Is Feldenkrais The Authority On That?

"Objectivity is a subject's delusion that observing can be done without him." Heinz von Foerster

Over the years, I have found myself fascinated by the differences between what Moshe thought about the work he was developing, and what the work could be, or signifies, from the perspectives of others. Most people do not even entertain the idea that such differences exist and simply assume that the work "is" what Moshe thought about it.*

When Feldenkrais said things such as "I have some difficulty in explaining to my followers that I am not a therapist and that my touching a person with my hands has no therapeutic or healing value," or when he insisted that it be considered a method of "education," he was talking about his own personal values and goals - that which he believed about himself and the work, that which wanted from the work and that which he wanted others to get - what he believed the work could be. And that is fine. He had the right to his personal values and ways of percieving the world. Those values were just fine for him and for many others. For some, they could even be something to strive for and adopt.

But to say that any particular idea or frame about the work is "truly" what the Feldenkrais is about is an error. And an error that has consequences. Human beings have a "neutral," a "center" to their own personal ideas about themselves and their universe as surely as they have a neutral point to in the movements of their spine. They have their own structure. Ideas are functional to them within that structure and their way of acting in the world. And whether we like their understandings or not is irrelevant. If we impose Feldenkrais's ideas on another we have committed an act of violence. People have the right to have the understandings that they do and to want what they want. If the highest purpose for a person at a particular time is, for example, to get rid of his back pain so that he can attend his daughter's wedding, that IS what Feldenkrais is to him at that time. And he has every right to want that and go only that distance.

The same idea applies to students and teachers of the work. Regardless of whether someone is taking classes, taking a certification training or teaching, the understanding one has of "the work" is personal and functional from a person's particular point of view. And again, attempting to force someone to accept a point of view about the work from Feldenkrais's perspective or from your perspective is, at the core, a violent act. You fit your lesson to the person, you don't fit the person to your lesson. If it is that way for functional integration or awareness through movement, what would make it different when dealing with words and ideas? Fit the lesson, not the student.

And given that any student's teacher is not Feldenkrais - who has been dead for decades - can one really say for certainty what Moshe thought? Or is it better to realize that many of Moshe's thoughts and ideas have been taken out of his lived-context and intentions and filtered via the intentions of others and are now facsimiles and representations: True in certain aspects and not others. But true only as much as they might have represented what Moshe thought at a particular time, not true in any objective sense. He had his ideas about the work filtered though his values and his experiences. His values, not yours or mine. His experiences, not yours or mine.

I will submit to you that it is better and more human and flexible to let Feldenkraisian ideas be what they are to a person at a particular time and to what a person needs at that time. They may be ready for more at some point. Or they may not be. And that is up to them, not up to us. If you love your students, set them free.

Notes

* Though to go one level deeper, we are not necessarily speaking about what Moshe thought, but what he spoke and wrote at specific times. That which has survived and is remembered. Not everything has survived. Not all is remembered. And like any developing mind and person Moshe likely had thoughts that did not make it into the flesh of printed and spoken word. And where he would have gone had he lived longer is unknowable. Moshe would not have stopped with any particular understanding of what he was doing. It might be useful to follow his example and do the same.

ryannagy
I am a lifetime fan of the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, a blogger and internet marketer living in Mexico. I create and sell kick-ass downloadable Feldenkrais series such as my Feldenkrais Classics series. You can find my other Feldenkrais products at Feldenkrais MP3. I occasionally organize online conferences related to brief therapy and Ericksonian hypnosis: Psychotherapy Conferences

3 Comments

  1. Excellent! I love the depth to which you dare bring this question to. Or simply the fact that you have asked the question, period!

  2. Thanks Mauricio. I have decided to take many of my notes and ruminations – even the “crazy” ones and develop them into blog posts and publish them. Long overdue. At least for me and for my own development. I am glad that you are reading….

    Ryan

  3. What often happens is a bit like cementing somebody’s ideas in a monument. The idea and the life of an “authority” – who is, in reality, a human beeing developing his/her ideas and thoughts throughout his/hers whole life – is fixed like inscribed in stone. Forgotten the steady developement as precondition of important ideas…
    What I really love, too: “If you love your students, set them free.”

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