Feldenkrais and Emotions for the Unreasonable

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. - Richard P. Feynman

There is a conversation of sorts on Facebook regarding the work of Moshe Feldenkrais and how it deals (or not) with emotions. It is a bit paradoxical but often reading practitioners writings about Feldenkrais and his ideas can be a bit depressing. Practitioner's writings are often uninformed by basic reasoning skills, they often have a complete lack or interest in scientific principles and of specific content areas related to the work.

At times, the community seems like a religion to me. I hope it is not turning into one. But some practitioners look back to what Moshe said or wrote 30 years ago as some type of canonical, biblical statements of knowledge or reality about the world. At times, critical thinking seems to be either not allowed or not understood. The last 30 years of scientific research seems not to have happened. I wonder if one can actually be an effective Feldenkrais practitioner if one cannot think rationally.

In the Facebook conversation several people have mentioned that Stanley Keleman, the keynote speaker at the 2103 Feldenkrais Guild conference noted that Moshe Feldenkrais "didn't address emotions." What does it mean to not "address emotions" I do not know. I would need more context to understand what Kelemen meant. But regardless, one CAN have a fruitful and meaningful conversation regarding experiences with the Feldenkrais Method and in what ways it does or does not help people with emotional development. One could compare some of Feldenkrais's ideas with current research and thoughts on emotions and emotional experience.

But in the Feldenkrais community, especially the community that has grown up around the Feldenkrais Guild and who express themselves on Facebook and the FeldyForum, such conversations rarely arise. Instead some practitioners seem to want to stamp out any idea that does not fit their perception of themselves or the work. In regards to whether Feldenkrais addresses emotions there were many comments of dubious value. But I will take two that were repeated more than once:

"of course, he did, it is in his books"
"you can't be without emotions, so what does it matter"

What do those comments all have in common? Is it obvious? They are both completely illogical and completely unrelated to the topic. Consider:

"of course, he did, it is in his books." Moshe wrote something in his books about emotions. So what? One needs to ask, "What did he write? Was it sensible? Is it backed up by current research on emotions?" And more to the point - critically to the point - "Was what he wrote implemented in his training? How? Was it effective? How?" And one would need to take it further and ask, "If any of Moshe's ideas and practices are in fact useful, are they implemented in current Feldenkrais trainings?" And one might also want to ask, how recent research in psychology, therapy, neuroscience and other related disciplines could inform Feldenkrais practices today. Although again, some practitioners treat his writings as canonical law. They want to know what HE said. Forget about research, reason and science.

"you can't be without emotions, so what does it matter." This response is so illogical that it makes perfect sense from a Feldenkrais perspective. So much so that several practitioners agreed with it. Many people have reported stories of students having emotional meltdowns and crying spells and such during the Amherst Training. Moshe was called out by some of his students who essentially said "Why aren't you doing anything about this?!" Moshe reportedly said, "Those people are dealing with emotional insecurities. Make yourself secure." Moshe's way of dealing with emotion was simply to ignore it?

But getting directly back to the comment, "you can't be without emotions, so what does it matter." Well, if you can't be without emotions, might it be better to get really good at working with and understanding them? Would that not include reading about current research and seeking out skilled practitioners in other fields? It is a bit like saying, "you can't be without water, so why worry about water." Ignoring a topic because it is important does not seem particularly helpful. Neither does simply quoting Moshe Feldenkrais.

Ryan Nagy


  1. “Those people are dealing with emotional insecurities. Make yourself secure.” Moshe’s way of dealing with emotion was simply to ignore it?
    i wouldn’t say this statement was ‘ignoring it’………..one might ask how to ‘make yourself secure’? no small task and doesn’t it include becoming ‘mature’………..one of the things that attracted me to this work was that there was no artificial division of body and emotions and action and behaviour …….it has been the side effect of doing the training and years of ATM that i am rarely hijacked by emotional insecurities………….

  2. I’m a mexican Feldenkrais practitioner and a part of the board of Mexican Feldenkrais Guild. I like your writings. Please let me know where in Merida you give Feldenkrais lessons. There are people that write us asking who works there. Waiting for your answers and hugs from Naucalpan Mexico. Rose

  3. Hi Judi, thanks for your comments. The issue for me is that it is difficult to have a meaningful conversation with and engage with others on the topic of emotions. Most practitioners, myself included at times, end up repeating phrases used by Moshe such “emotional insecurities” and “maturity” and such. And then what? What is the relationship between those words and experiences and the actual practice of the Feldenkrais Method?

    Many Feldenkrais practitioners take it on faith. I do not. I will write more about it later. There is a particular quote by Moshe on the relationship between emotions and the body that I believe can be shown to be completely unsupported by evidence. I am looking for it right now so that I can blog about. But can’t quite seem to find it. Will update this comment and/or write a blog post on the topic as soon as I do.

    Thanks – Ryan

    By the way, people freaking out and crying and such while Moshe said and did nothing is “ignoring it.” One can argue that he had a reason for doing so. But that is another topic. And Moshe, according to the story, did not say anything until asked to do so.

  4. Thanks Rose. Good to see your comment. I am in the process of selling my things and moving to Mexico City! So right now, it is hard for me to see people. I would like to join the Mexican Guild. Information on that topic would be appreciated.

    Gracias! Espero que no vemos aquí en Mexico. Un abrazo – Ryan

  5. Hey Ryan
    What does the ‘distributed self’ refer to in Ttitle above?

    Note- I don’t like it when somatic psychotherapists say Feldenkrais doesn’t work with emotions. There are a lot of presumptions somatic psychotherapists have about Feldenkrais, and occasionally feel expert to comment on in their books and anthologies, even when supportive of the work.

  6. Hi Eveline. Thanks. I will do a blog post on the “Distributed Self” at some point. The idea is implicit in Functional Integration and Ericksonian Hypnosis, I believe.

    I do not like many somatic psychotherapists concepts of the Feldenkrais Method. Especially when they are concepts or ideas that come of thinking about the Feldenkrais Method and not experiencing it.

    However, these days I am more concerned by some Feldenkrais Practioners who are writing and proposing all kinds of faith-based statements about the work with out much (if any) critical thinking or dialogue. More on that later. Better to put it in a blog post.


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