InYo: Journal of Alternative Perspectives Aug 2000

Who is Response-Able to Resolve Your Conflicts?

By Lynn Seiser, Ph.D.

Copyright © Lynn Seiser 1999. All rights reserved.

Johnny got into another fight at school. He sat in the office, again. He just seems to keep getting into trouble. He says he does not know why he keeps getting into fights. He says it is always the other person's fault. He really does not have a choice. If he were to back down he would be laughed at and get no respect. He does not think anyone understands. If they did, they would agree with him. What was he to do? What was the school or his parents to do? They were all lucky; the answer was on its way.

That afternoon the school had scheduled a unique presentation on nonviolent conflict resolution. It was not the usual assembly. The presenters walked in wearing martial art uniforms. They opened by attacking each other. Instead of striking back, the defender would simply move aside and let the attacker's own momentum carry them. It seemed effortless and too good to be true. However, it certainly got the children's attention, especially Johnny's.

The presenters represented an aikido school. They dedicate themselves to nonviolent conflict resolution and promoting personal and social responsibility. Aikido is a nonviolent noncompetitive martial art containing no direct hitting or kicking. It literally means "the way of harmonizing energy" but many refer to it as "the way of peace."

The presenter talked about violence being the last option. He further explained that violence is usually an expression of anger. Anger is a protective reaction to being hurt. After all, if it does not hurt we tend not to get angry. He further explained that the hurt comes from taking what other people say or do far too personally. If they like us or not, it's actually about them, not us. Another source of anger is fear. He explained fear as believing a fantasized experience to be real. Violence, instead of being an act of strength, is really an act of weakness.

The presenters began to demonstrate the power of the mind. First they showed how negative thinking and lies make the body weaker and that the truth and positive thoughts make one strong. They further demonstrated this by showing how by using the mind the arm could become unbendable. Johnny began to understand that mental discipline was as important as physical discipline. The emphasis seemed to be on staying balanced and centered. Controlling yourself is more important than controlling others. It is also easier.

Next came the chalkboard. The presenters drew three figures on it, a triangle, a square, and a circle. They said they were going to demonstrate our response options. They divided the word, "responsible" into "response" and "able". They suggested that the ability to respond gave you options that simply reacting did not. The first response option was the fight option. They took two triangles and ran the points into each other. The students all stood up and walked into each other. This was familiar to Johnny. The second option was the flight reaction. Both triangles pointed the same direction with the one chasing the other. The third response was to freeze. The triangle just ran into the square. The students all practiced these options too. The fourth option was the flow response. As the triangle came towards the circle, the circle just rolled up its side and continued on its way. The students all practiced this simple circular movement to avoid the oncoming attack. This is the basic footwork for aikido.

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To demonstrate the flow response more dramatically, the presentation team began attacking each other. The individual in the center just kept spinning out of the way. He did not even block or touch the oncoming attackers. The faster they attacked him, the easier it was to get out of the way.

The presenter asked us what we all wanted in life. Johnny remembered he wanted respect. They asked how he went about getting it. He said he got angry and got into fights. Did that get him respect? they asked. No, it only got him into trouble and laughed at. Therefore, it did not work. When asked further, Johnny was able to see that he wanted respect so that people would like him and so that he would feel like he belonged. They asked him which response, the triangle, square, or circle would best get him what he really wanted. Johnny admitted the circle would work better. He had a smile on his face. So did the presenters, the teachers, and many of his fellow students.

The presenters finished the assembly with a demonstration of more aikido moves. Though it was similar to the one demonstrated in the beginning, the audience began to understand why it worked and how the same principles could be used to solved everyday problems. The students became more "response-able" and were learning to resolve their conflicts without using violence.

Dr. Lynn Seiser is an internationally respected psychotherapist, consultant, trainer, speaker, and writer with over twenty years of direct clinical experience in the treatment of offenders and victims of violence, trauma, and abuse. Dr. Seiser enjoys a positive reputation of his work in holistic recovery from addictions and his emphasis on healthy relationships. Dr. Seiser founded Aiki-Solutions to teach nonviolent conflict prevention, management, and resolutions as well as to provide consultation and training in sport psychology, strategic performance enhancement, and tactical mental discipline Dr. Seiser can be e-mailed at and maintains a web site at To discuss the benefits of his services, to make a referral, or to make an appointment please contact Dr. Seiser at 550 Pacific Coast Hwy, Suite 203 Seal Beach, CA 90740 USA or phone 562-799-1371. Dr. Seiser thanks you for the opportunity to be of service and for sharing the journey.

InYo Aug 2000