BRAINS IN THE BELLY: Think twice under pressure.

If you are like me, certain pressures, family, money, time seem to evoke familiar responses every time, like maybe I’m hardwired. What’s interesting is that my responses seem predisposed. I can trust them to pop up.

If this is true for you, and if you can recognize familiar patterns of responding to pressures, then you are half way to knowing how to access body wisdom to transform them for compassionate communication and peaceful resolution. And it’s easier than you think, if you think twice and your second thought is to access body wisdom.

Like the mom who attended an early version of TUNING IN to the Body, which now brings Aikido conscious conflict resolution skills to word wars in a new online somatic attunement course. (

This woman told me that after the program she was silently rehearsing domestic tensions concerning her teenage son while she was doing dishes. She overheard his living room argument with Dad about homework and noticed the sounds of shoving her dishes around in soapy water. She was all arms and shoulders, and noticed emotions that drove her own reasons why her son should get busy.

She stopped and dried her hands, recalling the practice of dropped attention that came from stepping back and down into something beneath her feet in order to center her attention deeper into her body’s core. She felt her hands release something she was holding, a position or an attitude, and when the release was complete, they seemed to fill with something new that bounced back from the planet below. Not having words for it yet, she just absorbed the feeling, resuming the dishes feeling weight in her feet fueling her movements from her body’s core.

Her arms and shoulders had released their reasons why homework should be done now. Wonder arose from her belly about what might deepen the dialogue when her son approached. She asked, “Do you know what your Dad’s need is that’s not being met here?” He didn’t, and wandered back to ask.

Dad said he was worried his son might fall behind in school if he didn’t keep pushing. Then he asked what unmet needs prompted his son’s resistance to his “suggestions.” The son wanted responsibility to manage his own schedule, and wished to be trusted to know when he needed to work or rest. All were reassured that their respective needs were seen and respected. Then the family enjoyed their maturing over popcorn and a movie.

Belly is a place of body wisdom that comes from not knowing, inclination if you will, or intuition. Even smart minds are controlling, and need encouragement to access the wisdom of the body, either emotional intelligence in the heart or core wisdom. Can you easily say, “Don’t know…” just long enough to check out wisdom may lie beyond the seat of knowing? Before speaking? Or reacting?

I was really smart, so it took me a long time to integrate mind and body wisdom gained from twenty-five years studying Aikido. Mind is a jealous controller. But today smart minds can see the value of body wisdom faster, especially with the help of Aikido conscious mediators who can apply the principles to common situations without requiring years of your painstaking practice.

You can find my offering in TUNING IN to the Body, ten lesson on accessing body wisdom under pressure at: .
Its business applications are discussed at: .



Pressure Management: A Closer Look at Stress, Conflict, and Workplace Performance

The HRM Guide from Human Resource Management states that stress in the workplace is difficult to measure. The National Business Group on Health indicates that, while stress is the most commonly cited reason for leaving jobs, 48 percent of US employers state that stress is affecting business performance. Only a few companies – five percent —    appear to be addressing the concern.

Birbeck College’s Organizational Psychologist Dr. Rob Briner says this points to “the need for a fundamental rethinking of the way in which stress is measured at work.”

This “rethinking” can be facilitated by distinguishing between stresses associated with insufficient skills and resources — time, skills, resources, and money — and those associated with relationship tensions, such as emotional reactivity, and vengeful conduct such, such as that which is described as “lateral violence.”

If we distinguish stress associated with insufficient resources from pressure driven mistakes, we can address the latter more constructively through relationship skill development that focuses our attention on pressure management.

Stress, as it is often discussed, appears personal. Pressure, however, may more easily be seen as relational. Regardless of how “unhealthy” someone may feel as a result of stress, they can learn to be more relational and thereby perform better. When conflicts of interests prevail, they appear as tensions between individuals. Pressure exists before conflict, which is why pressure management is not really the same as conflict resolution. Relational pressures that may surface as arguments and disputes can appear first as conflicting interests.

Research suggests that body language may comprise most of our understanding of one another…. So why do we fight over words? When we hear something that we disagree with, we are predisposed to reply with contrary words that oppose and separate, laying the groundwork for conflict.

Aikido, “the martial art of peace,” is the study of compassionate conflict resolution. It teaches one to respond openly to pressures in an accepting manner, and in accord with one’s basic needs. One learns to act from one’s center in a grounded manner. Aikido also transforms conflict by changing one’s own responses, not by attempting to change the attack or the source of pressure.

Imagine how gently sloped beaches create peaceful waves by generating deep-water flows in opposition to the sea’s incoming power, which would otherwise crash on the rocky shoreline. Aiki means “blending energy.” Its elements include grounded, centered attention that extends from the core to receive pressure in a physical attack. These principles have profound application to how we think and speak under pressure. It may not always be true, but relationship is often described as a martial art.

Somatic attunement is the self-awareness developed through sensing inwardly. Self-awareness training can develop the elements of Aikido, including one’s natural abilities to ground and center when under pressure, so that they may be applied in situations involving verbal pressures. Somatic attunement reveals common predispositions to responding to pressure that we all live with, knowingly or not. Accessing body wisdom reveals new options that apply as well in word wars. It could take years to figure this out by arguing.

Since the studies on stress management are not very optimistic, relational pressure management training may be a more effective pursuit. They hold the potential for skill development and performance enhancement even under stressful conditions.

Scales for Pressure Management and Workforce Performance
The following questions can assist managers in shifting attention from stress management to pressure management training in order measure and address the more accessible relational tensions that lead to mistakes, repeats, layoffs and resignations:

1. How much of your work product needs to be redone because it is substandard?

2. How much of this repeated work is necessitated because of insufficient skills, tools, or resources?

3. How much of this repeated work can be attributed to stress caused by strained relationships?

4. How much are strained relationships costing your organization?


Evaluating stress measurement questionnaires. HRM Guide from Human Resource Management

Watson Wyatt/National Business Group on Health 2007/2008 Staying@Work report) (–watson-_fcv38odt.html, 2/14/08)

Lateral Violence in Nursing,, American Nurses Association

Brains in the Belly: Think twice under pressure. J. Green

©2010 by Jerry Green

Jerry A. Green, JD is a mediator and management consultant in Sonoma County, California. He teaches somatic attunement applying elements of Aikido to verbal conflicts in arguments and disputes, and the author of an online course at

Additional information about his work is available at Greener Mediations.