Movement Options = Emotional Options

First of all, I'd like to say thank you to the Supreme Court for the historic decision they made today granting marriage equality in all 50 states, and thank you to the generations of people who have worked toward today and will continue working to find more levels of equality for all.

Happy Pride Weekend! (Stock photo)

Happy Pride Weekend! (Stock photo)

And now for today's post: 

I am a huge fan of the photo and story project Humans of New York. Photographer Brandon Stanton takes photos and collects pieces of life stories from the people he finds on the streets of New York from all walks of life, and posts them online. The other day I came across a post from a couple of years ago that reminded me of my work.

(Property of Humans of New York)

(Property of Humans of New York)

A woman, probably in her 60s, is leaning against a wall and smiling like she knows something you don't. Here's the recorded piece of their conversation:

Brandon: "If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?"
Woman: "When a wave comes, go deep."
Brandon: "I think I'm going to need an explanation for that one."
Woman: "There's three things you can do when life sends a wave at you. You can run from it, but then it's going to catch up and knock you down. You can also fall back on your ego and try to stand your ground, but then it's still going to clobber you. Or you can use it as an opportunity to go deep, and transform yourself to match the circumstances. And that's how you get through the wave."

Her metaphor can be taken literally. If you stand up to an ocean wave or run away from it, chances are it will knock you down. If you go deep and swim under the wave, you can find quiet water behind it.

Non-literally, we experience emotional waves. When you're working in the world of somatics, the emotional world is right there next to you, waiting to pop its head in and say hi. It happens in both Functional Integration lessons and Awareness Through Movement classes - someone will be doing a movement and an emotional reaction is hiding there, waiting to be found. The emotional reaction may have absolutely no conscious connection to the movement for that person, but they're connected nonetheless.

The Feldenkrais Method is all about recognizing that we have movement choices, and it has a less advertised side about recognizing we have emotional choices as well. When an emotional wave shows up around a movement, there are different ways to approach it.

One is to run away from it and say, "NO! I don't want to do go there! I won't deal with whatever that reaction is about!" Like with that wave of water, the emotional wave will still be there, waiting for its next opportunity to say hi, possibly growing stronger.

Another is to stand up to it and say, "GO AWAY. That reaction isn't worth my time and energy. I'm going to ignore it and work on what I want to work on." Like with running away, the wave is still there.

A third, more productive option is to acknowledge the reaction, take a few deep breaths, and say, "I see you. I recognize you are there. Why are you there, and what purpose do you serve? What are you protecting?" In this way, we get the chance to go deep and learn about ourselves.

With each emotional wave that you acknowledge, it gets a little easier to let it pass gracefully over you instead of crashing into it or getting knocked down by it. I take great pride in offering a space where my clients feel safe in that process.