Thought Experiment: Minimal Sensory Input in 4 Confrontations

Imagine that every night for five nights you go to sleep and find yourself in a very similar dream each night.

In your dream, you are knocked unconscious and wake to find that you are  in a physical confrontation, but your memory of what led to the accident is gone, your vision is blurry so you cannot see, your ears are ringing so you cannot hear, and the only contextual clues you receive are physical experiences during the confrontation, and your feelings about them.

On the first night you wince under heavy and large blows. Your opponent’s movement is jerky and imprecise. Every bone aches, teeth bleed. Your opponent shake you, pushes, grabs, rips and tears. You feel tense fingers, with grating nails pull on your ears until they feel they might tear.

How do you respond?

How do you feel?

On the second night you feel light movement, you wince momentarily as someone tugs on your hair, then grabs at your cheeks and eyes, small hands hold on tightly, but then they let go. You wince again as something pounces on your stomach, bounces lightly, then jumps off. Skinny arms curl around your neck as if to take you down to the floor, but they find no support and you are unaffected.

How do you respond?

How do you feel?

On the third night you are squeezed and pulled in tightly, you try to move away but the body slides around to your back andshoves your head repeatedly down to the floor. Light arms move around your neck and constrict. The body of your opponent, that was once mobile and loose, tightens and shakes. Pressure rises and you feel yourself going slack.

How do you respond?

How do you feel?

On the fourth night every blow feels heavy and tired. You seem to walk right into them. You reach out to grab hold of something but nothing is there. Something grabs you instead, it is firm and confident, but it never stays in one place for long.You feel fingers and fists touching you momentarily, guiding you to the floor. 

How do you respond?

How do you feel?

Get out a pen and paper. Each dream included a confrontation from a different person. Write down a description of what each person looks like.

Now return momentarily to your visualization. Imagine that on the fifth night you fall to sleep and wake in the same dream, only this time you catch a glimpse of what happened that led to the confrontation. You are in the dojo. Four new students come into class. Is one of them too young to be here? The instructor asks each one to introduce themself to you, and explains that you will work with each one before class ends. How do they introduce themselves, write down their introductions individually. As you write, think back to your dreams; recall your responses, feelings, and the words you used to describe the  appearance of the new students.

This exercise illustrates how easy it is for most of us to “imagine” a physical description or even a character based on feelings that we get while working with someone. If you are comfortable, compare your responses with a friend. Are the similar? I suspect that most people answer very similarly. Recognize that your partner or opponent will react to your work and the feelings that come up just as you have! So if you imagine the first confrontation to be a violent criminal, there is a good chance that the violent criminal would imagine you the same way if you worked violently in return.

Typically, you don’t get such a clear example of how your relationships affect your work because more often confrontations happen the other way around; you communicate verbally and non-verbally, and only then interact physically. In this thought experiment we reversed the dynamic so you could examine your relationship with your partner after the work. Recognize that the relationship you foster with a partner or opponent, with what little time you have before the physical work starts, will in some part determine the nature of the work. Someone who is aggressive elicits aggression out of those present, someone who is timid welcomes help from others, a child can get away with force because it is innocent and uncontrolled, jovial interaction lightens the room, someone who is calm and slow has an easier time working with their partners because it is contagious.

I may see two students working aggressively with eachother, but when I call to change partners the tone in both students changes entirely because they are working with new people and they have a different relationship with them. Perhaps the atmosphere becomes jovial because they work with a friend, or perhaps they become timid because the person they are working with is superior, perhaps they will compete with one another because they are on the same level, or they will become vengeful because they perceive that the other is treating them ill. As long as you control your own emotional base, and you choose not to let your opponent’s emotional base control you, then you are in control of your opponent.

Everyday you manage your emotional base and you determine what you put into your body and mind that contributes to your character. These factors put you in control of the relationships that you develop with others. If you control this relationship you can control how people will respond to you. Perhaps you think that your own superiority is what will save you, but there is always someone with greater superiority, and always games you can’t win. Your opponent’s response to your character, the messages you are subconsciously sending him, may be the difference between success and failure. I am reminded of Goethe who said, “In the face of great superiority, there is no means of safety but love.”

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