Can we be dissatisfied and happy at the same time?
Dissatisfaction is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it offers an incentive to achieve goals. On the other hand, it can become a regressive spiral. An invisible network that increasingly tangles personal initiative. A crushing burden.
The experience of dissatisfaction is common to everyone. But how can we transform it into a resource for our growth rather than being overwhelmed by it?
As Aikido practitioners, we must strive to put this “ki” (氣) in the middle. About ki’s nature, many have written.
Here we like to recall a quote by Itsuo Tsuda: “ki dies when it becomes form”.
From this point of view, one could say that we have all practiced “Aido”. That is, only and always “form”. Of course, we should consider whether we have ever managed to practice “Aikido”.
Obviously, the spontaneous answer in the face of this provocation could be: “I practice Aikido! Yet Huey, Louie, Dewey…Uh, how they are still only in form, poor brainless”.
This is not a reflection that is limited only to the practice of Aikido. If we’re being honest enough, it affects every path and every realm a human being can find himself/herself in.
Relationships, job, routine… Certainly, there are satisfactions. Certainly, there is dissatisfaction.
What kind of stimulus is behind the dissatisfaction? And how to recognize whether it is a positive stimulus or not?
Sleeping is a universal stimulus. If it takes the “form” of having a nap, the stimulus ceases to exist. Yet – let’s think of depressive states – there are numerous forms of chronic tiredness in which the stimulus becomes a refuge and not the opportunity for a night of truly restorative sleep.
The example of sleeping is one of many that we can use to begin to recognize the crossroads that arise in the face of dissatisfaction.
If we seek shelter in the face of dissatisfaction, then we will slowly slide into the construction of an illusion parallel to reality. And maybe we will convince ourselves that we have “extended the comfort zone” when in reality we are building an ever tighter cocoon. More and more impenetrable.
Here are some indicators that something is degenerating. It is not an exhaustive list but it is something we have tried on our skin:
– we always practice with the same people and carefully avoid someone else;
– we take refuge in thoughts, images, and opinions about ourselves and others;
– we demand that our role, our rank, and our title may be recognized and we often end up saying “I’m not understood/respected”;
– constancy in practice weighs us down but we feel even worse and guilty if we don’t train from time to time;
– we have stereotyped compensation routines for dissatisfaction (you know the classic movie scene of the ice cream jar in front of the TV after a heartbreak? Everyone has their own jar);
– we become hyperactive or dull, limper than a beached jellyfish. We run on alternating current;
– we are not serene.
What to do?
The stimulus behind dissatisfaction is always a call to action. A deep need to move from complexity to simplicity. To be able to break down the fragmentation in which we are immersed in the necessary elements, recognizing them. And to get rid of unnecessary superstructures.
As strong as this call is, we often tend to suffocate it in our routines, taking refuge -as mentioned before- in illusions. Why? Because, not knowing what is necessary, we convince ourselves that what is accessory is of vital importance.
For this reason, we are usually so reluctant to stop and seek simplicity. Because if we suddenly pulled the handbrake, we’d be forced to lose our grip on everything we know and everything we think we are.
Finding out who we are – and who we could be – is scary.
So we take refuge in a thousand activities, convinced that from this surplus of commitment -training, activities, preparation, seminars, meditation, volunteering,…- the answer to complexity automatically comes.
So, here are some indicators to understand how to turn dissatisfaction into a tool for growth:
– what are my “reasons”? I find out what my values are and distinguish them from those that others project onto me. Maybe I find out that I don’t have my own reasons. Well: we start again from there;
– I rediscover the value of gratitude. In the process from complexity to simplicity, I identify those elements that emerge (in practice, in relationships, in challenges) and with which I am happy. And I invest in it;
– I explore the alternatives. If my daily life doesn’t satisfy me, maybe it’s time for a change. Changing perspectives, habits, and attitudes, trying to get out of my routines;
– do the environments I live in really help me make this transition from complexity to simplicity? Sometimes yes, often no. Let’s surround ourselves with people who are sincerely interested in our evolution. This means that sometimes we have to let go of people that basically aren’t committed to this endeavor;
– does what I do, however difficult, make me serene? Does it build a climate of serenity around me? If yes, we have found our Eldorado. If the answer is no, let’s remember that a world in which I am serene and the people around me, no, maybe it’s a world in which my serenity is not so stable.
So let’s think about whether our practice is training for healthy dissatisfaction. If we really make this invisible “ki” move or if we are “Aidoka”, perfect in form, empty in reasons.
Let’s look in the mirror after a training session, after a season, and evaluate if we are serene and happy, or if we are just tired.
We contemplate our sublime hobbyist martiality and consider whether we have put an extra layer of concrete on our cocoon or whether we have discovered new horizons.
If we silence the immediate response: “Of course, I practice Aikido! Yet Huey, Louie, Dewey… Uh, how they’re left only in form, poor brainless”, we will surely hear a new voice and we will be able to start again.
Dissatisfied and happy.