Changing The Self-Image(s)

I have been doing some life-changing sessions working directly with how people create their self-image. I have been on the cusp of understanding and using these processes for more twenty years. But each time I got close to the "prize," my own self-image and place in the world stopped me from taking the next step. But....finally, I have learned to change that which I thought was fixed in place and I have stepped over to the other side.....

The Relational Self-Images

I am speaking to how people unconsciously represent their "self" to themselves and to others. In contrast to what some students of Feldenkrais believe, the key factor in creating lasting change is not always the self-image. At least not the one described by Moshe Feldenkrais. People can and do spend decades of their life using Feldenkrais sessions to expand and change their motor image, sometimes called the homunculus, and what Feldenkrais considered the major part of the self-image. That is very valuable work. I have done it and continue to do so.

But it is rarely - if ever - enough. One can dramatically change and expand the motor image and still not get what one wants from life. Or even make the attempt to get what one wants. Look around the Feldenkrais community. Do you find many that have achieved the success that they themselves want for themselves? Have you? Do you see people stuck in a certain place in the Feldenkrais community - some for decades? Have you been stuck? Well, if the Feldenkrais Method is so powerful why are so many people stuck?

The Self-Images

I do not expect most people to believe me right now, if ever. But hey, that is how it goes. I have had the experiences to prove it to myself and to a few others and more is on the way. What I have found is that most people in the various Feldenkrais communities have fixed their position in relation to others. This means that they continue to be "who they are" even if they want it to be different.

Why? It is actually very simple: People not only internally represent themselves, but they also internally represent themselves in relation to other people. Everyone carries around an image of his or herself, yes (more than one actually). These images contain but are not defined by the motor image. That is a critical point. But even more critical, people also carry around images of other key people within themselves. And how one represents one's self-image in relation to those others has a massive correlation with how one acts in the world.

Of the factors that people have under their personal control, the largest and most important factors for developing the self and life are these relational self-images. Again, without being aware of it, many practitioners have fixed their social position in society and in the Feldenkrais community. This means that continue to be "who they are" even in the midst of great changes that they have created with the work and even though they "want" it to be different.

You do not "act in accordance with your self-image" as Moshe stated. You act in accordance with your self-image(s) and relational images - those of yourself and those of others. All of which you have created internally and almost completely unconsciously. And all of which can be changed and re-arranged with the right strategy.

I realize I am writing in a largely abstract manner. More specifics will come in future posts and videos. For now, just be aware that if you have spent years trying to get a specific result with the Feldenkrais method and you have not been able to do so, it is not you that is the problem. The problem has been the strategies that you have been using. Feldenkrais can do some cool things. Some amazing things. Feldenkrais can change lives in ways that no other methods can. Yes, we can get biblical and say that sometimes Feldenkrais can "make the lame walk." But Feldenkrais cannot do everything. And some of the boldest claims put forth by some practitioners and trainers are unsupported. Emotional maturity? Economic independence? The ability to move without hesitation and preparation in any direction? There is much more to it than many people know.

More to come....



  1. You quote: ‘Everyone carries around an image of his or herself, yes (more than one actually).’ Isn’t this the many ‘Is’ Gurdjieff is talking about? Carrying the false and ever changing personalities or Is in all the different situations and encounters without ever finding the real one? Curious to read you elaborating on the subject.

  2. Glad to see you’re picking up these topics in your blog again. That article on dystonia in a training program has been making the rounds and it seems that people are unexpectedly welcoming of discussions of “limitations of the method.” But then I find it odd that it takes something like dystonia to bring this up, and not, say, discussions about the opportunity cost of doing ATM/FI vs other more conventional approaches, or the tendency of many Feldies to argue against basic flexibility/strength training which has substantial benefits. Interested to see what you do next!

  3. Thanks Istvan. Good to see that you are still reading! I do not have much of a background in Gurdjieff, so I cannot comment on that aspect of it. And quite frankly, I do not yet know where I am going next with these ideas. There are so many strategies and ways of experiencing that I can think.

    But I will say, for now, that I am talking about how people represent the world within themselves….to themselves. If I were to ask 100 people, “How do you represent Moshe Feldenkrais to yourself? Where is he in your experience?” And then if I were to ask additional clarifying questions, I would find similarities and differences in how people represent Moshe. And those difference actually have an effect on how their life…how they do the work, if they feel ownership of it, if they take charge of where they are going. The same if I asked them about how they represent who ever they trained with…or there spouse or lover…their children etc.

    Again, thanks for the comment. More details to come! I hope.


  4. Hi Mac, great to hear from you. Which article on dystonia are you speaking of? Is it something that I wrote or is there another one making the rounds?

    I am SO grateful that I went to get a BA and MA after completing a Feldenkrais training. It really opened my eyes. And I grateful that I dropped out of my PhD program, which very much seemed like a cult to me. I am not saying all PhD programs are cults, but Developmental Psychology at the University of Utah seemed very much stuck in a world of fantasy. Latent variables, innate cognitive structures, internal working models. All very reasonable constructs, except for the fact that very often they were used to explain behavior and then dropped. The baby did XYZ. Why? Because it has a “stable internal working model.” Feldenkrais students change. Why? Because theory is a latent variable, let’s call it “movement ability” that improves with Feldenkrais sessions. Then one does structural equation modeling to prove that the “latent variable” exists and is a “stable construct.” Weird stuff.

    Of course, in the field of psychology there is all kinds of cool stuff going on. One does not simply drop psychology and ignore at some Feldnenkrais pracs do. One goes out and finds the cool, verifiable stuff that can enlighten oneself and the world.

    Anyway, I am rabbiting on here. Good to hear from you.


  5. I found I had to have other tools to help people to extend a self image built to give them some sense of security. When a woman after a FI feels her pelvis moving, if she has some trauma and she doesn’t feel safe moving her pelvis, she won’t keep the effect of the lesson. I also give Feldenkrais lessons to free the voice and there the emotional aspect is very crucial. I studied Peter Levine, Milton Erickson and followed a training in EFT. And I find that with this combination, I can help people to free themselves from old patterns not serving them any more much faster.

  6. Hi Catherine, I am so sorry, I did not see your message until just now. My apologies for not responding sooner! I am a big fan of Somatic Experiencing and Milton Erickson. The work and distinctions can be very powerful.


  7. Reading this piece calls to mind Anais Nin’s: “You do not see things as they are; you see them as you are.” Or reciprocally: we are what we see.

    Each day I look at my wife countless times and see her in different lights; I can’t help but consider that these “lights” are created subjectively, by the workings of my brain, depending perhaps on infinite factors (whatever my “state” is, it seems that I see the world through this lens.

    I’ve heard Alan Watts say, in effect, that if you love something outside of you, you are loving really yourself – because you are everything else. The interdependent nature of me/other-other/me causes me to agree (i.e. I literally would not be walking if there was no earth to walk upon).

    The work of Ray Peat has helped me see this interdependent nature on many levels (energy/structure interdependency, brain/body interdependency, organism/environment interdependency, etc.).

    I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this other than to say I wonder if our “self image” is really quite elusive, in that our “self” IS NOTHING if not “relational” [relationship]. That to change our “self image”, perhaps we are really only changing the way we view the relationship of things [the process] at any given point.

    “You are precisely as big as what you love and precisely as small as what you allow to annoy you.” So (in the vein of Robert Anton Wilson) I can consider myself at this moment quite big indeed because I’m loving the universe which manifests this act, of writing a response to you.

    Thanks for your thoughts Ryan; I dig it.


  8. Thanks for that David. I am going to need to create some type of experiential video or podcast to give people an idea of where I am going with this. Though I the ideas are not mine. I am playing around with some distinctions created by several people who at one point were doing “NLP.” More to come!

    I have never heard of Ray Peat, I will look him up ASAP.

    Also, somewhat related, I walk my two dogs along a very similar route everyday and I am surprised – sometimes even shocked – how often I can see a “new” tree or bush that I had not seen before on that walk, even though I have been down the same path dozens of times. It is a good reminder to me how we can be blinded by our habitual perceptions.



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