“How can anyone control the emotional mind?” by Bruce Baker

I have tried to broach this subject before, and I will probably fall short now, but in every core theory to a higher level of martial arts we are told to check our our emotions, but .. how can anyone control the emotional mind?

I was watching The History Channel’s special programs about the Seven Deadly Sins and when the program on Anger came along, there was an interesting note about anger.

There was a case where a mentally disabled man went to live with his mother when he lost his job and apartment. His mother was elderly, and after a while she continually told him to move out, she could not live with him in her old age, it was too much for her. One day the man snapped and picked up a statue and beat his mother to death in his anger. When his anger subsided enough for him to see what he did, he went to a neighbor, distraught at what he had done, had the neighbor call the police and turned himself in for murder.

The murder is not my point, nor the mental disability. After much testing, they found his frontal lobe was damaged. Through research, it was found that the frontal lobe is the recognizer for controlling violence and that when the flight or flight instinct is activated it is this part of the brain that brings balance back to the mind so that we don’t act on our thoughts of violence.

That is the basics, you can watch the program yourself and do further research if you are a details person where dwelling on details is important. Off the top of my head that is what I remember.

Now, for Aikido practice, we practice a technique over and over and over again until it is ingrained in our mind so that when the circumstances of an attack or practice technique presents us with the proper opportunity we then have the option to do that technique. My question is, how much of it is in your thinking mind, and how much of it is in the memory part of your brain that isn’t always online.

Yeah, your brain is doing much more than what you are aware of, and there are many more thoughts stored in that brain of yours that are being considered. You are totally consciously unaware of these thoughts even as you read these words right now! From that place deep in your mind is where those strange dreams come from, or those flashes of brilliance come from when you are creative. Whether you realize it or not, you have been thinking about that flash of brilliance for your creative thought for a long time.

Now, not everyone takes the time to understand how their mind CREATES emotions nor how the mind reacts to the stimuli of the body in responding to those emotions. With the application of physical practice, and mental disciplines we attempt to get control of body and mind, but–in order to calm the mind, with its thousands of thoughts going on–, you must find some kind of answer for the unanswerable questions that cause you emotional turmoil.

Silly questions need to be answered. Am I as handsome as someone else? Who is God? Why am I here? What is the universe in relation to planet earth? Why can’t I make enough money? Why can’t I get people to look up to me? Why can’t I be the center of Attention? Why is that dog peeing on my leg!! (Just kidding, I wanted to see if you were paying attention.)

And on and on and on and on. All those questions you hide in your mind and try to keep bottled up causing you aggravation. It doesn’t matter what they are, it matters that you have addressed them, know they are there, and have come to some kind of compromise so that the turmoil of the mind is not pushed to Anger, or emotional instability but somehow controlled and understood with some type of compromise.

Many people use the guise of FAITH and GOD to do this, but that is only a temporary fence that will eventually fail under emotional pressure, at least that is my opinion from watching the majority of people under pressure and my experience. Never mind, just thinking out loud.

Every book that says you can reach a higher state of being is actually aimed at you, the individual, coming to some kind of compromise with the question he/ she has in their mind. Even many of the training practices, in those books or in those religious practices, are aimed at diverting your attention so your mind has a chance to fire-wall those pesky thoughts from your waking thinking mind so you will be calm and collected when faced with an emotional situation.

I wonder, are we training our frontal lobe to react in a way that lets logic sound it’s voice before we react with physical violence? In effect, are we practicing to control the emotional mind?

But emotions activate the flight or flight reflex and we need that higher state of mind as the adrenalin rush pushes us into overdrive slowing down the world around us so we have time to see what was once a blur? How can we avoid VIOLENCE and ANGER by using emotions to our advantage to kick us into high gear? Actually, we aren’t denying that our body needs a switch to activate that function of the human body, but are learning to turn it on and off while staying in control of our anger. We control the anger, the fear, the anxiety, it is not what controls us, we control it.

I believe there are stages in our lives where we are riding a bucking bronco of emotions, but as we grow older we become more skilled in controlling those emotions, and the horse becomes more tamed over time responding to our skilled control and directions to him too. These stages happen in the decades of our lives as we get experienced with both life, and come to understand our aging human body. In effect, one of the reasons we want young people to train, train, train, is to expend that excess energy and emotion so they will at the end of day be so tired, so emotionally spent that they begin to see the purpose and method to control those emotions as the quiet voice in their head is heard because the emotional voice is just too tired to yell and scream anymore.

Some people are fans of positive reinforcement behavior, but I find that with some kind words negative reinforcement behavior can be just as positive as positive reinforcement too. We use it all the time when we induce pain but not injury during the practice of certain martial art techniques. We are sending signals of education but our mind should be empty of negative emotion so we are fully aware of what we are doing, what our practice partner or our opponent is doing, and able to properly respond.

The only reason we would need to draw on the anger of the emotional mind is to get that boost of physical energy in applying overwhelming force to accentuate a point to someone who believes their physical strength and negative application of anger and emotion is the dominant force in the room. And yet, the boost of our energy and application is a controlled focused energy dominated by positive thoughts, positive reinforcement.

I guess it is not the same for everyone, but a few years back I was so sick I almost died, even if it didn’t look like it to some people, I could feel my inner anger and physical body destroying the balance of what was me. I was sure that if I didn’t get a handle on all the questions in my mind my conflict of declining physical health, along with turmoil in my mind, was culminating in a certain death in a few short years. Personally, I knew I needed to figure out what those things were that were rattling about in the back of my mind, as well as find natural healthy things to take the place of drugs my doctors were prescribing before the side effects damaged my internal organs.

You know when you get a prescription you get a pamphlet with with warning and side effects? Well, if you don’t go on line and read, your eyes might pop out of your head when you realize the side effects of some drugs are worse than the benefit. Doctors us the rule of thumb is the benefit of the drug more helpful than the harm the drug causes?

You gotta read about the side effects of drugs, as well as food which is the natural drug believe it or not, and make yourself aware of the aches and pains, as well as physical symptoms your body exhibits. You would be amazed how educated you can become about your physical body, your mental state of well-being, and cut out so many professionals who keep you on pills, coming to them so they make their couple a hundred thousand dollars a year, and don’t act until your illnesses are so bad a blind man in the next town could tell you that you need to stop doing whatever you are doing before you kill yourself. My opinion of course. It depends upon what illness you have and what works for a majority of people with that illness.

It is medically proven that a positive state of mind helps the human body to create the best conditions possible for the body to attain proper health and maintain proper physical health. Instability of mind does activate certain chemical secretions and certain conditions in the human body causing either illness, or conditions not conducive for the human body to heal itself. Whether or not you agree, the human body continues to heal itself, keep itself in operating condition, and when that function begins to fail, we die of what we term “natural causes.”

To control the emotional mind, or at least corral, or firewall, those thoughts creating anxiety, instability, and being able to focus your anger at key moments is not just a mental exercise, but a physical manifestation in technique as you learn to control your human body, or as some like to use the term, act in Harmony with the Universe.

It took me many many hours to figure out what was on my mind, and get to the root of my anxieties. It doesn’t mean they are gone, but they are corralled and fire-walled so I am more in control of them than they are in control of me.

Isn’t that point of training? Another tool to understand yourself in relation to the world around you? We have weapons of mass destruction that we can invent to kill and destroy our enemies, why do we need to learn to use such an old archaic martial art anyway? Well, you don’t always have a weapon at hand, but you always have you, your body, mind, and spirit everywhere you go, don’t you.

I think it would be nice if you were able to answer some of those impossible questions in the back of your mind, come to some kind of peace and harmony with not only you, but the world around you. Ya know, I could be wrong, but in his own way I think that is what the founder of Aikido was trying to say.

Our attempt to connect to the universe around us, constantly forge our spirit, our mind, our body is possible if we have the will to do so. Aikido is just another tool in that journey, at least I think it is as I take my lessons with me and move on down the road of life.

Hopefully, I see ya down the road, ya know what I mean?


  1. bruce baker says:

    It is probably silly to comment on my own blog, but I see many mistakes in the construction of the words, and some missing letters in some other words which makes me think I should say something. Well, my mind is like a thick fog these days as the pressure of pain and noise in my head is a constant thing vying for my attention trying to drive me crazy, part of the Meniere’s thing ya know.

    Push though, and get the gist of the thoughts behind the words.

    If what I say does more good than harm, form your own thoughts. If it does more harm than good, forget about it!

    My apologies if what I think insults anyone, but the point of the blog was ….. you should examine the thoughts in the back of your head that make you angry, and learn how to turn emotions into positive energy, or at least use those uncontrolled thoughts/ emotions in a more positive way. It ain’t easy …

  2. That was a great reflection. So true how hard it is to transcend our conditioned or autonomous reponse in the face of acute anxiety, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned training. But our training has to be in the right discipline.

    Osensei’s uchideshi Kanshu Sunadomari Shihan has often said that focusing only on technique will bring to a wall in your training. It is by actively pursuing the spiritual goals outlined by the Founder that we start to gain true understanding of the nature of aikido.

    Isn’t it true that when we practice aikido with a sense of joyousness that we achieve higher levels of harmony? When partners care about each other, even in the midst of vigorous training, don’t we feel more connected and satisfied by our training. Could it be that our training is more about how we come together to learn aikido than how well we execute some technique? Maybe when we are attacked off the mat the conditioned response will then be the emotional state of beneficence and joy that we cultivated on the mat.

    I feel like I am mostly elaborating on what you have already said, and I will certainly agree with your last statement – “It ain’t easy!”

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. When I perform a movement or sequence, not of the conscious mind, and it turns out to be a blessing for me or beneficial for someone else, or I discover (in the middle of an exercise) a technique I have never done before, the realization hits that it comes from a connection of my mind with universal mind. This has been my experience.

  4. YoungIn Park says:

    I would suggest reading “On Combat” by Dave Grossman.

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