortunately, deal with conflict, complaints, and arguments with our Creator when things do not go our way. The list of sources and causes of tension is endless. We cannot run away from these encounters. They would find us even if we would live alone in a cave with no contact with the outside world; conflict would arise in ourselves in the form of self-doubt, self-consciousness and self-criticism.
Effect of Negative Encounters
Each of these negative encounters finds its way into our bodies and takes up residence in the form of tight muscle. Every person finds a home for these tensions. Locations vary as widely as neck, face, back, buttocks, legs arms, stomach, large and small intestines, liver, heart, lungs. Some people are generous and find multiple homes for these tensions. Others are more frugal and tension will only reside in one area. The body contains many reflexes where tension in one area can be reflected to other areas. The abdominal area, for example, is both the home and reflection of much tension.
In addition, these tensions reinforce each other in a vicious cycle of escalating tensions. On occasion, tension may take on a life of its own independent of the original cause and may linger for years even after the original source of tension is removed and even "cured" or resolved.
There are several methods of ridding the body of tension once it has entered. We will discuss methods, such as massage and meditation, in later chapters. In this chapter we will focus on prevention, that is, eliminating or minimizing the internalization of conflict and its resulting tension.
Encounters cannot be avoided as long as we live. We are a social society and must be in contact with many people. Whether we allow those encounters to contain conflict, and how it effects us, is to great extent a choice over which we do have control.
Negative encounters will occur any time that someone or something attempts or actually succeeds in imposing their will on us. Negative encounters occur when they make us the least bit uncomfortable, or perform an action not to our standards or desires. The typical and untrained response to these actions is the same as if being physically assaulted, that is by "fighting back" or by "running away."
We "fight back" by being negative ourselves. We argue, we curse, we make fun; we mentally or physically struggle with our "opponent". We can even continue the "fight" long after our "opponent" is gone, reliving, retelling, and rehashing the experience, sometimes for days, months or years. On the other hand, we "run away" by suppressing our frustrations and anger. Nevertheless, we brood and rethink the negative encounter, keeping the experience fresh and alive.
Sometimes the encounter is with ourselves (as Pogo humorously said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."). Self doubt self-consciousness, self-criticism; reliving a deed, a word, an action for days, months and years.
Of course, we do not keep only one bad moment alive. We keep many of them in a veritable museum of negative experiences. Each of these instances will produce tension in our bodies in at least one area for a longer or shorter period of time. The longer these experiences are kept alive, the more and more tension they foster. These tensions are the breeding ground of illness and dysfunction.
The Championís Strategy
The response to these mental and emotional encounters is the same as if being physically assaulted. Therefore, let us compare an untrained fighter to a champion fighter, and examine how each would respond to a physical assault. Just as the untrained fighter will respond to an assault by fighting or running away, the champion fighter will respond similarly, by fighting or running away. However, the champion keeps a clear head. He does not take his opponents action personally. He responds to what comes at him. He blocks, he hits, and he gets ready for what comes next. He certainly does not concern himself with the past while another attack is already underway. He does not gloat when he is successful, nor does he dwell on his misstep. The champion will review his actions with a view to improving his future responses. However, there is a decided lack of negative self-criticism and harping on failure. When he is "decked", he picks himself up, "wipes off his nose" and gets going. In short, the champion deflects and/or attacks and then lets go, while the untrained meets an assault head-on, holds on and does not let go.
These are the "tactical" responses of the champion. On a "strategic" level, the champion studies his potential opponent for both strengths and weakness. In addition, the champion tries to get "into the head" of his opponent as well.
These physical responses of the champion should also be our response to all types of encounters. On the strategic level, it is important to study our "adversaries". Of course, not everyone is actually an adversary. However, for the purpose of this discussion, we can consider each encounter as a mini-battle. When studying and thereby understanding our "opponent," we find that this "opponent" has had a really bad day, was not properly trained in etiquette, and certainly did not read this booklet. They do not hesitate to express their frustrations and may treat us less than fairly. Conversely, we may have had a bad day. Or, our opponent may have inadvertently said or done something that reminds us of an unrelated negative experience. In each of these cases, there is no reason for a negative response. On reflection, on a strategic level we understand that there is almost never a good reason for a negative response. Moreover, even when a negative response is the correct response, we must control the negativity to our actions and not let it penetrate our hearts.
That is strategy. The way of actually responding is tactics. The main tactic is deflecting and letting go physically, emotionally, and mentally. This is much easier said than done. Again we learn from the champion. The champion did not learn his craft overnight. Slowly and with great effort, studying his craft over the years, and even suffering defeat now and then, with patience and fortitude he reaches the pinnacle. So too must we strive. Slowly but surely, we to will become masters at the art of deflecting and letting go.
We can learn to let go mentally and emotionally by learning to let go physically.
Exercise 16. "Deflect and Let Go"
This exercise must be done with a partner.
- Stand and face your partner.
- Your partner places one palm on your chest and presses softly but steadily. Only enough pressure should be applied that you feel slightly pressed back. This is not a shoving contest.
- First do nothing. You will feel that you will be knocked off your feet if the pressure were greater and if it were extended. You feel this because you are accepting the pressure, fighting back, internalizing it and trying to overcome your partnerís pressure with even greater pressure. This usual physical response to a negative physical encounter, the push, is akin to the usual mental response to a negative emotional and mental encounter that is equivalent to a push.
- Repeat step two. This time, however, as you feel the push coming in, youíre your torso slowly away from it. Keep your face toward your partner. Turn as slowly as your partner is pushing. If your partner is using his right hand, turn to your right. If he is using his left hand, turn to your left. You will feel your partnerís hand slide off you. This is the physical equivalent of turning away from perceived negative emotional and mental encounters.
- Do not anticipate your partners push by reacting with force in excess of the push or by pre-turning. This response is equivalent to a flight response. Instead respond to your partners push with the exact measure of force being used. It is almost as if you are absorbing your partner's energy to empower your turning.
- As you perform this exercise, keep a mental tab on your abdominal area. Avoid tensing this area and consciously keep it "open". Interestingly, the more "open" you are the less your partner will "know" about you through his touch. Conversely, the more "closed" and tight you are, the more your partner will know about you through his touch.
- Common errors in performing this exercise include:
- Leaning back from the waist (a retreat) instead of turning.
- A combination of a turn and lean.
- Turning your head away from your partner as you turn. Keep facing your partner as you turn.
- Anticipating the push by starting to turn before being pushed.
You will no doubt experience some difficulty with this exercise. In fact, it is quite difficult. However, it is worthwhile pursuing the exercise as it will teach you to soften your body and remove the tension from within it. At the same time the physical action will teach your brain that there is an alternative way of dealing with encounters. Your brain will not accept this information intellectually. It needs the physical experience. Once the physical action is learned, your brain will think up various intellectual methods to deflect and turn from all negative encounters.