Thursday, June 16, 2005

Moving to Face Unconscious Attitudes

Attitudes, like emotion, are expressed in movement. In your practice, you can meet your unconscious attitudes on the floor. Posted by Hello

Are attitudes addictive? Do you know anyone who perpetually plays the martyr? Do you know people who sabotage their own success? Everyone recognizes the stereotype of the mother who sacrifices all for her children or the person who perpetually sticks his foot in his mouth like so many characters on television sitcoms. These characters are recognizable stereotypes because they are universal archetypes. A study of how these arechetypes pop up in our lives can help us see our own behavior in a new light.

"Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart . Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." - Carl G. Jung

What does all this have to do with movement education? AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT (ATM) is a process that takes us within. When we take the time to spend moments with ourselves, the most amazing things start to crop up. You may start to discover things in yourself you never saw before, such as how the way you move is a manifestation of unconscious attitudes.

For example, it is very common to see a newcomer to an AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT (ATM) class going through the lesson in sharp, jerky, abrupt motions more reminiscent of a fish out of water than of smooth, fluid grace. When people are very abrupt in their movements, it can be a reflection of a habit of being abrupt with themselves. One of the greatest learnings any ATM lesson can provide is to be more gentle with ourselves.

The FELDENKRAIS METHOD is a means of awakening to how we accomplish basic movements necessary for survival. Since movement is so closely tied to emotion in the geography of the brain, when you stimulate yourself to explore movement patterns in a new way, you also stimulate yourself to notice your own emotional patterns. Returning to the topic of archetypes, there are many levels of subtlety in their appearance in our lives. Stereotypes are easily recognized because they are exaggerated versions of behaviors we all do. Who hasn't played the martyr occasionally by commiting to do something that they didn't want to do? Who hasn't had the experience of speaking without thinking, of saying the wrong thing, inadvertently sabotaging a relationship?

Caroline Myss, in her book, Advanced Energy Anatomy, states flat out that the appearance of these behaviors reflects underlying attitudes that relate directly to archetypal patterns. This seems to ring true for me. Yet, what really got my attention was when she made the statement that addiction encompasses not only alcohol, drugs, food, sex or obsession with specific people; one can also be addicted to certain attitudes.

Now, I'm open minded, so I thought, let's try this on for size, what does she mean here? Self pity, for example, how does that rate as a possible addiction? Self pity is about avoiding responsibility. It's about making other people responsible. Funny, as I write this, I notice I have had a long-standing mental block regarding that word. I can never seem to remember how to spell 'r-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-i-l-i-t-y' no matter how many times I look it up, year in, year out. Freudian slip? Perhaps. Anyway, an addiction is a repetitive behavior performed out of a compulsion to avoid specific unpleasant feelings. That's my definition. The New World dictionary says that addiction is merely the act of 'giving oneself up to some strong habit.' Well, that's a relief. Makes it sound easy to kick, doesn't it? Unfortunately, as we all know, there is surely more to it than that.

One of the most basic principles of the FELDENKRAIS METHOD is to work within your range of comfort. Let's make this discussion concrete by putting it in terms of the physical body. If you suffer from chronic physical pain, for example, you will organize your entire life around avoiding anything that might even provoke it. If it hurts you to bend over, you will avoid it at all costs. You will not pick things up off the floor. Small price to pay. You will not pet the dog. Maybe you don't like dogs anyway. But the price gets higher and higher. Eventually, you will inadvertently exclude not only activities, but people, that you love. You will not pick up your grandchildren. Out of habit. You will not be conscious of how your decicions are ever more limiting. You will not make the connection that maybe you are not very close to your grandchildren because your relationship is defined by an unusual formality. You don't touch much. It will simply be a fact of life for you that you don't do these things.

Sounds a lot like the discussion of addiction, doesn't it? Remember that addiction is about compulsive avoidance of discomfort. So, in the case of one addicted to self pity, life choices, be they large or small, will be organized around the perception that they are somehow being taken advantage of, or being dicsounted. Since this is an unpleasant feeling, their behavior might tend to be organized around a sense of entitlement. Why? Because this is what fits in with their self image. This person will have a blind spot that always amounts to somebody else being responsible for what's going on in their lives. We all know people like this. Their justifications are so deeply embedded in the psyche as to be invisible to themselves, but obvious to everyone else. When the wounded child archetype pops up again and again to justify making someone else responsible, it's a clue. Looking at archetypical patterns that crop up is like having a side mirror that allows you to see in your blind spot.

Moshe Feldenkrais noted that any compulsive behavior is always accompanied by heightened muscular tonus. Heightened muscular tonus equals constant low-level tension. In an ATM lesson, sometimes when you bump into parts of yourself that harbor excessive tension continuously, it's an expression of unconsious patterns of thinking. When you are in the relaxed, exploratory mode that ATM promotes, you can meet your archetypes on the floor. It's most likely to occur during rests, when images and memories float in and out of your consciousness. Or, it may happen days later. The learning that occurs in ATM does not all happen in class. Much of it comes later when sleeping, or days later when your mind has had time to integrate past experience with new input. Come roll around in my class and we'll explore various archetypes together. They are not bad habits, rather, they are guides that offer insight. I have my own, just like anybody else. And with any luck, I am also about to have a skeleton in my closet. Purely for teaching purposes, of course.

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