Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Releasing the Need for Approval

The limits of our ability are what they are, right? Maybe not. What if your ideas about what is possible for you are restricted by factors you are not even aware of? Read on to find out how you can use simple movement lessons to surpass your limitations. Regardless of whether you are limited by your beliefs about yourself or by physical pain in your body, there is a way to open the door and step through to the other side. The gap between almost being there and being there may be more accessible than you think. Posted by Hello


The FELDENKRAIS METHOD of AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT (ATM) meets you at the cusp of where your mind, your body and your reality meet. It does not matter what day it is, what country you are from or how badly you have or have not been mangled by experience.

We are all, to some degree, prisoners of our own bodies. We are limited by how far we can reach, how much pain we live with daily, how long we can work before running out of steam. We are also a product of our thinking. Our ability to reach is determined by what we think is possible. For example, if you don't think of yourself as very athletic, you are much less likely to even try. Our perception of pain is determined by our mental attitudes and how we choose to present ourselves to others. For example, the martyr milks the pain, whereas the stoic pretends it doesn't exist. Even energy levels are related to how we represent reality to ourselves. Unconsciously, the body honors emotional conflict by holding micro levels of tension. This exhausting process can lead to on-going fatigue with no apparent cause.

Have you ever been talked into volunteering your time for something you didn't want to do? Then you probably remember the increase in tension that you felt when it came time to do the deed. Or maybe not, maybe you just got a headache later in the day. Or perhaps you were able to resolve any resentment, in which case there was no longer any conflict for the body to hold as tension.

In his book, The Potent Self, Dr. Feldenkrais stated, 'One of the most pernicious motivations that persists unrecognized in many of us is the longing for approval.' That's pretty strong language. According to Webster's New World Dictionary, 'pernicious' means 'causing great injury, destruction, or ruin; fatal; deadly.' Perhaps you are familiar with the phenomenon of codependance. Certainly when the need for approval is so strong that a person sacrifices their integrity, their self-esteem or their relationships, the compulsion is pathological. Yet, for many of us, low level strains of the need for approval still predominate, dictating our behavior below the level of consciousness. Does this mean we are doomed to years on the analyst's couch? Hardly. ATM is a means to routing out such neurosis at the level of where it manifests in the body.

If you look at your life as a whole, you may see patterns of behavior that repeat themselves. If you look, do you see a repetition of relationships in which there was seemingly no way to please the person in charge, be boss, mother, husband, father, child? Do you notice a pattern of thinking that revolves around what you did wrong or what you didn't do, constantly finding fault? There is a somatic consequence for this kind of thinking. The muscles live with a constant low level of tension that after years of habit become so normal as to be imperceptible - almost. The gift of ATM is that it teaches you how to perceive what was once not even on the radar screen and to move through it to the other side. The gift of awareness, as you probably already know, is that it is the first step in the direction of change.

As far back in history as 400 B.C., Plato, in the first written record of western philosophy wrote the allegory of the Myth of the Cave in his book, The Republic. In this story he relates how perception and self image determine experience. Imagine being one of many people imprisoned in a cave where no light can enter, tethered, unable to move or turn your head, facing a wall. There is a fire behind you casting shadows on the wall. Also behind you, between you and the fire, another wall conceals people walking back and forth. All you can see, is the shadow of what they are carrying on their heads. All you can hear, is the echo of the sound of their passing on the cave walls.

If this were your life, the image you would have of reality would be merely a shadow. If you were allowed to move, you might not believe you could. The point is that we are all unable to discern our real selves. Our direct experience is a function of what is in our minds. Our minds are a product of our times, our culture and the environment of our family values.

Now, when we take a look at the cultural beliefs of our society, the history of western ideas forms a subtle backdrop which determines modern thought. For example, the ancient Greek ideal of the human body, was that it needed to be disciplined by athletics into near perfection. Check out any magazine on a modern news stand to see if this idea has diminished in popularity lately. Another concept that peeks through the fringes of modern consious thought is a left-over from the middle ages when the Catholic church controlled much of the wealth of western civilization. The popular belief of the times that still has a hold on us, was that mortification of the flesh would somehow redeem the soul.

This idea has been transmuted into more socially acceptable avenues, such as obsessive dieting and cosmetic surgical enhancement. Redemption of the soul has been replaced with appeasing the ego. It has also been transmuted in less socially acceptable avenues, such as the practice of cutting which is endemic amongst our teenagers.

So, while you, as an individual, might passionately denounce these ideas, you, as a product of the environment you grew up in and live in, are influenced by these concepts in subtle ways.

'Our culture hates the body and has created a terrible metaphor for it. The body, we are told, is nothing but a machine. It can be swapped out for parts and tinkered with to improve its performance. Sculpted, surgically altered, chemically enhanced, we try to reassure ourselves that we can live forever. Medical cures focus on the symptoms of parts; side effects can be expected and tamed by other medical cures.'
Maggie Macary (www.mythandculture.com)

If you relate to any of this, chances are, you would seriously enjoy learning a new way to relate to your body. Via the ever present senses of touch, smell, sight, and sound you, too, can have a new experience of color, understanding, relaxation, inspiration, yearning, desire, fulfullment and joy. You already have a ticket, but you have to come to the show. How do you get in? You lay on the floor and begin to sense yourself, gently checking out what is up for you now in this moment. You need more guidance than that? Learn ATM. Find an ATM teacher. ATM is a course in the skill of sensing yourself, both to pre-empt pain, dysfunction and neurosis and to help you move through it, in the direction of pleasure, integration and balance. The goal, like balance itself, is not a static place. It is an on-going journey, a practice that provides on-going rewards, in the present, wherever you are when you begin.

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Comments & questions are always welcome. What are your biggest challenges? Have you had similar experiences? Where do you want to go with your own practice? Share your insights, don't practice in a void of isolation. Consciousness is everywhere!