Conforming in Order to Flourish (2)

A Complaint

George L. recently wrote a self-acknowledged rant, the gist of which was that he wanted people to not just be accurately aware of their preferences (i.e., to be honest and straight with themselves) but to have the purpose to change and improve. Accordingly, he seems to want people to act in accordance with that purpose, and behave in such a way that might require effort and conscientiousness, and going outside of one’s comfort zone. Even if a person’s sense of that purpose is still developing, he should still be able to behave like as though he has it.  The gist of some responses seemed to be: maybe it just can’t be helped, that at this point in history and culture, most people will not adjust thusly and the thing won’t be facilitated or transmitted. Other responses: he should adjust (perhaps because the people will or can not), and facilitate or transmit what he can. And yet others: he shouldn’t adjust; the thing is going to be difficult to facilitate/transmit in any situation or era, and the people who will adjust are already starting to do so. This seems to me an issue of, 1) “But I, the teacher, want to transmit the actual thing to more people,” 2) “I want to correct the misunderstanding that people have, that they will get the actual thing without adjusting their behavior,” and 3) “People are participating and showing up, but not doing it in ways that reflect the attitude and purpose in question; I want them to not only be congruent but to behave as though they had the underlying purpose, (not adjust their behavior to the lack of purpose).” (Actually, #2 and #3 are similar or overlapping.)

George’s complain is likely in regards to #1 above: The instructor significantly accommodates the students’ preferences. Accordingly, the instructor only has partial opportunity to use and work on all of his skill and interests. The instructor’s accommodation is sufficient in that students are fine with his demands and their own behavior, and don’t perceive anything missing or needing change; but they do believe that they are working on something.

So it bothers him that the students are either not recognizing his accommodations/lenience or recognizing it but choosing to take advantage of it. It would also be bothersome that the students are behaving and choosing this way based on the belief that they are justified in doing so, insofar that they are doing the activity, aikido practice, as it should be done.

My current take on this situation and complaint is that most people at any given time are just the matrix, or the frame, on which the people who currently or potentially “get it” are climbing and doing whatever the transformational process is. It’s a practical impossibility to expect all or most people to adopt a different frame of mind and sense of meaning and purpose. The most one can do is work to create an environment, in this case social environment, that increases the probability that such a frame of mind can be realized. That is, people who are already of that kind of mind will have a mentor and like-minded peers as support, and people who have great potential to have that kind of mind will have a better chance to realize that potential in this supportive environment.

Practically speaking, in George’s position as leader of the group and organizer of a special event that he wants people to attend, I would appeal to people’s sense of putting forth their best on occasion, particularly when the circumstances are challenging and they also have the choice of the easy way out. If you are talking to people on the premise that they have the proper sense of purpose normally, but they’ve failed to act in accordance with that presumption when an non-usual situation came up, I think it would be better to try to communicate that which is inside of them that truly knows they don’t really have that sense of purpose but could they try to summon it just this once?  This would sound like, “For some of you, this will be an extra effort. Please make that extra effort”, which would be congruent with people’s self-view that they are already making “the effort” but not touch upon that other people’s effort is clearly a notch more. So for people already making a lot of effort, or an “extra” effort on a regular basis, the request/demand will seem harsh and excessive but they will likely interpret the request/demand as directed at them nonetheless. As has been mentioned in the online discussion, the people who do in fact have that sense of purpose and normally make the corresponding effort will be the very ones to feel criticized. I believe that this is because it’s most painful when someone tell you they don’t see the effort that you are already making, an effort that is already a strain on you. The people who don’t have the sense of purpose and only make a vague effort will be the ones who likely perceive not a criticism but the vague complaint directed at others; or directed at themselves but the complaint is misguided (“But you don’t understand. I am making an effort already.”) They don’t perceive an attack or criticism because their effort hasn’t been to the extent that it strains their resources and so they are not stretched thin and vulnerable.

The tree analogy has been used to describe the various kinds of people in an aikido community. I wonder if the people who might be described as “leaves” could also, or better, be described as the soil in which the tree has the opportunity to stand in the first place.

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