Ok it has been a while since I posted - life gets in the way as they say. This post is a follow up to the discussion on self talk and the Big Questions.
We have looked at how our self talk can influence our practice on both a physical and psychological level. Then, during my last post, I talked about the Big Questions. For this post I want to combine the two to look at how self talk can help us understand others.
We have looked at our own self talk, but is it possible to get an insight into others - to read their minds - and "hear" their self talk as well? Well... yes it is. Not only can we get that insight very easily, but we can use it to help ourselves as well. This is too good an opportunity to pass up isn't it?
Every time we interact with another person, we provide them with information about who we are and our world view. We do this often without realizing it. In many cases, people provide us with a direct insight into their own self talk. We can read their minds because they are shouting their innermost thoughts to us. Some people do it louder than others - for some its just a whisper while others prefer the megaphone approach!
There is an excellent psychological documentary called "American Pie" (there is also another one called "American Pie 2" which I haven't seen but I am sure it is just as insightful). In American Pie, two teenagers are discussing how to pick up girls. One guy says to the other, "It's really easy man - all you need to do is ask them a bunch of questions and then listen to what they say" to which the other guy responds with, "Gee... I don't know, man, that kind of sounds like a lot of work". I love this line because it is funny on so many levels (yes, yes I am juvenile but I am comfortable with that).
The idea that listening to others is hard work is funny because it's true, and many times people don't really listen bother to listen to what others are saying. We might listen to the content, but there is a real knack in listening to obtain a better understanding of other people. I am not talking about body language here (don't get me started on that whole con). I am talking about the words people use - the what, how, when and where they are used which can then give us the "why". Whether we realise it or not, the words we use can tell a story about who we are, how we view the world and our place in it.
Of course, the question is: why bother and what does this have to do with martial arts? For me, the connection is that martial arts is a vehicle by which people can develop a better understanding of themselves. Part of developing that self understanding is seeking to understand others as well. I have learned so much about myself by listening to the self talk of other people. I sometimes hear my own self talk reflected in their statements and it has helped to highlight how I see myself and the messages I send to others as well. On on another level, if we consider environmental awareness to be important for self defense, then having an understanding of the people in that environment is equally important.
I am not suggesting that you "psychoanalyse" everyone you meet (that would be quite obnoxious), but I am suggesting that you take notice of the story you are telling other people about yourself and the story they are telling about themselves. Do this over a period of time and see what you can learn. Like anything, it takes practice. The Big Questions can provide a structure for this and will quickly provide an insight into the self talk of others. Remember, the Big Questions are: who am I? What is my purpose? How did I get here" Where am I going? or some variation on those themes.
A classic example is the person who apologises for just about everything they do or prefaces a question with the statement "this might sound like a stupid question but...". I used to be an apologist and it takes self discipline to control the urge to say sorry where it is not required - just as breaking any habit takes discipline. Again, martial arts is about having control over your body and actions - including your mind. The person who offers apologies where none is required or who announces that everything they say will be stupid is really telling everyone that they do not believe they are worthy in some way or not good enough. Cognitive Behaviour Psychology suggests there is a link between thoughts, feelings and behaviours. By engaging in a negative behaviour (such as verbalising negative statements about oneself), we confirm the lowly opinion we hold of ourselves. The good news is that the opposite is true: changing behaviour can help to change our minds.
Let me restate it one more time: We need to believe we are worth defending!
If you take the time to listen to others, you might actually hear yourself. You will definitely come to notice patters in how individuals refer to themselves. If you use this knowledge and attempt to answer the Big Questions on behalf of someone else, you might be surprised at just how accurate you are. Please note that I am not suggesting you do this in an overt manner as most people would find it to be very confronting. What I am suggesting is that you listen to others and use it as a way of understanding yourself.