One of the first things I recognized and loved about jiu jitsu is that emotions are always running the show, and if we want to be better, we have to be somewhat aware and in charge of our emotions.
If you are reading this and do not train martial arts, apply this concept to your job, relationships, goals, eating habits, sleeping habits, etc.
Recently I have been faced with the unpleasant reality that my history with abusive relationships has the potential to deeply impact my training sessions. This is definitely a double edged sword because that history gives me an incredibly high tolerance for discomfort and patience while also having a myriad of triggers about potential dangers involved in contact sports. Maybe I love the controlled violence of jiu jitsu because I am much more comfortable with the acts of violence than with acts of gentle love, and maybe I fell in love with jiu jitsu because at least I am in control of putting myself consciously in these situations. And that is the point of this specific blog post, to create space to reflect on how you have emotionally developed, and how those developments impact when you train, fight, win, and lose.
Weaknesses stem from blind spots, those moments where you are caught off guard by not only an action but the way that you react to that action. In Sam Harris's meditations he speaks of "turning attention upon itself" or "looking for the looker". This can be a difficult concept to grasp at first because we are forced to separate ourselves from our mind. We are neither the mind, nor are we the reactions to the mind. Instead we are consciousness and in that consciousness we can observe what external circumstances cause the mind to think and then watch the reactions that follow the thoughts. This kind of separation really helps us take note of how beneficial our reactions are and whether we should adjust them to improve our quality of life.
Still with me?
I think this concept can be so fucking challenging but the work you do to get there strengthens who you are by leaps and bounds. So, even if you do not get it right away, keep rolling the idea around within your head. And if you want to know more about this I highly recommend getting the Waking Up app by Sam Harris and diving into this idea a bit more.
Repetition is helpful for grasping any technique or concept.
In retrospect, I used to think that my thoughts were who I was. Because I perceived them as my reality I was always at the mercy of my external circumstances.
The gift of abuse was that it made me so wildly uncomfortable that to survive I needed to learn that there is a dialogue behind each thought and each reaction. Many of those dialogues were fear based. I was always worried that someone was going to hurt me while at the same time having a very high tolerance for what was hurtful. After all, once you have a boyfriend who threatens to run the car into a telephone pole in hopes of killing you both, a little man handling in jiu jitsu is nothing.
But actually, it is something. What if that man handling escalates into a sense of ownership over my life? And what if the person man handling me is not mindful of the extent in which they are using strength and force? Isn't it possible that I could very easily end up with a serious injury or a life threatening situation? And just like that, my sympathetic state is triggered and I feel like I am at the mercy of someone else's lack of emotional irresponsibility. Stuck fight or flight mode, I am now spiraling into fear.
This, (being man-handled), may not be the case at all. In fact I may not even be getting man handled, I might just be tired and under fed and so my capacity for discomfort is lower. Also, I may be getting man handled by someone who gives zero fucks about my as a training partner that day because they are stuck in their own head. OR chances are, it is a little bit of both.
To work through this and understand what is what I have to have this conversation with myself, and potentially with someone else. To have a conversation with someone else I must first be capable of slightly understanding my own feelings. Reality is not my feelings. Though feelings are valid, reality exists when you communicate your reality with the people involved and then begin to understand their reality. Reality is in the communication of the circumstances and the ability of each person involved to understand the circumstances or their own inner world and that reality exists outside of their inner world. The person that we are communicating with must also have the ability to think through the layers.
Sounds like a rabbit hole huh? It is.
Emotional responsibility and becoming right with ourselves can be an exhaustive process. It not only requires us to be accountable for ourselves but it requires the people around us to be accountable to themselves as well.
"Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those who are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach" ~ Seneca
Though you may not feel like you have enough control, you have more than you think. If you are looking for the most basic way to remind yourself of that set reminders all over the place to take a couple of deep slow breaths. It may not sound profound, but it is. A few deep breaths will remind you to step back into the present moment as well as calming your nervous system down.