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Emotions and the Feldenkrais® Method

Updated: Aug 15, 2021

In a recent conversation with a friend about anger, I was struck by the narrow range of emotions we had been allowed to express while we were growing up (and as grown-ups, too!). The expectations from society, family culture and the constraints of gender played a heavy role in which emotions were considered “acceptable”. Anger was definitely at the top of the list of no-no’s.

Every emotion we experience has a corresponding pattern in the physical body. If we feel joy, there is lightness and buoyancy. With fear, we might hold our breath, tighten our belly and contract inward. With anger, there might be a clenched fist or jaw, a strong scowl on our face and rapid heartbeat. Feldenkrais often spoke of how difficult it is to change the way we think and how we feel, but changing how we move is a much more accessible process. Moving into more functional ways of using ourselves in the environment can bring about corresponding changes in our thinking and our experience of emotions without even trying directly. In a way, it’s an unexpected bonus of doing this practice.

With this in mind, the last time I experienced strong anger, I decided to focus on the physical sensations of that emotion. Where was it in my body exactly that I felt it? I approached the hard tightness in my belly with curiosity, much as I would in an Awareness Through Movement® lesson. Once I became more aware of the details of my physical experience of anger, I could “touch” it with my awareness in a tender, accepting way. Just allowing it to be what it was created the necessary space for it to begin to shift and soften. I made some unexpected discoveries about what was actually underneath the anger that gave me deeper insight into what was really going on for me. In this situation, anger was actually a protective function and created a kind of hard shell for me to avoid feeling hurt, vulnerable and disappointed.

So I make a deep bow to Moshe Feldenkrais and the bottomless goldmine that his work provides because it continues to resonate and helps me learn in so many unexpected ways! In addition to feeling more comfortable in my own skin, it helps me to become more perceptive of myself and others, and what it means to be a human being just trying to do the best we can in this world.

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