Feldenkrais®: Lack of Awareness and Abuse

“The official position is that this is not a public matter.” – Feldenkrais Guild Board Member.

I have been thinking a great deal about the various harassment allegations in the Feldenkrais Guild Training community and also about the fact that as of this moment, I am the ONLY person writing publicly about it. There are (or were) people writing about it in various online private groups for Feldenkrais practitioners and students. But I am the only one willing to write about it in the public arena.

And I want to be very clear about one fact: It is not a secret. There are several thousand practitioners who are members of online Facebook groups and other forums who have had a chance to read about the allegations online. And of those several thousand people not a single one has mentioned it on their blog or website?

Why?

Abuse and harassment are always difficult topics to write about and to confront. There is nothing easy about coming to terms with the idea that a person or group of persons are alleged to have harassed, bullied, and raped women and men. The #metoo movement has uncovered abuse in the movie industry, in universities, and in politics some of which took decades to uncover.

But Moshe Feldenkrais and the Feldenkrais Guild community have presented themselves to the world as being about awareness.

Look at the first sentence from the home page of the Feldenkrais Guild of North America:

The Feldenkrais Method® is a powerful and revolutionary approach to improving your life that uses gentle, mindful movement to bring new awareness and possibility into every aspect of your life.Home page (2020, December 15). Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://feldenkrais.com/

That is quite a fantastical statement, is it not? Mindful movement that brings awareness into every aspect of your life?

Every aspect?

Look, I love the work. And I have been experimenting with it since about 1991 when I was a recovering drug addict and drug dealer living in Dallas, Texas. I create and sell Feldenkrais-based series. But has it brought awareness into every aspect of my life? Awareness into my thinking, my emotions, my social behaviors, my categorizations of my past and future?

I think not.

There is also the presupposition that awareness is something that is required for change. It could be. Perhaps. We could talk about it and make the case.

But awareness of what? And how would it be defined and enacted?

Awareness and Logical Levels of Change

The idea of what the various strategies and techniques labeled under the term "Feldenkrais" can (or can't) do for a particular person at a particular time is a deep one. It is a topic that can be usefully applied to many endeavors such as psychotherapy and medicine. One way to think about it is to think about levels and organization of behavior.

Think about someone who did not know how to drive a car, but wanted to learn. For many people, learning how to drive would involve learning the various skills one needs to drive a car. There are many skills such as learning how to accelerate and stop the car, how to use the steering wheel, how to merge into traffic, how to understand road signs, and what they mean.

But what if someone had a phobia or extreme anxiety about the very idea of driving? Teaching the skills would not be enough, it might not even be possible if the person was not willing to enter a car to learn to drive. The phobia and anxiety are about driving. We could spend days teaching the person how to drive but as the problem is at another level - about the act and not the act itself - our efforts would likely fail.

We could add another level of complexity and think of a person who wants to learn to drive and who did not have any fears or anxiety about doing so but had a physical limitation. No amount of skills teaching would help if he or she did not have the capacity to operate the vehicle. The person would need a modified car to drive.

Doing a similar type of analysis is necessary for work that is labeled Feldenkrais. The context in this article is about allegations of sexual harassment, bullying, and rape in Feldenkrais trainings. Let's ask, in general, what are the skills needed to manage one's sexual and emotional boundaries? If one has the desire to engage in activities that are against one's professional code of conduct (such as making sexualized comments to a student or coworker) or engage in activities that are considered illegal (such as rape) what can one do to STOP those behaviors before they occur to protect the rights of students and colleagues?

And how are those skills, once identified, improved by engaging in Feldenkrais? Give specific examples.

If the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse are true, The Feldenkrais Method® and its "gentle, mindful movement" did not bring sufficient "awareness" into the lives of the accused Guild-Certified trainers to stop them from bullying and harassing students and assistant trainers.

Clearly, something is missing.

What is it?

Answer the question for yourself and you will on your way to having a more rich and detailed understanding of yourself and your world.

Please note: If you want to know who has been accused of engaging in alleged acts of sexual harassment, abuse, and rape, it will be up to the accusers to make the allegations public. At one point in 2018, there was a group of 20 or more women who were talking in private about what they went through. There was also a group of men who were meeting to speak about being bullied. I do not have access to those private conversations, although the details of some of them were made known to me. To get an idea of what happened, in December of 2020, I posted a link to a document on the allegations that was apparently presented and discussed at an International Feldenkrais Federation meeting in 2018. You can find more info here: Feldenkrais Abuse Allegations.

*You will notice that I am adding the registered trademark symbol to the word Feldenkrais®. I usually do not do that as I am not a member of the Feldenkrais Guild and I do not and will not pay to use the trademarked terms. I tend to use the term "Feldenkrais-based", based on the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, or simply write, "feldenkrais," uncapitalized and without the trademark symbol. I sometimes use the word "Feldenkraisian" but it is awkard.

I have no issue with my friends and colleagues who do pay the Guild for use of the service marks. Some people need to do so for financial and legal reasons such as needing to buy liability insurance or to maintain a state or country license for their practices. That's fine. My financial and legal independence from the Guild makes it much easier to speak my truth and not have to put up with the petty politics and bullying that is endemic to the Feldenkrais Guild community, especially in regards to the trainers.