39F. Interdigitation, Justification of Essay and Closing


I believe martial artists need a construct to help clarify circles of responsibility, influence, concern, and THEM. The martial artist needs to be able to differentiate who she/he is responsible for, who she/he influences, who she/he is concerned about, and….yes, even who she/he blames as THEM.

In addition, the martial artist wants to be able to reverse the directions of the circles, too. She wants to know who has responsibility for what avenues of her life (consider a 12 year-old child at the dojo with inability to make certain decisions normally reserved for parents). She wants to know who has influence with her, who has concern for her, and who might just label her as THEM complete with blame, disgust, projected guilt, and aggression (sexual or otherwise).

The importance of the above two paragraphs is why I shared this essay with you. Martial artists want to know experience the world around them in a way that is comprehensible. Without comprehensible experience strategy becomes impossible. Without strategy martial arts fall into the realm of chance. Chance is not good in the middle of a desperate battle. Martial artist want more than chance on their sides. Physical training, comprehensible experience, spirit development, and a host of other lessons are at the fingertips of those who choose to avail themselves of the lessons. So, this has been one.

Well, in actually, a few weeks ago Sensei Neville Billimoria suggested this discussion as a means to clarify the effect of negativity in the workplace, in the schoolroom or laboratory, and at the dojo.) Now, having explained these various circles and the (hopeful) usefulness of these concepts, I want to extend the discussion into a realm that may be a bit confusing to some people. I will call it interdigitation.

All of the circles aren’t really circles. A circle is perfectly round or nearly so. But, the circles of responsibility, influence, concern and THEM are far from perfect circles. Spheres might be better term but a sphere is a three-dimensional circle so it isn’t really correct either. Areas, zones and every other term I have thought of falls short in describing what I have called a circle. This is because the circles I described are in constant flux and not at all stable. What might be in your circle of responsibility today may be in your circle of concern tomorrow (consider the woman in the automobile accident in Arizona). And to complicate the issue more you may have extreme responsibility in one area of your life and none in another. (Consider when you are driving an automobile and John is an adult passenger. You are certainly responsible to drive carefully but you are not responsible for John’s decision to go to college or not.)

The best way I have found to describe this temporal and topic related change is interdigitation. Interdigitation is like when you take both hands and clasp them together so that the fingers from one hand alternate with the fingers from the other.

The circles of responsibility, influence and concern interdigitate with each other. They interdigitate through time and by subject. They are not permanent but temporary and ever changing.

We want to use them to help us in our daily dealings with others. In order to do so, we must understand their value. Their value lies in putting responsibility, influence, concern in proper perspective within our complex ever changing lives. They are far from perfect descriptions of what happens in our lives; they are tools which allow us to glimpse our actions and reactions to those around us. We want to keep the perspective of what we can and cannot do. We also want to keep the proper perspective on what others can and cannot do to us. The concepts can help you if you choose, so choose to use them wisely.

So what can you do?

When you run into a negat at work do not attempt to accept responsibility to change him or her.

That is a really good idea. You do not have responsibility to change him or her. She or he does not lie in your circle of responsibility. She lies in your circle of influence or circle of concern, but not in your circle of responsibility.

When you are already in a deep relationship with another person who becomes a negat do something early.

This is a tough one. Say your spouse becomes a negat.

Can you run and close the marriage? I hope divorce is not a good alternative for you. Marriage (in my opinion) is not something you want abort without severe justification. But what do you do if your spouse grows towards becoming a negat? Well, life experiences have led to your spouse to the negat thinking pattern. Life experience is the first way to for him or her to move out (if he or she chooses).

Something is not fulfilling him or her. Look to the usual areas of life which cause consternation; i.e., work (or lack of work), intimacy, money, difficulties with the children or home, frustrated desire and lack of meaning in life. These areas usually involve a lot of time, money, power, and prestige. Unfortunately, the rewards sometimes don’t match the efforts. Lifestyle changes are in order. Before it is too late to do things yourself, get yourself and your spouse if you can, into fun, laughter, new adventures, intimacy (with or without sex), positive affirmations of personal value, meditation, prayer, moments of contentment on the beach (mountains, desert or with music, massage), doing things that make both of you enthusiastic about doing the things whatever they are.

But, don’t wait too long. Negats can get very resistant and fall very low. Seek professional help early. The abyss of negaholism is not to be taken lightly. I know all too well. I have lost three martial arts students to suicide because the desperation of negativity led them to seek desperate and permanent escape.

When your boss is a confirmed negat.

This is another hard one. When your boss is a negat you won’t do much to please him. He will find something wrong with about everything you do. Then he will tell you about it or worse tell everyone else that will listen about it without telling you. He may tell your superiors, your peers or undermine your authority by telling your subordinates. Each statement of negativity is a shot of adrenalin for him; and each statement of negativity is a shot of pain into you.

If you are like most people you want to do well at work.

You spend a lot of time there and you want to feel a sense of accomplishment for your efforts. The boss’ negativity, even if it is not always placed directly on you, is an affront to your sense of accomplishment. And the opposite of a sense of accomplishment is a sense of frustration.

So you become frustrated with your work, the boss and perhaps yourself. You are then vulnerable to the influence of any negat in your life, even your boss. I remember a bumper sticker of a few years ago that stated, “It’s hard to soar with the eagles, when you work with a bunch of turkeys.” So, you have the choice of escape.

In my experience most people don’t want to escape their jobs even when dominated by a negat boss. Eventually, however, many make the decision and quit. They suffer a great deal of frustration before attaining the point of quitting their jobs. But, most of them just plain won’t quit because of a negat boss. And, they don’t have to.

I certainly have had some really good bosses (Lois Ritchie, MD was one really good boss), but there was another who was a real negat. I stayed with the latter for 10 years. I amaze myself at how I managed to do it. When I remember the intense negativity of my boss I wonder how I managed not quit on the spot with some of his comments, or turn him into the police, or try to get him committed on a 5150 (a psychological hold for a lock-up facility licensed to handle desperate people.) But I remained with this company for 10 years a full seven years longer than any other employee under his supervision.

I really don’t mean to brag. I mean to say there are things you can do other than quit. I reframed my attention from my boss to my patients, peers, hospital relations and quality of recording in patient records. I trained in martial arts to keep my sanity, exercise-endurance and focus on the good. Only one year, 1985, I was unable to keep my own dojo open. In that year I taught in the Sierra Club’s Basic and Advanced Mountaineering Courses, went to South America twice, attended every training of Sensei Kim including France. I even took classes in woodworking, how to install skylights, sharpening chisels and planes, and Japanese cooking (which I lament to say I was not good at).

The issue is I am responsible for my own destiny as you are for your own destiny. If you want to stay at a job where you are not gaining significant benefit other than monetarily then you want to produce significant joy, enthusiasm, sense of accomplishment, opportunity, hope, contentment in areas of your life where these are possible. If you don’t actively make such a choice you cast your lot with those who influence you whichever way they choose. Far better that you take the responsibility and move towards your own positive choices than that you allow anyone else, especially those with difficulty of negativism, to decide your fate for you.

In addition, re-focus your attention and awareness to those people in your life who influence you in a positive manner. Spend time with them. Nyunanshin with those who send you positive energy be they in the dojo or in your family life, or selected from among the people at work who have such energy. And give positive energy back, for the only things in life you keep are the things you give away (circle of influence).

Within your circle of responsibility only one person never exits.