Choosing Not to Fight
In the Japanese martial art of Aikido, the defender uses skill to neutralize the attacker’s force without injury to either party. By accepting the attack rather than opposing it, the defender goes with the attacker’s motion and turns out of its path, allowing its energy to dissipate harmlessly.
Those who wish to improve a relationship can use a similar tactic when verbally attacked. We can turn a contest about who is right into an opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate differences.
The natural tendency is to fight back. We see ourselves in a win/lose situation. While we may not want to beat our attacker into submission, we certainly don’t want to be beaten by them either. So, we vigorously defend ourselves by denying the accuser’s statement. Then, to gain the upper hand or at least stay even, we attack in return.
The result is predictable. The contest escalates, energy mounting until it assumes a momentum of its own. One harsh word follows another until we finally withdraw in frustration. Most often, nothing has been resolved. Maybe there has been real damage and maybe not. But what a hassle! And who’s the winner?
Perhaps the attacker was needlessly aggressive. But the defender still has a choice as to how he will respond. A skillful communicator might recognize the need that is behind the attack. He might choose to move his ego out of the way and understand his partner’s need to communicate, even if he does feel like a target. Hi might discover a need for support or reassurance. Or maybe a feeling of loneliness, frustration or simple fatigue motivates the attack.
Aggression is not always what it seems. By accepting it, standing aside and looking beyond it you can turn a distancing fight into an opportunity for understanding and closeness.
I would like to point out, however, that this is not necessarily a natural response for most of us. It is more natural for us to feel offended when attacked and to pose some sort of defense. That’s why the most intimate of relationships require us to grow, spiritually, if you want to call it that.
When I use the word spiritual, I mean transcending the self, the limited entity that is us, in the smaller, animal sense. If you don’t mind growing, it is possible to see that there is more to us and, when you do, you realize that we are made to be connected to each other. In some way we are like bees or ants in that we are incomplete and even non-functional without each other. It’s unnatural for us to be completely alone and yet, to be together, we must transcend our aloneness and be there for each other. That’s why intimacy is hard.